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Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on biodiversity and production in grazing systems. 1. Nutritive value of herbage and livestock performance



Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on biodiversity and production in grazing systems. 1. Nutritive value of herbage and livestock performance



Grass and Forage Science 62(2): 145-158



Reduction of grazing intensity and the use of traditional instead of commercial breeds has frequently been recommended to meet biodiversity and production goals in sustainable grazing systems in Europe. To test the impact of such practices across a range of contrasting grassland types, integrated measurements of foraging behaviour, agronomic production and botanical, structural and invertebrate biodiversity were made over three years on four sites in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. The sites in the UK and Germany were inesotrophic grassland With high productivity and low to moderate initial levels of plant diversity, and were grazed by cattle. The French site was a semi-natural, species-rich grassland grazed by cattle. The Italian site contained a wider range in plant diversity, from species-rich to rnesotrophic grassland, and was grazed by sheep. The treatments were: MC, moderate grazing intensity with a commercial breed - this was designed to utilize herbage growth for optimum livestock production; LC, lenient grazing intensity with a commercial breed - this was designed to increase biodiversity by not fully utilizing herbage growth; and LT, lenient grazing intensity with a traditional breed - this was also designed to increase biodiversity. Neither fertilizers nor pesticides were applied. The nutritive value of the herbage and the performance of the livestock were measured. Mean stocking rates were proportionately 0-30-0-40 lower and mean sward heights and herbage mass on offer were 0.30-0.50 higher on the LC and LT treatments compared with the MC treatment. The proportion of live and dead material, and leaves and stems in the herbage, its chemical composition and nutritive value were little affected by the treatments. Individual livestock performance, measured as fiveweight gain, showed no consistent response to treatment. In Germany, performance on the MC treatment was slightly lower than on the LC and LT treatments but no such difference was found on the sites in the other countries. Livestock breed did not have a strong effect on livestock performance. In the UK and France the traditional breeds had a lower performance but. this was not the case in Germany or Italy. Livestock performance per ha of the LC and LT treatments was up to 0-40 lower than of the MC treatment. It is concluded that biodiversity-targeted extensive grazing systems have potential to be integrated into intensive livestock production systems because the individual livestock performance reaches a similar level compared to a moderate grazing intensity. Traditional breeds did not have a production advantage over commercial breeds on extensively managed pastures.

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Accession: 013365887

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DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2494.2007.00571.x


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