Ingestive behavior of cattle grazing in lightly- and heavily-grazed patches of Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana Nees).
AdvisorRuyle, George B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCattle grazing patterns on Lehmann lovegrass rangelands often create heavily-grazed (HG) areas surrounded by lightly-grazed (LG) or ungrazed patches. The purpose of this study was to characterize the forage resource and ingestive behavior of cattle grazing Lehmann lovegrass plants in both LG and HG patches on the Santa Rita Experimental Range. The general hypothesis was that residual bunchgrass vegetation resulted in sward characteristics which physically inhibited the efficiency of cattle grazing by increasing the manipulative activity per harvested bite. The overall heights of residual stems and green tillers averaged 70 and 49 cm for LG, 8 and 9 cm for HG patches. Biomass of total standing crop (SC), residual vegetation (RV) and green herbage (GH) averaged 4159, 3395 and 764 kg/ha for LG, 345, 185 and 160 kg/ha for HG patches, respectively. Bulk density of SC, RV and GH of LG and HG patches averaged 58, 48, and 19 [(gm/cm³) X 10⁻⁵] for LG, 38, 23 and 20 [(gm/cm³) X 10⁻⁵] for HG patches, respectively. The ratio of green herbage to residual vegetation averaged 0.22 for LG and 0.86 for HG patches. The different sward structure of LG and HG patches affected the ingestive behavior of the grazing cows. Overall handling time for each grazing bite averaged 1.5 and 1.2 sec/bite in LG and HG patches, respectively. Cows employed different foraging tactics in response to the dynamic changes of the sward conditions. Cows employed top biting extensively to harvest the seed-head and other green herbage at the top of the sward surface. As the height of residual stems increased and dominated the upper strata of the sward, side and low biting were mainly used by the cows as grazing methods to bite the plants to reduce the manipulative activity. Avoidance of LG patches or preference for HG patches was related to the sward structure and largely shaped by the build-up of residual vegetation. Removal of residual vegetation through fire, mowing or heavy utilization for short periods late in the growing season to allow for more accessible green herbage could improve both animal and pasture utilization of the range resource.
Degree ProgramRenewable Natural Resources