The relevance of feed diversity and choice in nutrition of ruminant livestock
In this position paper, we argue that the realisation of forage diversity and feed choice for ruminant livestock should be considered as an essential aspect of animal welfare because selection from an array of different plants is an important experience for such animals. We provide examples that diet balancing with regard to nutrients and plant secondary metabolites is particularly for ruminants so much essential that this ability must be a deeply rooted cognitive and behavioural predisposition. In this context, we assume feed choice to be a behavioural need of ruminants. Therefore, we argue in favour of nutritional concepts, which account for botanical and biochemical diversity and are based on behavioural research approaches. We provide a brief outlook of potential research topics, which we consider important if the societal target of animal welfare is to be reached in European ruminant production systems.