Herbage intake of dairy cows in mixed sequential grazing with breeding ewes as followers
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This study aimed to evaluate the hypothesis that mixed sequential grazing of dairy cows and breeding ewes is beneficial. During the seasons of spring–summer 2013 and autumn–winter 2013–2014, 12 (spring–summer) and 16 (autumn–winter) Holstein Friesian cows and 24 gestating (spring–summer) and lactating (autumn–winter) Pelibuey ewes grazed on six (spring–summer) and nine (autumn–winter) paddocks of alfalfa and orchard grass mixed pastures. The treatments “single species cow grazing” (CowG) and “mixed sequential grazing with ewes as followers of cows” (MixG) were evaluated, under a completely randomized design with two replicates per paddock. Herbage mass on offer (HO) and residual herbage mass (RH) were estimated by cutting samples. The estimate of herbage intake (HI) of cows was based on the use of internal and external markers; the apparent HI of ewes was calculated as the difference between HO (RH of cows) and RH. Even though HO was higher in CowG, the HI of cows was higher in MixG during spring–summer and similar in both treatments during autumn–winter, implying that in MixG the effects on the cows HI of higher alfalfa proportion and herbage accumulation rate evolving from lower residual herbage mass in the previous cycle counteracted that of a higher HO in CowG. The HI of ewes was sufficient to enable satisfactory performance as breeding ewes. Thus, the benefits of mixed sequential grazing arose from higher herbage accumulation, positive changes in botanical composition, and the achievement of sheep production without negative effects on the herbage intake of cows.
KeywordsMedicago sativa Dactylis glomerata Herbage mass Herbage accumulation Botanical composition
Compliance with ethical standards
Statement of animal rights
The study was carried out in accordance with guidelines of the Research Ethics Committee of the EU Directive 2010/63/EU for animal experiments.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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