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The effects of level of Molinia utilization on diet selection and herbage intake by cattle grazing Molinia grassland

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Groups of mature, non-lactating, cows grazed two Molinia-dominant grassland communities in central and southern Scotland during six consecutive summers. Two treatments, designed to use either 33% or 66% of the estimated annual Molinia leaf production by grazing to different leaf lengths, were imposed at each site. Grazing was restricted to the period of Molinia growth each season. During the first 4 years, diet composition, diet digestibility and herbage organic matter intake were determined during either one or two measurement periods each year. There were differences between sites in the floristic content of the sward and these differences were reflected in the diet selected by the cattle. Cows grazing the taller (33% utilization) plots had higher percentages of Molinia, grass stem, sheath and inflorescences and lower percentages of broad-leaved grasses, sedges, rushes and dead herbage in the diet than those grazing the shorter (66% utilization) plots. Differences between the floristic composition of the sward and the diet were explicable by (a) the height at which cattle grazed in relation to the distribution of components within the sward or (b) the selective grazing of small areas dominated by a particular species. The organic matter digestibility of diets differed between sites but there was no significant difference in digestibility or organic matter intake between the treatments. On average less than 50 d grazing was provided by the experimental sites each year. During this period the liveweight gains of cows grazing the two treatments did not differ significantly. The implications of these results for the management of Molinia-dominant communities are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, UK

Publication date: 1997-06-01

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