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Grazing behaviour, herbage intake and animal performance of beef cattle heifers on marandu palisade grass subjected to intensities of continuous stocking management

  • S. C. DA SILVA (a1), F. M. A. GIMENES (a2), D. O. L. SARMENTO (a3), A. F. SBRISSIA (a4), D. E. OLIVEIRA (a5), A. HERNADEZ-GARAY (a6) and A. V. PIRES (a1)...

Summary

The ability to adapt to a range of edaphic conditions favours the widespread use of marandu palisade grass in high as well as low input systems of animal production in Brazil. However, little information exists regarding the influence of grazing management practices on sward structure and the carry-over effects on animal responses. The present experiment was planned to evaluate animal behaviour, herbage intake (HI) and nutritive value, herbage accumulation and body weight gain (BWG) of beef cattle heifers grazing marandu palisade grass subjected to intensities of continuous stocking management. Treatments corresponded to four sward surface heights (SSH: 100, 200, 300 and 400 mm) and were allocated to experimental units (1200 m2 paddocks) according to a randomized complete block design with four replications. Herbage accumulation rate (HAR) varied with season of the year and SSH, with highest and lowest values recorded during summer and winter, respectively. During the summer, herbage accumulation was larger on swards managed at 200, 300 and 400 mm, with the opposite occurring during winter/early spring. Stocking rate (SR) and number of grazing days (GD) followed a similar seasonal pattern of variation, with values decreasing as SSH increased. Crude protein (CP) and in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) of hand-plucked herbage decreased as SSH increased from 100 to 400 mm, while the inverse happened with BWG (from 0·190 to 0·930 kg/day, respectively). Bite mass (BM) increased and rate of biting and grazing time (GT) decreased as SSH increased, with daily HI being larger on tall (300 and 400 mm) relative to short (100 and 200 mm) swards. Grazing management affected the nutritive value and the amount of herbage consumed, particularly through changes in BM. However, variations in intake were relatively more important than variations in nutritive value in influencing animal performance, highlighting the importance of providing favourable harvest conditions for grazing animals by establishing adequate sward targets for management.

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*To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email: siladasilva@usp.br

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