Original Articles

Grazing behaviour and diet selection of Barotse cattle on a communally grazed floodplain in west Zambia


Abstract

Grazing behaviour and diet selection of cattle were studied on a communally grazed floodplain and its adjacent wooded uplands in western Zambia to identify the interaction between basic herd management practices, foraging behaviour and body condition of cattle. On average, the cattle spent nine hours and 29 minutes (SD = 27 minutes) outside the kraal, with a range from about 8 hours in the dry season to almost 11 hours in the wet season, depending on the morning temperature and milking time. A significant (P<0.001) linear relationship between the time spent outside the kraal and time spent grazing was found. The Echinochloa spp.-Vossia cuspidata grass association was intensively grazed for the largest part of the year (44% of the total grazing time). During the flood season cattle grazed largely along the floodplain edge instead of the adjacent woodlands, which resulted in a negligible intake of browse. Body condition of all categories of cattle was significantly lower during the flood season. It was concluded that during this season cattle should graze more hours daily than they presently do, to minimise the drop in body condition as much as possible, and to make more intense use of the forage resource of the woodland.

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