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Control of sward conditions and apparent utilization of energy in the buffer grazing system

, : Control of sward conditions and apparent utilization of energy in the buffer grazing system. Grass & Forage Science 42(3): 283-296

Experiments were carried out over four years to develop a system of buffer grazing. Groups of 16 cattle were set stocked with or without buffer areas formed by witholding a proportion of the grazing area by electric fence. It was found that buffers should be grazed if sward height, measured by rising plate meter, was reduced below 5 cm, or otherwise cut for silage. Increasing the area of the buffer reduced cattle gains but increased silage yield and sward quality, and the best compromise over 4 years was a buffer area of 25-30% of the initial grazing area. Buffer treatments gave higher UME and financial output than controls, due to the value of silage from the buffers and to the higher nitrogen inputs which were successfully managed under buffer grazing. The higher outputs over 4 years were also associated with lower viability and therefore lower levels of risk, resulting from a number of compensating processes at sward and animal level. There was no indication that grazed UME was higher on buffer treatments at a given level of nitrogen, suggesting that any increased grazing efficiency must be offset by other disadvantages when comparing intensive with lax defoliation regimes. The results suggest that there is considerable stability in grazing systems which may frustrate attempts to improve their biological efficiency, although there is some scope for manipulating the seasonal pattern of land use and animal performance.

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Accession: 001554783

DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2494.1987.tb02117.x

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