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Selection, intake and excretion of nutrients by Scottish Highland suckler beef cows and calves, and Brown Swiss dairy cows in contrasting Alpine grazing systems

  • N. R. BERRY (a1) (a2), P. L. JEWELL (a3), F. SUTTER (a1) (a4), P. J. EDWARDS (a3) and M. KREUZER (a1)...

Abstract

Nutrient intake, digestibility and live-weight changes were compared for groups of grazing cattle on two Swiss Alpine pastures in different regions (R1 and R2; both >1500 m above sea level) during 2 years (1997 and 1998). The R1 site was an improved pasture, while R2 was an unimproved pasture of poor nutritional quality. Replicated over 2 years, R1 groups comprised four Scottish Highland suckler cows together with their calves and four Brown Swiss dairy cows (17·8 kg/day milk) kept at high stocking rates (approx. 7 cows/ha) in short rotations (intensive management system). R2 groups comprised four Highland cows with calves managed at low density (approx. 0·4 cows/ha) and set-stocked (extensive management system). Grazing seasons lasted 77 days at R1 and 127 days at R2. Intake, digestibility and faecal excretion were estimated by the slow-release alkane indicator method. Average dry matter intakes in kg/day and g/kg W0·75/day (in parentheses) were 17·4 (151) for dairy cows at R1 and, significantly lower, 12·7 (133) and 11·1 (111) for beef cows at R1 and R2, respectively. Herbage dry-matter intake of calves was 1·2 kg/day at both locations. Calf weight gains measured over 77 days (0·69 kg/day) were similar at the two sites and thereafter declined only slightly at R2. The N content of the herbage selected was similar in the two regions, but in other respects the herbage at R2 was of significantly poorer nutritive quality as indicated by the lower digestibility of organic matter and neutral detergent fibre at R2 compared with R1. Through feed selection, nutrient intake by beef cows was sufficient to gain weight. In contrast, dairy cows at R1 lost on average more than 50 kg of weight. Calculations were made and discussed regarding N utilization and urinary N loss, and measured faecal N and mineral excretion to allow a quantitative assessment of nutrient returns to the sward. We conclude that Highland beef cattle make poorer use of improved Alpine pasture than dairy cows though they utilize pastures of poor nutritive quality under extensive management without loss of productivity.

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Selection, intake and excretion of nutrients by Scottish Highland suckler beef cows and calves, and Brown Swiss dairy cows in contrasting Alpine grazing systems

  • N. R. BERRY (a1) (a2), P. L. JEWELL (a3), F. SUTTER (a1) (a4), P. J. EDWARDS (a3) and M. KREUZER (a1)...

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