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Effect of species composition and sward structure on dietary quality in cattle and sheep grazing South African sourveld

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O'Reagain, P. J. and Owen-Smith, R.N. (1996) Effect of species composition and sward structure on dietary quality in cattle and sheep grazing South African sourveld. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 127 (2). pp. 261-270. ISSN 0021-8596

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021859600078035


The effect of sward structure and species composition on dietary quality in cattle and sheep grazing a mesic, low quality grassland (sourveld) in South Africa was investigated over the 1990/91 and 1991/92 grazing seasons. Species composition had no measurable effect on dietary quality in either cattle or sheep but this variable could affect quality over grazing periods longer than those used in the study. In contrast, sward structure, and in particular sward greenness, had a major effect on dietary quality in both animals. Dietary in vitro digestibility (IVD) was positively correlated (P < 0·001) with sward greenness but negatively correlated (P < 0·05) with herbage mass and sward height. Dietary IVD in sheep was consistently higher (P < 0·001) then in cattle but both species reacted in a similar manner to changes in sward structure and season. Dietary quality declined over the grazing season, with IVD being highest in spring (> 60%) and lowest in winter (< 45%). Marked intra-seasonal fluctuations in quality also occurred in response to sward structure and apparent variation in soil moisture. Fire also appeared to have a significant effect on quality, with IVD being higher (P < 0·001) in the first year following the burn than in the subsequent year. It is suggested that on sourveld, dietary quality in the growing season is determined by a combination of environmental and management factors. Conversely, in the dormant season, dietary quality is largely determined by environmental factors beyond the control of the grazier.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Sheep
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:10 Apr 2024 01:07
Last Modified:10 Apr 2024 01:07

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