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Influence of forage characteristics on grazing behavior of weaned steers

by Arriola Apelo, Sebastian I

Abstract (Summary)
For Virginia, the primary forage base is endophyte-infected tall fescue (Schedonorus phoenix (Scop.) Holub). However, the decreased animal performance and disorders caused by the presence of the fungal endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum reduces its suitability for many forage-livestock producers. The endophyte, which is found in the inter-cellular space of tall fescue tissues, forms a mutalistic relationship with the plant and helps the fescue tolerate drought, insect predation, and grazing pressure. The production of toxic ergot alkaloids by the endophyte is associated with decreased performance of animals that graze endophyte infected tall fescue. The objective of the current experiment was to determine how tall fescue type (endophyte free vs novel endophyte) and orchardgrass-legume (alfalfa vs clover) mixture affect grazing behavior of weaned steers. Forty-eight weaned steers (218 ± 18 kg) were blocked by frame score (medium and large), and randomly assigned within block to four treatments with three replications in a 2x2 factorial design. Each treatment consisted of 2 paddocks with the combination of tall fescue and legume-orchardgrass mixture as follow: alfalfa-orchardgrass mixture (A)/E-, clover-orchardgrass mixture (C)/E- , A/E++ and C/E++. Each group of 4 steers had 24 h access to both tall fescue stand and legume-orchardgrass mixture. Botanical composition of paddocks was determined on d 0, and forage mass, sward height and nutritive value were determined on d 0, 17 and 33. Behavior of steers was scanned every 5 min on d 24 and 25 from 0700 to 1900. The proportion of legumes was higher (P = 0.001) in A paddocks(37 %) compared to C paddocks (6%), while the percent orchardgrass was lower (P = 0.040) in A (33 %) than C (53 %). The proportion of broadleaf and grassy weeds was higher (P = 0.013) in E- paddocks (11 %) as compared with E++ paddocks (3 %). Sward height and herbage mass were similar between treatments during the experiment (P > 0.05). Nutritive value (CP, NDF and ADF) did not differ between fescue paddocks (P > 0.05). However, within mixed swards, CP was higher and NDF was lower in A compared with C (P < 0.05). Acid detergent fiber was (P < 0.05) lower in A than C only on d 0 and 17. Average daily gain did not differ between treatments (P > 0.05). Steers spent higher (P = 0.002) proportion of the daylight time grazing in treatments with C (56 %) as compared with A (50 %), and in treatments (P = 0.023) with E++ (55 %) compared with E- (52 %). Time spent ruminating, idling and lying, as well as steps taken per day, did not differ between treatments (P > 0.05). Regardless of differences in weeds between E- and E++, these results indicate that fescue type affected grazing behavior of calves. Difference between mixed swards in proportion of ground cover with legumes and orchardgrass, as differences in nutritive value between A and C may have affected grazing behavior of calves between mixed swards, instead of a legume species effect within mixtures.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Benjamin Tracy; Azenegashe O. Abaye; Guillermo Scaglia; William Swecker, Jr

School:Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

School Location:USA - Virginia

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:crop and soil environmental sciences

ISBN:

Date of Publication:06/23/2009

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