Mixed grazing of sheep and cattle using continuous or rotational stocking
Two consecutive experiments were conducted to test a hypothesis that mixed grazing outcome is influenced by the type of stocking system applied. The objective of both experiments was to investigate the influence of co-grazing with sheep on cattle liveweight gain (LWG) under continuous (C) and rotational (R) stocking, where sheep weekly liveweight change under the two stocking systems was kept similar. In experiment I nine yearling heifers (266 ± 4.5 kg liveweight) and 27 ewe hoggets (54±0.9 kg liveweight) were continuously stocked for 19 weeks on an irrigated perennial ryegrass-white clover pasture (2.95 ha) maintained at a sward surface height (SSH) of 5cm by adding or removing additional animals in a fixed ratio (1: 1 W⁰.⁷⁵ cattle:sheep). An equal area of pasture was rotationally stocked by a similar group of animals where they received a new area of pasture daily and also had access to the grazed area over the previous 2 days. The size of the new area provided daily was such that the weekly liveweight change of rotationally co-grazed sheep was equal to that of those continuously co-grazed with cattle. Similar groups of animals were used in the second experiment with additional group of 9 heifers grazed alone on C and R pastures. Liveweight of animals was recorded weekly and final fasted weight was determined after 24-hour total feed restriction. SSH on both treatment swards was recorded daily. There were three intake measurement periods spread over the trial period. Organic matter intake (OMI) was predicted from the ratio of N-alkanes in faeces and herbage. Diet composition was determined by dissecting oesophageal extrusa samples. Grazing behaviour (bite rates and grazing time) were also recorded. The mean SSH for C pasture was 5.1±0.09 cm. Overall pre- and post-grazing SSH for R pasture was 15.9 ±0.12 and 5.6 ±0.07 cm, respectively. As determined by the protocol average daily LWG of sheep was similar between C and R (147 (±5.8) vs 138 (±6.7) g day⁻¹; (P>0.05). In contrast, cattle continuously stocked with sheep grew 200 g day⁻¹ slower than those rotationally stocked with sheep (800 (±41.6) vs 1040 (±47.7) g day⁻¹, P<0.0l). R heifers achieved 30 kg higher final fasted liveweight than C heifers (350 vs 381 kg; P<0.01). Overall LWG per ha was also 6 % higher under R than C stocking (674 vs 634 kg ha⁻¹). The OMD of both sheep (73.5 vs 75.8 %) and cattle (75.8 vs 78.0 %) diets was similar under continuous and rotational stocking. There was no significant difference OMI data also concurred with the L WG data (Cattle: 7.94 vs 6.31 (±0.32) kg day⁻¹ (P<0.05); sheep: 1.40 vs 1.44 (±0.04) kg day⁻¹ for Rand C treatments, respectively). There was no difference in clover content of cattle diet under C and R treatments. C heifers had higher number of bites per minute than R heifers (62 vs 56; P<0.05). Proportion of heifers seen grazing (every 15-minute) during four 24-hour observations was greater on C than R pasture (0.44 vs 0.31 (±0.03); P<0.05). The similarity coefficient between sheep and cattle diet was 0.61 and 0.76 under C and R stocking, respectively. The lower daily LWG of C heifers was attributed to (a) the lower SSH under C than R stocking and/or (b) the inability of cattle to compete well with sheep where there is small, continual renewal of resources (C) in contrast to a large periodic renewal under R stocking. This experiment showed that the outcome of mixed gruing can be influenced by the stocking system chosen. But it was not possible to apportion the difference in LWG of cattle between mixed grazing per se and the difference in mean grazed sward height (5.1 for C vs 10.8 cm for R). A second experiment was conducted to determine the relative performance of cattle co-grazed with sheep (CS) and grazed alone (CA) under each stocking system. Hence, there were four treatments. CA- continuous stocking (CA-C), CS- continuous stocking (CS-C), CA- rotational stocking (CAR) and CS- rotational stocking (CS-R). A total area of 4.42 ha was allocated to each stocking system. Under C stocking, 2.95 ha (2/3) was assigned to CS-C and 1.47 ha (1/3) to CA-C, and SSH on both treatments was kept at 4 cm by adding or removing extra animals. Under R stocking, CA-R and CS-R grazed side by side separated by an electric fence. They were given a fresh area daily, the size of which was varied such that the weekly LW change of R sheep was equal to that of the C sheep. CA-R received one-third of the new area though the size was adjusted regularly to achieve the same post-grazing SSH with CS-R. Measurements included: weekly liveweight change, OMI (two periods) and diet composition (using N-alkanes). The mean SSH of CA-C and CS-C swards was 4.27 and 4.26 (±0.02) cm, respectively. CA-R and CS-R swards had mean pre-grazing SSH of 14.9 and 15.2 (±0.08) cm and post-grazing heights of 4.87 and 4.82 cm (±0.03), respectively. The proportion of areas infrequently grazed was higher for CA-C than CS-C swards (0.22 vs 0.17, respectively). C and R sheep daily LWG: 155 (±0.6) and 147 (±0.7) g, and OMI: 1.96 and 2.04 (±0.ll) kg, respectively, were not significantly different. They also had similar diet composition. In comparison, CS-C heifers grew only at 69 % of the daily LWG achieved by CS-R heifers (706 vs 1028 (±72) g; P<0.05). LWG of CA-C and CA-R was 916 and 1022 (±72) g day⁻¹, respectively. The difference in LWG between CS-R and CS-C (D₁) heifers was due to difference in mean sward height, stocking system and mixed grazing, while D₂ (difference in LWG between CA-R and CAC) was due to difference in mean sward height and stocking system. D₁-D₂ (the effect of stocking system on mixed grazing) was 216 g and made up 67 % of the total difference between CS-R and CS-C. There was a significant stocking system-species mixture interaction in the final fasted LW achieved by heifers. Final fasted LW was significantly lower for CS-C than CA-C heifers (283 vs 323 (±9.7) kg), but did not differ between CS-R and CA-R (332 vs 330 (±9.7) kg, respectively). The digestibility of diet OM was similar for both continuously and rotationally stocked sheep (84.4 vs 83.2 %, respectively). Cattle diet OMO was 76.5, 74.7, 79.4 and 77.8 for CA-C, CS-C, CA-R and CS-R respectively (P>0.05). Differences in OMI followed a similar pattern to daily LWG. Mean daily OMI was 8.98, 6.24, 8.80 and 9.45 (±0.40) kg for CA-C, CS-C, CA-R and CS-R, respectively. Clover content of the diet of CA-C heifers was three times higher than that of CS-C heifers (30.7 vs 10.4 % OM; P<0.05); there was no difference in clover content of diets of CS-R and CA-R heifers (21.5 vs 23.9 % OM, respectively). In both stocking systems LWG per ha was higher on CA than CS treatments. These results suggested that the disadvantage of selective clover grazing by sheep outweighed the advantages of sheep grazing around cattle dung patches under continuous stocking. Under rotational stocking, rapid diurnal changes in sward conditions probably limited selective grazing by both sheep and cattle such that there was no disadvantage to CS cattle. The results do not provide a basis for recommending grazing cattle with sheep rather than cattle alone, but do provide some basis for recommending co-grazing of sheep and cattle using rotational rather than continuous stocking.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordscattle; continuous stocking; diet composition; frequently grazed areas; grazing behaviour; infrequently grazed areas; intake; liveweight gain; mixed grazing; N-alkanes; perennial ryegrass; rotational stocking; sheep; stocking system; sward surface height; white clover
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