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Effects of reduced time on pasture caused by prolonged walking on behaviour and production of Mpwapwa Zebu cattle

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In many African countries, cattle are often allowed to graze only during the daytime and the daily walk to pasture limits time for foraging. Two groups of cattle were allowed access to pasture for 9 h or 5 h associated with a daily walk of 0·5 h or 4·5 h respectively. Each treatment period lasted for 14 days in a cross-over design. Observations of behaviour were carried out for 8 days in each treatment period. When only 5 h were allowed at pasture, the animals grazed less (0·61 vs. 0·66 of time) compared with the first 5 h of the 9 h treatment. The average daily milk yield was 323 g (0·078) higher when 9 h were allowed on pasture (P < 0·05 during the second week of treatments). There were no differences in milk yield after the end of the treatments. The daily liveweight gain was 250 g higher when the animals were on pasture for 9 h. These differences could be due to the limited time on pasture or to energy requirements for the walk to pasture. It is concluded that increasing the walking time and reducing time on pasture may compromise animal welfare and performance under the experimental conditions, i.e. on poor quality pastures in a warm humid climate where the main period at pasture is in the middle of the day.
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Keywords: Bos indicus cattle; behaviour; limited time on pasture; production; restricted suckling; walking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Section of Ethology, Skara, Sweden

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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