Influence of sward characteristics on grazing behaviour and short-term intake of cattle. A review
Relative to temperate systems, there has been few reported detailed assessments of sward characteristics and associated grazing behavior from natural and established pastures in Nigeria. This study reviewed the important relationship between sward characteristics and grazing behaviour and discusses the implications of canopy characteristics for short-term intake. The review is divided into two sections with the first part highlighting the influence of sward characteristics (sward height, forage mass and sward maturity) as a means of manipulating grazing behaviour of ruminants. The second part brought to fore the process of grazing, bite feature and short-term grazing trials. The review showed that cattle prefer short dense leafy swards compared to senescent plant materials. This is based on research results suggesting that short dense sward possess high quantity of green materials which is relished by ruminants during grazing. The feasibility of intensifying grazing studies in the tropics, particularly in Nigeria, to examine the behaviour of ruminants in highly heterogeneous pastures has the potential to provide integrated (sward, animal, management) strategies for sustainable livestock production in Nigeria.
Key Words: Sward characteristics; Grazing behaviour; Intake rate; Sward height; Forage mass; Ruminants.
Copy right of all published material rests with the Nigerian Journal of Animal Science.