Skip to main content Accessibility help

A pilot study on the foraging behaviour of heifers in intensive silvopastoral and monoculture systems in the tropics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 July 2018

L. Améndola
Departamento de Etología y Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán, 04510, DF, México
F. J. Solorio
Departamento de Nutrición Animal, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Itzimná, 97100, Mérida, Yucatán, México
J. C. Ku-Vera
Departamento de Nutrición Animal, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Itzimná, 97100, Mérida, Yucatán, México
R. D. Améndola-Massioti
Posgrado en Producción Animal, Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, Texcoco, 56230, Chapingo, México
H. Zarza
Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, CBS, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Lerma, 52005, Lerma de Villada, México, México
K. F. Mancera
Departamento de Etología y Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán, 04510, DF, México
F. Galindo
Departamento de Etología y Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán, 04510, DF, México
E-mail address:
Get access


Intensive silvopastoral systems (ISS) are a sustainable alternative to monoculture systems (MS). The presence of trees and legumes improves animal welfare due to the increased food quality and quantity and the presence of shade while providing a variety of environmental services. As cattle behaviour is greatly affected by environmental conditions, knowledge on the behavioural trade-offs that cattle make to meet their demands while foraging in different grazing systems is important, as this will help us understand the perceived advantages of ISS. This pilot study assessed the behaviour of heifers in an ISS (n=8 heifers) and MS (n=8 heifers) in the Mexican tropics during the dry and rainy seasons, and its relationship with forage availability, mean travelled distance and the temperature humidity index (THI). In both seasons, daily foraging times were longer in the MS than the ISS (P<0.01). The duration of rumination was higher for ISS (P<0.01) and the duration of lying was higher for the dry season (P<0.05). The decrease in foraging times in relation to THI was significantly higher in the ISS than in the MS (mean slope±SE: ISS=−4.64±0.34; MS=−2.34±0.22; t=−14.20, P<0.001). The results suggest that the forage availability and access to shade in the ISS allow cattle to rest longer and increase rumination, whereas cattle in MS spend more time searching for food and foraging at times of the day were the temperatures were higher as a compensatory strategy, which potentially decreases cattle’s welfare and production qualities when compared with the ISS. In conclusion, ISS are likely to generate positive behavioural trade-offs that result in better welfare conditions and higher productive potential.

Research Article
© The Animal Consortium 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.



Present address: Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.


