Beck, M. R., Gregorini, P. 2020. How dietary diversity enhances hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in grazing ruminants. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7, 191.
Ruminants evolved in diverse landscapes of which they utilized, by choice, a diverse arrangement of plants (grasses, forbs, and trees) for food. These plants provide them with both primary (carbohydrates, protein, etc.) and secondary (phenolics, terpenes, etc.) compounds (PPC and PSC, respectively). As no one plant could possibly constitute a “balanced-diet,” ruminants mix diets so that they can exploit arrangements of PPC to meet their individual requirements. Diet mixing also allows for ruminants to ingest PSC at levels, acquiring their benefits such as antioxidants and reduced gastrointestinal parasites, without overstepping thresholds of toxicity. Meeting dietary requirements is assumed to provide satisfaction through achieving positive internal status and comfort, thereby a sense of hedonic (happiness through pleasure) well-being. Furthermore, choice including dietary choice is a factor influencing well-being of ruminants in a manner akin to that in humans. Choice may facilitate eudaimonic (happiness through pursuit of purpose) well-being in livestock. Nutritional status plays an integral role in oxidative stress, which is linked with illness. Several diseases in livestock have been directly linked to oxidative stress. Mastitis, metritis, hypocalcaemia, and retained placenta occur in animals transitioning from dry to lactating and have been linked to oxidative stress and such a stress has likewise been linked to diseases that occur in growing livestock as well, such as bovine respiratory disease. The link between physiological stress and oxidative stress is not well-defined in livestock but is evident in humans. As dietary diversity allows animals to select more adequately balanced diets (improved nutrition), take advantage of PSC (natural antioxidants), and allows for choice (improved animal well-being) there is a strong possibility for ruminants to improve their oxidative status and thus health, well-being, and therefor production. The purposes of this review are to first, provide an introduction to oxidative and physiological stress, and nutritional status as effected by dietary diversity, with special attention to providing support and on answering the “how.” Second, to provide evidence of how these stresses are connected and influence each other, and finally discuss how dietary diversity provides a beneficial link to all three and enhances both eudaimonic and hedonic well-being.