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The transition zone of the eastern and Midwestern USA is an important cattle and horse production environment.Livestock production within this zone is heavily dependent on forage systems for sustainability and future competitiveness in agriculture.Forages not only supply an economical means of delivering nutrients, but also function to conserve soil and water resources.With increasing foreign agricultural competition and urbanization of the human population, forage-based enterprises in the United States are under pressure to become increasingly more efficient in order to remain competitive and environmentally sustainable within the world market.Hindering the ability of forage-based enterprises to become more competitive is the limited fundamental information concerning the effects of environment and management on plant quality and production.Although data on plant nutrient effects on animal health and performance have been well studied at the production level, it is only recently that fundamental information (e.g., cellular mechanisms) concerning how these production level effects are elicited has become a focus.Thus, the available information for predicting animal performance in response to plant nutrient consumption is of limited use, especially considering the lack of understanding of plant nutrient interactions with the environment and genetic expression of the grazing animal.Even more problematic is that the effects of plant nutraceuticals and anti-quality factors on nutrient intake, metabolism and assimilation for product or work is extremely limited.Further, there is limited understanding of how these factors modulate the defense mechanisms of animals grazing forage.