Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

The effect of plant structure on the intake of tropical pastures. II.* Differences in sward structure, nutritive value, and bite size of animals grazing Setaria anceps and Chloris gayana at various stages of growth

TH Stobbs

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 24(6) 821 - 829
Published: 1973


Bite size (organic matter content per bite) of cows grazing swards of Chloris gayana (rhodes) and Setaria anceps (setaria) regrown for 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks was measured using oesophageal fistulated animals. Sward canopy structure was measured by stratification into five vertical layers, each 15 cm high; for each layer weights of leaf and stem components were estimated. Chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of plant fractions and oesophageal fistulae samples were determined.

Cows grazing the 4 week regrowths of rhodes grass had a larger bite size (0.32 g OM/bite) than when grazing 2 week regrowths (0.27 g OM/bite) when the availability of herbage and leaf material was lowest. Despite a marked increase in herbage yield as the pastures matured (up to 8427 kg/ha) the mean bite size decreased to a mean of 0.15 g OM/bite at 6 and 8 weeks. The bite size of cows grazing setaria pastures was lower than on the rhodes grass pastures but followed a similar pattern.

A high density of leaf within the sward (sward leaf density) as well as a low stem content were considered to be the main factors affecting bite size.

Setaria and rhodes grass pastures had both low sward bulk densities (a range of 14–96 kg/ha cm) and low sward leaf bulk densities (a range of 12–43 kg/ha cm) compared with temperate pastures. Basal layers of the sward contained more dense herbage (up to 148 kg/ha cm), but sward leaf density was usually less than 80 kg/ha cm and apparently inaccessible.

*Part I, Aust. J. Agric. Res., 24: 809 (1973).

© CSIRO 1973

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