Mature non-lactating cows, 18-month-old heifersand7-month-oldfemale calves of the Charolais breed (eight animals of each age) were strip-grazedon short (S, sward surface height: 7·5 cm), medium (M,10·2 cm) and tall (T, 21·1 cm) cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) swards at a daily herbage allowance of 40 g dry matter per kg live weight over three 15-day experimental periods. The swards were leafy regrowths of 1 (S), 2 (M)and 3·5 (T)weeks of age. Herbage intake was estimated by the n-alkane method, and grazing behaviour was recorded visually.
Intakes per kg live weight of calves and heifers were higher than those of cows on all swards(P < 0·01). Calves tended to maintain intake, whereas cows and heifers reduced their intake as sward height decreased. Bite weight decreased linearly with sward height, this decrease being greater for larger animals (P < 0·001). As sward height decreased, the scaling factor of bite weight to live weight decreased. Biting rates increased as sward height decreased (P < 0·001) and were lower in calves than in older cattle (P < 0·001). Calves had lower intake rates per kg live weight than cows in T swards, and the reverse was true in S swards (P < 0·001). Younger cattle always grazed longer than cows, but differences were reduced as sward height decreased (P < 0·01). Cows and heifers wereunable to increase their grazing time sufficiently to compensate for lower intake rates in S and M swards, resulting in reduced herbage intakes. Faecal markers and grazing behaviour suggested a greater selectivity by calves compared with older cattle.