Livestock grazing behaviour along a degradation gradient in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia
AbstractLivestock grazing behaviour is poorly understood in the arid rangelands of Ethiopia, resulting in inadequate rangeland management and grazing systems, which are no improvement on the traditional practices by pastoralists. This study aimed at quantifying the influence of rangeland degradation on grazing behaviour of the livestock breeds in the Shinile zone of the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia. Indigenous pastoral knowledge was also used in understanding and ranking the livestock preferences. Six each of male cattle, sheep, goats and camels, with average masses of 200, 35, 30 and 220 kg, respectively, were used and randomly assigned for unrestricted grazing. Species selectivity, grazing time, grazing intensity and number of bites were recorded. Forage mass intake per animal per day was estimated through a simulated feeding trial using Panicum coloratum hay. Number, type and abundance of preferred herbaceous species, as well as selectivity by livestock species, declined with rangeland degradation. Grazing time, intensity, number of bites, forage mass and dry matter intake increased with rangeland degradation. Rangeland condition is an important determinant of grazing behaviour of livestock species, an important tool for decision making in improving grazing and rangeland management systems under arid and semi-arid conditions.
Keywords: grazing behaviour, indigenous knowledge, rangeland condition, simulated feeding
African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2008, 25(1): 1–9