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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Grazing and fouling behaviour of cattle on different vegetation types within heterogeneous semi-natural and naturalised pastures

Pelve, Maja Elisabeth; Spörndly, Eva; Olsson, Ingemar; Glimskär, Anders


In a two-year study, grazing, resting and fouling behaviour of cattle grazing on heterogeneous semi-natural/naturalised continuously grazed, fenced pasture areas (sites), were examined using two and nine sites in year 1 and 2. Five vegetation types were identified and mapped out on the sites used in the study: four typical species-rich semi-natural vegetation types (dry, mesic, wet, shaded), and one naturalised, grass-dominated type on former fertilised arable land. The two sites used in year 1 and seven sites in year 2 contained all five vegetation types, while one or two vegetation types (dry and wet) were absent on the remaing two sites in year 2. Behaviour was recorded over 24 h on three occasions in year 1, and on one occasion in year 2. During observation hours, animal behaviour (grazing/resting/other) and vegetation type grazed were recorded at 5-minute intervals and time and location of defecation and urination were recorded continuously. Vegetation types were sampled for herbage analysis directly after behaviour observations by cutting the vegetation in three random plots per type. Relative preference for grazing, resting and fouling was calculated for each vegetation type by dividing proportion of behaviour observations spent on a specific vegetation type by proportion of total area occupied by this vegetation type. The results showed that during both years, animals showed the greatest relative preference for the naturalised vegetation type when grazing or fouling (urination and defecation). The naturalised vegetation type also had the greatest content of metabolisable energy (from 9.8 to 10.1 MJ/kg DM) and crude protein (from 131 to 157 g/kg DM) and the least content of neutral detergent fibre (from 453 to 456 g/kg DM).


Grazing behaviour; Cattle; Fouling; Nutritive value; Semi-natural pasture; Naturalised pasture

Published in

Livestock Science
2020, Volume: 241, article number: 104253