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Social behaviour of cattle in tropical silvopastoral and monoculture systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2015

L. Améndola
Affiliation:
Departamento de Etología, Fauna Silvestre y Animales de Laboratorio, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán 04510, México DF
F. J. Solorio
Affiliation:
Departamento de Nutrición Animal, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Itzimná, 97100, Mérida, Yucatán, México
J. C. Ku-Vera
Affiliation:
Departamento de Nutrición Animal, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Itzimná, 97100, Mérida, Yucatán, México
R. D. Améndola-Massiotti
Affiliation:
Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, Texcoco, 56230 Chapingo, México
H. Zarza
Affiliation:
Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, CBS, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Lerma, 52005 Lerma de Villada, México, México
F. Galindo
Affiliation:
Departamento de Etología, Fauna Silvestre y Animales de Laboratorio, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán 04510, México DF
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Abstract

Silvopastoral systems can be a good alternative for sustainable livestock production because they can provide ecosystem services and improve animal welfare. Most farm animals live in groups and the social organization and interactions between individuals have an impact on their welfare. Therefore, the objective of this study was to describe and compare the social behaviour of cattle (Bos indicus×Bos taurus) in a silvopastoral system based on a high density of leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) combined with guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), star grass (Cynodon nlemfuensis) and some trees; with a monoculture system with C. nlemfuensis, in the region of Merida, Yucatán. Eight heifers in each system were observed from 0730 to 1530 h each day for 12 consecutive days during the dry season and 12 consecutive days during the rainy season. The animals followed a rotation between three paddocks, remaining 4 days in each paddock. The vegetation was characterized in the paddocks of the silvopastoral system to estimate the average percentage of shade provided. To make a comparison between systems, we used a t test with group dispersion, and Mann–Whitney tests with the frequency of affiliative and agonistic behaviours. We assessed differences in linearity and stability of dominance hierarchies using Landau’s index and Dietz R-test, respectively. The distance of cows with respect to the centroid of the group was shorter, and non-agonistic behaviours were 62% more frequent in the intensive silvopastoral system than in the monoculture one. Heifers in the silvopastoral system had a more linear and non-random dominance hierarchy in both seasons (dry season: h’=0.964; rainy season: h’=0.988), than heifers in the monoculture system (dry season: h’=0.571, rainy season: h’=0.536). The dominance hierarchy in the silvopastoral system was more stable between seasons (R-test=0.779) than in the monoculture system (R-test=0.224). Our results provide the first evidence that heifers in the silvopastoral system maintain more stable social hierarchies and express more sociopositive behaviours, suggesting that animal welfare was enhanced.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Animal Consortium 2015 

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