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Grazing behaviour and weight change of cattle turned out to pasture in spring

Charmley, E., Jannasch, R.W., Boyd, J.
Canadian journal of animal science 2003 v.83 no.4 pp. 801-808
Hereford, experimental design, forage quality, grazing, nutrient content, pastures, silage, spring, steers, sward, weight loss
In the first of two trials, 20 Hereford steers were allocated to two adjacent 1.6-ha pastures on 29 May 1996. Steers in one pasture were given no supplement, while those in the other received supplemental silage each day. All steers on each treatment grazed their allocated paddock continuously for 28 d. Steers on pasture were weighed and their behaviour was monitored periodically throughout the 4 wk of grazing. The dry matter (DM) availability at turnout (651 kg hd-1) was considered in excess to requirement, since neither availability nor sward height declined over 28 d. In spite of this, steers lost 15 kg after turnout and took 12 d to regain their initial weight. There were no treatment effects. Nutrient composition of the sward changed in accordance with advancing maturity. Percent of time observed grazing (51%) did not change over the 28-d period; however, rumination time increased from around 10 to 30%. Grazing behaviour was similar for steers on both treatments. Silage intake averaged only 1.3 kg DM hd-1d-1. In 1997, 28 yearling steers were used in a 2 × 2 factorial design to study the effect of turnout date to pasture [21 May (E) vs. 4 June (L)] and supplemental silage feeding on weight change, grazing behaviour, pasture productivity and forage quality over 28 d. The DM availability at turnout was 391 kg hd-1. Available DM and sward height declined in both early and late treatments after turnout. The early group had to be removed from the trial after 16 d when sward height dropped below 4 cm. Sward quali ty after turnout declined only for the late group. Loss of body weight (BW) and days to regain initial BW after turnout were greater for early versus late steers. Steers ate only 0.5 kg silage DM hd-1d-1, but this reduced weight loss in late steers. Cattle turned out later spent less time grazing (P < 0.001 at 5 and 14 d) but no less time ruminating. Transient weight loss associated with turnout to pasture cannot be wholly explained by behavioural patterns. Other factors, such as altered ruminal conditions, must also play an important role.