Améndola, L, Solorio, FJ, Ku-Vera, JC, Améndola-Massiotti, RD, Zarza, H and Galindo, F 2016. Social behaviour of cattle in tropical silvopastoral and monoculture systems. Animal 10, 863867.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Andriamandroso, ALH, Bindelle, J, Mercatoris, B and Lebeau, B 2016. A review on the use of sensors to monitor cattle jaw movements and behavior when grazing. Biotechnology, Agronomy, Society and Environment 20, 273286.Google Scholar
Armstrong, D 1994. Heat stress interaction with shade and cooling. Journal of Dairy Science 77, 20442050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailey, DW, Gross, JE, Laca, EA, Rittenhouse, LR, Coughenhour, MB, Swift, DM and Sims, PL 1996. Mechanisms that result in large herbivore grazing distribution patterns. Journal of Range Management 49, 386400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailey, D, Trotter, M, Knight, C and Thomas, M 2017. 740 Use of GPS tracking collars and accelerometers for rangeland livestock production research. Journal of Animal Science 95, 360360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barros-Rodríguez, M, Sólorio-Sánchez, J, Ku-Vera, J, Ayala-Burgos, A, Sandoval-Castro, C and Solís-Pérez, G 2012. Productive performance and urinary excretion of mimosine metabolites by hair sheep grazing in a silvopastoral system with high densities of Leucaena leucocephala . Tropical Animal Health and Production 448, 18731878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beede, DK and Collier, RJ 1986. Potential nutritional strategies for intensively managed cattle during thermal stress. Journal of Animal Science 62, 543554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blackshaw, JK and Blackshaw, A 1994. Heat stress in cattle and the effect of shade on production and behaviour: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 34, 285295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Broom, DM, Galindo, FA and Murgueitio, E 2013. Sustainable, efficient livestock production with high biodiversity and good welfare for animals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280, 20132025.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bucklin, R, Turner, L, Beede, D, Bray, D and Hemken, R 1991. Methods to relieve heat stress for dairy cows in hot, humid climates. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 7, 241247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carranza-Montaño, MA, Sánchez-Velásquez, LR, Pineda-López, MR and Cuevas-Guzmán, R 2003. Calidad y potencial forrajero de especies del bosque tropical caducifolio de la sierra de Manatlán México. Agrociencia 37, 203210.Google Scholar
Codron, D, Lee-Thorp, JA, Sponheimer, M, Codron, J, De Ruiter, D and Brink, JS 2007. Significance of diet type and diet quality for ecological diversity of African ungulates. Journal of Animal Ecology 76, 526537.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Corral, G, Solorio, B, Rodríguez, C and Ramírez, J 2011. La calidad de la carne producida en el sistema silvopastoril intensivo y su diferenciación en el mercado. In Proceedings of III Congreso sobre Sistemas Silvopastoriles Intensivos, para la ganadería sostenible del siglo XXI, 3–5 March 2011, Morelia, Michoacán, México, pp. 46–52.Google Scholar
Cuartas Cardona, CA, Naranjo Ramírez, JF, Tarazona Morales, AM and Barahona Rosales, R 2013. Energy use in cattle in intensive silvopastoral systems with Leucaena leucocephala and its relationship to animal performance. CES Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia 8, 7081.Google Scholar
Cuartas Cardona, CA, Naranjo Ramírez, JF, Tarazona Morales, AM, Murgueitio Restrepo, E, Chará Orozco, JD, Ku Vera, J, Solorio Sánchez, FJ, Flores Estrada, MX, Solorio Sánchez, B and Barahona Rosales, R 2014. Contribution of intensive silvopastoral systems to animal performance and to adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias 27, 7694.Google Scholar
Da Silva, SC, do Nascimento Júnior D and Euclides VBP 2008. Pastagens: Conceitos básicos produção e manejo. Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Mato Grosso, Brasil.Google Scholar
Dove, H 1996. The ruminant the rumen and the pasture resource: nutrient interactions in the grazing animal. In The ecology and management of grazing systems (ed. Hodgson J and Illius AW), pp. 219246. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK.Google Scholar
Dunbar, RI, Korstjens, AH and Lehmann, J 2009. Time as an ecological constraint. Biological Reviews 84, 413429.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Færevik, G, Tjentland, K, Løvik, S, Andersen, IL and Bøe, KE 2008. Resting pattern and social behaviour of dairy calves housed in pens with different sized lying areas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 114, 5464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Food and Agriculture Organization 2007. Cómo enfrentarse a la interacción entre la ganadería y el medio ambiente. FAO, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
Fisher, A, Roberts, N and Matthews, L 2002. Shade: its use by livestock and effectiveness at alleviating heat challenge. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Wellington, New Zealand.Google Scholar
Flores, J, Stobbs, T and Minson, D 1979. The influence of the legume Leucaena leucocephala and formal-casein on the production and composition of milk from grazing cows. The Journal of Agricultural Science 92, 351357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galindo, F, Williams, D, González-Rebeles, C, Zarza, H, Avila-Flores, R, Olea-Pérez, R and Suzán, G 2016. Case of study 15 trade-offs between ecosystem services and livestock production: a case of study in Yucatán, México. In Tropical conservation: perspectives on local and global priorities (ed. Aguirre AA and Sukumar R), pp. 381384. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
