The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Seasonal hogget grazing as a potential alternative grazing system for the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau: weight gain and animal behaviour under continuous or rotational grazing at high or low stocking rates

W. C. Du A , T. Yan B , S. H. Chang A , Z. F. Wang A and F. J. Hou A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems, Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, Gansu, China.

B Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Large Park, Hillsborough, County Down, BT26 6DR, United Kingdom.

C Corresponding author. Email: cyhoufj@lzu.edu.cn

The Rangeland Journal 39(4) 329-339 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ16119
Submitted: 12 November 2016  Accepted: 25 August 2017   Published: 20 September 2017

Journal Compilation © Australian Rangeland Society 2017 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND

Abstract

The traditional transhumance grazing system on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) is being replaced by a system in which pastoralists are allocated fixed areas for grazing. In this context, we conducted experiments to evaluate a possible change to seasonal grazing of young animals for weight gain, and the effects of grazing management (continuous grazing (CG) vs rotational grazing (RG)) and stocking rate (SR) on the performance and behaviour of Oura-type Tibetan sheep. In Experiment 1 (June–December 2014), 72 Tibetan sheep (initial bodyweight (BW) 32.2 ± 3.37 kg) were allocated to one of three treatments: (1) CG24 – eight sheep grazed continuously in a single 2-ha plot for the entire duration of the experiment; (2) RG24 – eight sheep grazed in a 1-ha plot from June to September (growing season), and then moved to a new plot for September–December grazing (early cold season); (3) RG48 – eight sheep grazed in a 0.5-ha plot, but otherwise as for RG24. All treatments had three replicates. In Experiment 2 (September–December 2014), 48 Tibetan sheep (initial BW 46.3 ± 1.62 kg) were used to repeat the RG24 and RG48 treatments imposed in the early cold season of the Experiment 1. In both experiments, increasing SR significantly reduced bodyweight gain (BWG) per head and increased BWG per ha in the RG treatments. In Experiment 1, RG, compared with CG, did not significantly affect BWG per head, BWG per ha, or feed utilisation efficiency. In both experiments weight gain was small or negative in the early cold season. These results indicate that removal of sheep at the onset of the cold season will be important for retention of the weight gain achieved in the growing season but choice between a CG and RG grazing system is unimportant for the production efficiency in the proposed grazing system of Tibetan sheep.

Additional keywords: feed intake, production efficiency, seasonal grazing, stocking rate, Tibetan sheep.


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