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Suckler beef cows performance in hill vegetation communities composed by AgrostisFestucaNardusCalluna and dominated by herbaceous species

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Authors: K. Osoro, M. Oliván, R. Celaya
Issue: 94A-2 (109-124)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: beef cattle, hill pastures, intake, diet selection, animal performance

During five years (1990‑1994) a total of 111 beef cows (87 suckling their calves and 24 dry cows) were managed during summer season (June‑September) in hill pastures located at 1700 m a.s.l. These hill pastures were made up mainly by Agrostis capillarisFestuca rubraNardus strica and Calluna vulgaria being vegetation canopy dominated by herbaceous species. Dry cows were able 10 maintain body weight and body condition along the grazing season, however cows suckling their calves lost weight and body condition, mainly because of the mobilization of body reserves during the second half (August‑September) of the grazing season, when the availability of preferred species (AgrostisFestuca) was low (height 2.82 cm). Likewise, calf live weight gains were between 0.85‑1.0 kg/day in the first half (June‑August) of the grazing season, however in the second half calf live weight gains were reduced to 0.50‑0.65 kg/day. Cows milk production at the beginning (June) of the grazing season ranged between 5.14 and 8.85 kg/day, but at the end of the grazing season (September) ranged between 1.79 and 3.63 kg/day. Digestible pasture dry matter intake decreased significantly from July to September in suckler cows (20.6 to 16.3 g/kg LW; p<0.05) and in dry cows (22.9 to 16.9 g/kg LW; p<0.01). During the first period calf age did not affect on its live weight gains, however during the second period younger calves achieved live weight gains (0.99 kg/day) significantly (p<0,05) higher than the older calves (0.51 kg/day). Digestible pasture dry matter intake was significantly (p<0.05) lower in July for those younger calves (8.7 g/kg LW) than for older calves (15.8 g/kg LW), however in September intake was similar for younger and older calves (13.3 vs 14.0 g/kg L.W). The percentage of Calluna vulgaris in the diet of cows and calves never was higher than 5% of the total intake.

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