The effects on herbage intake of changes of herbage mass associated with different stocking rates were studied in Greyface (Border Leicester × Scottish Blackface) ewes in the autumn. Intake was measured in 5-day periods in late September (PI), late October (P2) and late November (P3) on two established, perennial ryegrass/white clover swards (SI and S2). Both swards had previously been variably stocked to produce areas with a range in herbage masses, some of which were grazed continuously (G) at stocking rates declining from 18 to 6 ewes per ha.
Intake was also measured in P2 and P3 on other areas of the swards which were ungrazed for 6 weeks in September and October (C) and then stocked at 18 ewes per ha. Intakes of dry matter, organic matter and digestible organic matter were 16 g, 10 g and 7·5 g/kg live weight, respectively. Organic matter digestibility was 075 in PI and P2 but declined in P3.
Differences in herbage intake and digestibility arose largely because of differences between the swards in herbage mass, sward height and sward density. Ewes in condition scores > 3·00 in early September had lower intakes at all times than did thinner ewes. Changes in sward management associated with different strategies of use had little long-term effect on herbage intake. Keywords: digestibility, herbage, sheep, stocking rate.