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Can grazing sheep compensate for a daily foraging time constraint?

AutorIason, G. R.; Mantecón, Ángel R. ; Sim, D. A.; González, Jesús Salvador ; Foreman, E.; Fernández Bermúdez, Florentino ; Elston, D. A.
Palabras claveForaging constraint
Intake rate
Sward height
Time limitation
Fecha de publicación1999
EditorBlackwell Publishing
CitaciónJournal of Animal Ecology 68(1): 87-93 (1999)
Resumen1. Theoretical studies of large herbivore foraging assume that total daily grazing time is a key constraint on daily intake and diet choice. We experimentally tested this assumption and investigated the effects of food availability on the ability of grazing sheep to compensate for restriction of available daily grazing time.
2. Foraging behaviour, intake and diet digestibility by sheep, were measured on grass pastures in a replicated 2 × 2 factorial experiment, in which overnight access to pasture was varied (restricted overnight and continuous access) on two sward heights (5·5 and 3·0 cm), representing high and low food availability.
3. Regardless of food availability, the overnight-restricted sheep fed for almost all of the available grazing time by grazing for fewer, longer foraging bouts, but still had much shorter total daily grazing time than the continuous access sheep.
4. In response to overnight penning, the sheep had a significantly higher instantaneous rate of intake achieved mainly via larger bites. The continuous access sheep were hence not maximizing their short-term rate of intake, whilst grazing according to the daily schedule considered normal for sheep.
5. The behavioural responses to overnight food restriction were able to counteract the reduction in daily grazing time only where food availability was high. In contrast on short swards overnight grazing restriction led to a reduction in total daily intake. We suggest that the interactions between the factors considered as constraints on foraging behaviour of herbivores are, as yet, only poorly quantified.
Descripción7 pages, 3 tables.-- Available online Mar 28, 2002.
Versión del editorhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.1999.00264.x
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