Confinement influenced the diurnal behavior of Katahdin rams and Kiko wethers in southern-pine silvopastures
Previous studies with Kiko wethers rotationally stocked in southern-pine silvopastures showed a significant debarking of 10-11-year-old pine trees during winter and spring. There is a need to identify suitable animals and management strategies to protect trees in silvopastures. The objective of the study was to determine the effect of confinement on diurnal behavior and distribution pattern of Katahdin rams and Kiko wethers cograzing in southern-pine silvopastures during the cool-season grazing period. Diurnal behavior and distribution pattern of Kiko wethers (n = 6; 61.5 ± 1.58 kg live weight) and Katahdin rams (n = 6; 72.7 ± 4.80 kg live weight) were monitored in two sets of studies: (1) animals were rotationally stocked in three silvopasture plots with confinement (plot-gate closed), and (2) the same study was repeated with non-confinement (plot-gate open), allowing access to wooded area and open space located outside the silvopasture plots. Rams did not debark pine trees irrespective of confinement. They spent less time (17%) grazing (p < 0.05) and stayed out of the silvopasture plots for a significant period (42%) with non-confinement. Wethers showed some debarking (2%) of pine trees with confinement, but none without confinement. With non-confinement, wethers’ grazing time decreased (53%) (p < 0.0001), browsing time increased (48×) (p < 0.0001), and distribution outside the silvopasture plots remained significant (73%). Katahdin rams were found safe to use in southern-pine silvopastures consisting of 12-year-old longleaf and loblolly pine trees; however, non-confinement would be necessary while using Kiko wethers to safeguard young southern-pine trees in small silvopasture plots containing similar understory vegetation during the cool-season grazing period.
KeywordsBrowsing Debarking Grazing Longleaf pine Loblolly pine
This work was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Competitive Grant Number 2016-68006-24764. This work also received partial support from the McIntire Stennis Forestry Research Program. We would like to extend our gratitude to all staff at Tuskegee University, George Washington Carver Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension for their assistance in performing the fieldwork during the study.
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