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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

Management targets for maximising the short-term herbage intake rate of cattle grazing in Sorghum bicolor

Fonseca, Lidiane; Mezzalira, Jean Carlos; Bremm, Carolina; Filho, R. S. A.; Gonda, Horacio; de Faccio Carvalho, Paulo Cesar


One of the variables in the structure of the sward with the most influence on the short-term herbage intake rate by grazing ruminants is the canopy height. The objective of this study was therefore to characterise the effect of the canopy height on short-term herbage intake rate using Sorghum bicolor cv BR 501. as a reference. Two experiments were conducted at Research Station of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, between December 2009 and April 2010. The treatments in experiment 1 were used to determine the influence of the pre-grazing canopy height on the short-term herbage intake and consisted of six canopy heights (30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80 cm). The treatments in experiment 2 used the pre-grazing canopy height from experiment 1 that maximised the short-term herbage intake rate to evaluate the influence of the severity of grazing down (16, 33, 50, 67 and 84%) on the herbage intake. Both experiments used a completely randomised block design, with two replicates in experiment 1 and three replicates in experiment 2. Four heifers (24 +/- 2 months and 306 +/- 56.7 kg) were used in experiment 1. Three of these animals were used in experiment 2, which were then 26 2 months and 339 +/- 45.5 kg. The short-term herbage intake rate was measured by weighing the heifers pre- and post-grazing, corrected for insensible weight losses. The number of grazing jaw movements (biting and non-biting) was counted automatically using an IGER Behaviour Recorder. In both experiments, the sward measurements included the pre- and post-grazing canopy height, the pre-grazing herbage mass and the vertical distribution of morphological components. In experiment 2, the post-grazing herbage mass was also measured. The results showed that the grazing canopy height that maximised the short-term herbage intake rate was approximately 50 cm. The grazing down protocol showed that the short-term herbage intake rate was constant until the depletion of 40% of the optimal pre-grazing canopy height. After this level of depletion, there was a marked reduction in the short-term herbage intake rate. The results show that the best target management height in a Sorghum cv. BR 501 pasture, allowing for high levels of the short-term herbage intake rate, is 50 cm. With intermittent stocking, this level should be considered as the pre-grazing canopy height, and the level of herbage depletion should not exceed 40%. (c) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Canopy height; Grazing down; Sward structure

Published in

Livestock Science
2012, Volume: 145, number: 1-3, pages: 205-211

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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