Forage quality and performance of sheep in Massai grass pastures managed at pre-grazing canopy heights
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of pasture height at pre-grazing of Massai grass on the quality of available forage, forage intake and the performance of lambs raised for meat production. The treatments consisted of four pre-grazing canopy heights (35, 40, 45 and 50 cm). Pastures were managed by the intermittent stocking method and 32 sheep were used. Dry matter intake (DMI) was estimated by Lipe® indicator. Green forage allowance was not affected by pre-grazing heights. There was no effect of heights on the chemical composition of the stem or the leaf blades, except for crude protein content of leaf blades, which showed an inverse linear effect. Grazing time had a quadratic response in function of canopy height. The minimum point was at 42.6 cm, with 502.9 min/day. DMI increased linearly with increasing pasture height. Average daily weight gain (ADG) and stocking rate (SR) responded linearly to pre-grazing heights. Weight gain per hectare was not affected by height as a result of the compensation between SR and ADG. The increase from 35 to 50 cm in Massai grass canopy height reduces its nutritional value and individual performance and increases DMI of sheep intended for meat production.
Keywords: Panicum maximum, tropical pasture, voluntary intake