The Foraging Ecology of Nguni and Brahman Cattle under Different Management Systems in High-altitude Grasslands of South Africa

Document Type : Research and Short Length Article

Authors

1 All Out Africa research station

2 University of Florida

3 University of Eswatini

4 Oppenheimer Generations

5 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Eswatini

Abstract

Cattle production is important to both communal livelihoods and the national economy of South Africa. Understanding the foraging ecology of cattle is important for managing both the animals and their rangelands. This paper reports the dietary preferences of Nguni cattle under holistic management and Brahman cattle under conventional management at two farms during both the wet and dry seasons in high altitude grasslands of South Africa. Foraging patterns were monitored through focal sampling from June 2015 to January 2016. We found that dietary utilization and selectivity varied between the wet and dry seasons for both Nguni and Brahman cattle and both breeds showed strong preferences for certain plant species. In the dry season, Nguni selected strongly for the grass Eragrostis plana. The Brahman selected high value grass species, particularly Sporobolus fimbriatus, Panicum ecklonii, Pennisetum clandestinum, and Themeda triandra, which they continued to utilize in nearly the same proportions in the dry season, even though they were not as widely available as in the wet season. This study suggests that cattle breed may influence foraging ecology and highlights the need for future research on how this interacts with management. Furthermore, our results suggest that due to their greater flexibility in diet and reduced reliance on supplementary feed, Nguni cattle may be particularly well-suited to this heterogeneous landscape with a marked dry season when resources are scarce.

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