García, E 1988. Modificaciones al sistema de clasificación climática de Köppen (para adaptarlo a las condiciones de la República Mexicana), 4th edition. Instituto de Geografía UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico.Google Scholar
Gibb, M, Huckle, C and Nuthall, R 1998. Effect of time of day on grazing behaviour by lactating dairy cows. Grass and Forage Science 53, 4146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibb, M and Orr, R 1997. Grazing behaviour of ruminants. IGER innovations 1, 5457.Google Scholar
Hijmans, RJ 2014. Geosphere: spherical trigonometry. R package version 1.3–8. Retrieved on 30 June 2017, from Scholar
Hodgson, J, Clark, DA and Mitchell, RJ 1994. Foraging behaviour in grazing animals and its impact on plant communities. In Forage quality, evaluation and utilization (ed. Fahey GC), pp. 796827. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.Google Scholar
Hurlbert, SH 1984. Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments. Ecological Monographs 54, 187211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, R and Bunch, G 1995. Long-term records of legume persistence and animal production from pastures based on Safari Kenya clover and leucaena in subtropical coastal Queensland. Tropical Grasslands 29, 7474.Google Scholar
Kadzere, CT, Murphy, MR, Silanikove, N and Maltz, E 2002. Heat stress in lactating dairy cows: a review. Livestock Production Science 77, 5991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kendall, P, Nielsen, P, Webster, J, Verkerk, G, Littlejohn, R and Matthews, L 2006. The effects of providing shade to lactating dairy cows in a temperate climate. Livestock Science 103, 148157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kennedy, E, McEvoy, M, Murphy, J and O’donovan, M 2009. Effect of restricted access time to pasture on dairy cow milk production, grazing behavior, and dry matter intake. Journal of Dairy Dcience 92, 168176.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Korstjens, AH, Lehmann, J and Dunbar, RIM 2010. Resting time as an ecological constraint on primate biogeography. Animal Behaviour 79, 361374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lantinga, E, Neuteboom, J and Meijs, J 2004. Sward methods. In Herbage intake handbook (ed. PD Penning), pp. 2352. British Grassland Society, Reading, UK.Google Scholar
Lean, IJ, Golder, HM and Hall, MB 2014. Feeding, evaluating, and controlling rumen function. Veterinary Clinics: Food Animal Practice 30, 539575.Google ScholarPubMed
Lyons, RK and Machen, RV 2000. Interpreting grazing behaviour. Retrieved on 4 June 2017, from http://rang rangedetect/l5385_grzbhv.pdf.Google Scholar
Mancera, KF, Zarza, H, de Buen, LL, García, AAC, Palacios, FM and Galindo, F 2018. Integrating links between tree coverage and cattle welfare in silvopastoral systems evaluation. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 38, 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, P and Bateson, P 2007. Measuring behaviour: an introductory guide, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDowell, RE, Hooven, NW and Camoens, JK 1976. Effects of climate on performance of holsteins in first lactation. Journal of Dairy Science 59, 965973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDowell, R 1996. Sistemas ganaderos de doble propósito: situación actual y prioridades para el futuro. In Memorias del curso de actualización: Aspectos nutricionales del ganado de doble propósito en el trópico (ed. CEIEGET-UNAM), pp. 114. Tlapacoyan, Mexico.Google Scholar
Metz, JHM 1975. Time patterns of feeding and rumination in domestic cattle. Doctoral Thesis. Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Murphy, S and Lodge, G 2002. Ground cover in temperate native perennial grass pastures. I. A comparison of four estimation methods. The Rangeland Journal 24, 288300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nasrullah, M, Niimi, R and Kawamura, O 2003. Nutritive evaluation of forage plants grown in South Sulawesi Indonesia Asian-Australasian. Journal of Animal Science 16, 693701.Google Scholar
O’Connell, J, Giller, P and Meaney, W 1989. A comparison of dairy cattle behavioural patterns at pasture and during confinement. Irish Journal of Agricultural Research 6572.Google Scholar
Paciullo, DSC, de Castro, CRT, de Miranda Gomide, CA, Maurício, RM, Pires, MDFÁ, Müller, MD and Xavier, DF 2011. Performance of dairy heifers in a silvopastoral system. Livestock Science 141, 166172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pérez-Ramírez, E, Delagarde, R and Delaby, L 2008. Herbage intake and behavioural adaptation of grazing dairy cows by restricting time at pasture under two feeding regimes. Animal 2, 13841392.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Piedras, P 1992. Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit Leguminosae (Mimosoideae). Retrieved on 18 April 2018, from Scholar
