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A pilot study on the foraging behaviour of heifers in intensive silvopastoral and monoculture systems in the tropics

  • L. Améndola (a1), F. J. Solorio (a2), J. C. Ku-Vera (a2), R. D. Améndola-Massioti (a3), H. Zarza (a4), K. F. Mancera (a1) and F. Galindo (a1)...


Intensive silvopastoral systems (ISS) are a sustainable alternative to monoculture systems (MS). The presence of trees and legumes improves animal welfare due to the increased food quality and quantity and the presence of shade while providing a variety of environmental services. As cattle behaviour is greatly affected by environmental conditions, knowledge on the behavioural trade-offs that cattle make to meet their demands while foraging in different grazing systems is important, as this will help us understand the perceived advantages of ISS. This pilot study assessed the behaviour of heifers in an ISS (n=8 heifers) and MS (n=8 heifers) in the Mexican tropics during the dry and rainy seasons, and its relationship with forage availability, mean travelled distance and the temperature humidity index (THI). In both seasons, daily foraging times were longer in the MS than the ISS (P<0.01). The duration of rumination was higher for ISS (P<0.01) and the duration of lying was higher for the dry season (P<0.05). The decrease in foraging times in relation to THI was significantly higher in the ISS than in the MS (mean slope±SE: ISS=−4.64±0.34; MS=−2.34±0.22; t=−14.20, P<0.001). The results suggest that the forage availability and access to shade in the ISS allow cattle to rest longer and increase rumination, whereas cattle in MS spend more time searching for food and foraging at times of the day were the temperatures were higher as a compensatory strategy, which potentially decreases cattle’s welfare and production qualities when compared with the ISS. In conclusion, ISS are likely to generate positive behavioural trade-offs that result in better welfare conditions and higher productive potential.


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Present address: Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.



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