Social learning from peers can trigger herd-wide intoxication with white locoweed (Oxytropis sericea), an alkaloid-synthesizing herbaceous legume that grows on rangelands of western North America. We conducted an experiment to test the hypothesis that restriction of the area allocated to animals to feed in would inhibit social facilitation of locoweed ingestion in yearling heifers. Eight heifers that avoided white locoweed (LA) and eight heifers that readily consumed it (LE) were selected from a pool of 40 cross-bred heifers and were randomly assigned to the social facilitation or social interference treatment groups. We conducted 200 10-min feeding trials in three 5-day phases (pre-treatment, treatment, post-treatment) during which animals were presented with a set of bowls arrayed in a test arena, some of which contained ground wheat straw and others contained air-dried ground white locoweed. During the pre-treatment (days 1 to 5) and the post-treatment phases (days 11 to 15) non-social trials were conducted in which the feeding behavior of individual animals was investigated in an 80 m2 arena containing 12 feeding bowls. During the treatment phase (days 6 to 10) social learning trials were conducted in which LA + LE pairs from the social interference group were exposed to 12 bowls of food distributed in an 80 m2 arena intended to induce social interference, and LA + LE pairs from the social facilitation group were exposed to 36 bowls of food distributed in a 240 m2 arena intended to permit social facilitation. During pre-treatment phase, LA heifers consumed detectably less locoweed and wheat straw and exhibited lower preference for locoweed than LE (P ⩽ 0.05) although wheat straw preference of LA and LE was similar. During social learning trials (treatment phase), LA in the social interference group visited similar number of locoweed bowls (mean ± s.e.m.: 0.2 ± 0.12) as they had during non-social learning (0.2 ± 0.20). Conversely, LA heifers in the social facilitation group visited detectably more locoweed bowls during social learning trials (1.6 ± 0.46) compared with the pre-treatment phase (0.2 ± 0.16). Correlation between daily number of locoweed bowls visited by LA and LE during social learning trials was detected in the social facilitation (r = 0.70; P < 0.01), but not in the social interference group (r = 0.15; P = 0.52). During testing trials (post-treatment phase), locoweed and wheat straw intake and preference of LA and LE in both treatment groups was similar. Manipulation of the feeding environment delayed, but did not inhibit social learning of toxic weed ingestion in this study.