Ravagnolo, O and Misztal, I 2002. Effect of heat stress on nonreturn rate in Holsteins: fixed-model analyses. Journal of Dairy Science 85, 31013106.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ravetto Enri, S, Renna, M, Probo, M, Lussiana, C, Battaglini, LM, Lonati, M and Lombardi, G 2017. Relationships between botanical and chemical composition of forages: a multivariate approach to grasslands in the Western Italian Alps. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 97, 12521259.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rojo-Rubio, R, Vázquez-Armijo, J, Pérez-Hernández, P, Mendoza-Martínez, G, Salem, A, Albarrán-Portillo, B, González-Reyna, A, Hernández-Martínez, J, Rebollar-Rebollar, S and Cardoso-Jiménez, D 2009. Dual purpose cattle production in Mexico. Tropical Animal Health and Production 715721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sandoval-Castro, CA, Anderson, S and Leaver, JD 2000. Production responses of tropical crossbred cattle to supplementary feeding and to different milking and restricted suckling regimes. Livestock Production Science 66, 1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanginés-Garcı́a, JR, Ku-Vera, JC, González-Valencia, C and Ramón-Ugalde, JP 2003. Ewes production in a pasture of star grass Cynodon nlemfuensis fertilized with swine lagoon effluent. Small Ruminant Research 49, 135139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanon, HO, Kaboré-Zoungrana, C and Ledin, I 2007. Behaviour of goats, sheep and cattle and their selection of browse species on natural pasture in a Sahelian area. Small Ruminant Research 67, 6474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Santana, RR and McDowell, LR 1996. In vitro digestibility, crude protein content, and mineral concentrations of Cynodon, Brachiarin, and Digitaria accessions in a humid tropical region of Puerto Rico. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 27, 26872697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schütz, KE, Cox, NR and Matthews, LR 2008. How important is shade to dairy cattle? Choice between shade or lying following different levels of lying deprivation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 114, 307318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Segura-Correa, JC, Magaña-Monforte, JG, Aké-López, JR, Segura-Correa, VM, Hinojosa-Cuellar, JA and Osorio-Arce, MM 2017. Breed and environmental effects on birth weight, weaning weight and calving interval of zebu cattle in South Eastern Mexico. Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems 20, 297305.Google Scholar
Shelton, M and Dalzell, S 2007. Production, economic and environmental benefits of leucaena pastures. Tropical Grasslands 41, 174190.Google Scholar
Smith, BN and Epstein, S 1971. Two categories of 13C/12C ratios for higher plants. Plant Physiology 47, 380384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soder, KJ, Gregorini, P, Scaglia, G and Rook, AJ 2009. Dietary selection by domestic grazing ruminants in temperate pastures: current state of knowledge, methodologies, and future direction. Rangeland Ecology & Management 62, 389398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Solarte, L, Cuartas, C, Naranjo, J, Uribe, F and Murgueitio, E 2011. Estimación de los costos de establecimiento para sistemas silvopastoriles intensivos con Leucaena leucocephala, pasturas mejoradas y árboles maderables en el Caribe seco Colombiano. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias 24, 518.Google Scholar
Sponheimer, M, Robinson, T, Ayliffe, L, Passey, B, Roeder, B, Shipley, L, Lopez, E, Cerling, T, Dearing, D and Ehleringer, J 2003. An experimental study of carbon-isotope fractionation between diet, hair, and feces of mammalian herbivores. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81, 871876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stull, R 2011. Wet-Bulb temperature from relative humidity and air temperature. American Meteorological Society 50, 22672269.Google Scholar
Taweel, H. Z. 2004. Perennial ryegrass for dairy cows: Grazing behaviour, intake, rumen function and performance. Doctoral thesis, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Tucker, CB, Rogers, AR and Schütz, KE 2008. Effect of solar radiation on dairy cattle behaviour use of shade and body temperature in a pasture-based system. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 109, 141151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, J, Wang, D, Li, C, Seastedt, TR, Liang, C, Wang, L, Sun, W, Liang, M and Li, Y 2018. Feces nitrogen release induced by different large herbivores in a dry grassland. Ecological Applications 28, 201211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Welch, JG and Smith, AM 1970. Forage quality and rumination time in cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 53, 797800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
West, JW 2003. Effects of heat-stress on production in dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 86, 21312144.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Westwood, C 2011. Optimising the intake of feed by pasture-fed sheep and cattle. In Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference of the Grassland Society of NSW, 26–28 July 2011, NSW, Australia, pp. 88–98.Google Scholar
Whalley, R and Hardy, M 2000. Measuring botanical composition of grasslands. In Field and laboratory methods for grassland and animal production research (ed. LT Mannetje and RM Jones), pp. 67102. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 14
Total number of PDF views: 148 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 09th July 2018 - 19th January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-77fc7d77f9-6mlss Total loading time: 0.962 Render date: 2021-01-19T03:13:54.827Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Tue Jan 19 2021 02:55:25 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": true, "languageSwitch": true, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

A pilot study on the foraging behaviour of heifers in intensive silvopastoral and monoculture systems in the tropics
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

A pilot study on the foraging behaviour of heifers in intensive silvopastoral and monoculture systems in the tropics
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

A pilot study on the foraging behaviour of heifers in intensive silvopastoral and monoculture systems in the tropics
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *