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Research article2007Peer reviewed

Behaviour of goats, sheep and cattle and their selection of browse species on natural pasture in a Sahelian area

Sanon HO, Kabore-Zoungrana C, Ledin I


A study was conducted in the Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso of the behaviour of cattle, sheep and goats on natural pasture and their preference for browse species. Concurrently, a survey was undertaken on a sample of farmers (herders, women and livestock owners) in the study area to estimate the indigenous knowledge of browse species and their utilisation by ruminants. A herd of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats belonging to farmers were followed on pasture, each species during three consecutive days each month, from May 2003 to April 2004, and their activities were recorded regularly every 15 min, as well as the browse species selected and the height reached while browsing. The farmers had good knowledge of the browse species present in the area and their preferential classification depended on the availability of the species, their nutritive value and also other ways of utilising the species concerned. However, some divergence existed in the knowledge of farmers compared to the result from the behaviour study, e.g. some species were mentioned by farmers but not found in the inventory. There was a decline in the feeding activities of all animal species from rainy to dry season, while resting and ruminating activities were increasing at the same time. This decline in time spent feeding was more important for cattle (from 72 to 39% of total time) as they relied on the herbaceous biomass for feeding, while sheep and goats made a shift in the feeding activities from grazing to browsing when the herbaceous biomass decreased. Cattle browsed (leaves and litter) during all the study period for around 4.5% of the time spent on pasture. Sheep and goats showed a peak in browsing activity in the dry season, 28 and 52% of the time, respectively. During the whole observation period, cattle browsed 10 species, with Guiera senegalensis most often selected, with 59, 54 and 84% of browsing time, respectively, in the rainy, post rainy and dry season. G. senegalensis, Combretum micranthum and Balanites aegyptiaca were the most important species browsed by sheep among the 20 browse species selected. Goats browsed more than 20 species daily but the most preferred species were Acacia senegal, B. aegyptiaca and Pterocarpus lucens. The mean height reached by goats when browsing was higher (1.65 m) than that of cattle (1.47 m) and sheep (0.87 m). The result from this study can be used to select species for regeneration and to advice farmers on the importance of herd composition. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


Feeding behaviour; Browse preference; Cattle; Sheep; Goats; Indigenous farmer knowledge

Published in

Small Ruminant Research
2007, Volume: 67, number: 1, pages: 64-74

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science
    Veterinary Science

    Publication identifier


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