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Effects of method, rate and timing of slurry application to grassland on the preference by cattle for treated and untreated areas of pasture

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Abstract:

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted in the UK to investigate preference by cattle for areas of pasture treated or untreated with dairy cow slurry. Experiment 1 examined the effects of method and rate of slurry applied to a grass pasture in March (Spring); Experiment 2 examined the effects of method and timing of slurry application after cutting for silage in June (Summer). In both experiments, beef steers grazed grassland plots that had been treated with slurry on one half only of the plots for 4 weeks. Slurry was applied by shallow injection (I), trailing shoe (T) or conventional surface broadcasting (S) techniques. In Experiment 1, slurry was applied at 40 m3 ha−1 (HI) or 20 m3 ha−1 (LO) 21 d before grazing commenced; in Experiment 2, slurry was applied at 20 m3 ha−1 either 32 d (E) or 10 d (L) before grazing commenced. Sward height was measured and animal behaviour was recorded during 8 × 24 h measurement periods in each experiment. Preference for slurry-treated or untreated swards was indicated by a comparison of post-grazing sward height on each sward and the proportion of total grazing time spent on the slurry-treated swards. In Experiment 1, a smaller proportion of grazing time was spent on slurry-treated areas of swards compared with untreated areas of swards on all treatments, but the proportion of time spent grazing the slurry-treated sward was greater on method T than on methods I or S (0·28, 0·31 and 0·39 for methods S, I and T, respectively, s.e.d. = 0·035, P < 0·05). Steers showed no preference between slurry-treated and untreated swards by 49, 45 and 44 d after slurry application for methods S, I and T respectively. Differences between HI and LO were not significant (P > 0·05). In Experiment 2, aversion to slurry-treated swards compared with untreated swards was less for treatment E than for L, with a greater proportion of both residence and grazing time spent on the slurry-treated sward of treatment E than L (0·43 and 0·28, respectively, for residence time, s.e.d. = 0·025, P < 0·001, and 0·47 and 0·30, respectively, for grazing time, s.e.d. = 0·021, P < 0·001). Significant differences were shown between the methods of slurry application for treatment E, with a greater proportion of grazing time spent on the slurry-treated swards of methods I and T than method S (0·40, 0·52 and 0·49 for S, I and T, respectively, s.e.d. = 0·032, P < 0·001), and a greater difference between post-grazing heights on slurry-treated and untreated swards for method S than for I or T (30, 12 and 15 mm, respectively, s.e.d. = 4·8, P < 0·001). For treatment L, differences in the proportion of time spent grazing on slurry-treated swards compared with untreated swards were not significant between treatments (0·26, 0·34 and 0·31 for methods S, I and T, respectively, s.e.d. = 0·040, P > 0·05) and indifference between slurry-treated and untreated swards was achieved 77, 60 and 58 d after slurry spreading for methods S, I and T respectively. These results show that, when slurry is applied to pasture in a grazing rotation, the adverse effects on grazing behaviour associated with conventional surface broadcasting may be overcome by the use of novel slurry application techniques.

Keywords: cattle slurry; narrow band spreading; preference by cattle; shallow injection; slurry application timing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2494.2002.00306.x

Affiliations: Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, North Wyke Research Station, Okehampton, Devon, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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