Foraging in a landscape mosaic : diet selection and performance of free-ranging cattle in heathland and riverine grassland

M.F. Wallis de Vries

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

    Abstract

    <p>This thesis focuses on two main questions regarding the relation between a large herbivore, Bos taurus, and habitat quality: a) how do differences in habitat quality relate to nutrition and herbivore performance? and b) is herbivore foraging behaviour affected by habitat differences and can it be explained by optimal foraging theory? The study was carried out in the Netherlands using free- ranging steers in an experimental set-up with four combinations of two habitats of contrasting soil fertility: heathland and riverine grassland.<p>A hand-plucking method was developed to estimate forage quality and intake; calibration was carried out using oesophageally fistulated steers. Cattle performance was significantly affected by habitat quality. On heathland animals showed relatively low weight gains and slow fat accumulation coupled to high weight loss over winter. These impairments were caused by deficiencies in sodium and phosphorus which led to a reduced energy retention, bone resorption and pica behaviour. Animals on riverine grassland demonstrated a performance close to their growth potential. The treatments with combinations of habitats emphasized these differences.<p>Foraging selectivity increased with differences in forage quality and quantity and with spatial scale. Selectivity between short, tall and stemmy patches within two grassland communities was low but significant. Short and tall patches were preferred over stemmy patches. The preference for short patches was consistent with a daily intake maximization of digestible organic matter but not in agreement with instantaneous maximization. It is suggested that cognitive limitations reduce selectivity of cattle at lower spatial scales. At a higher scale level selection between landscape types was distinct and broadly agreed with model predictions assuming daily maximization for the intake of digestible organic matter, sodium and phosphorus.<p>Implications of the relation between habitat quality and herbivore performance are discussed with regard to nature conservation. Breed differences in cattle are of little consequence in mild climates. Fragmentation and uniformity of habitats are of much greater importance. It is argued that the habitat requirements of large herbivores should be used to develop guidelines for basic conditions to the design of nature reserves. Experiments using free-ranging domestic herbivores can elucidate these habitat requirements.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Prins, Herbert, Promotor
    • 't Mannetje, L., Promotor, External person
    Award date24 May 1994
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publisher
    Print ISBNs9789054852575
    Publication statusPublished - 1994

    Fingerprint

    feeding preferences
    heathlands
    grasslands
    foraging
    cattle
    habitats
    herbivores
    forage quality
    pica (eating disorder)
    sodium
    organic matter
    phosphorus
    breed differences
    bone resorption
    natural resources conservation
    soil fertility
    Netherlands
    animals
    conservation areas
    hands

    Keywords

    • grazing
    • management
    • nature conservation
    • animals
    • feeding behaviour
    • heathlands
    • wetlands
    • polders
    • Netherlands

    Cite this

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    title = "Foraging in a landscape mosaic : diet selection and performance of free-ranging cattle in heathland and riverine grassland",
    abstract = "This thesis focuses on two main questions regarding the relation between a large herbivore, Bos taurus, and habitat quality: a) how do differences in habitat quality relate to nutrition and herbivore performance? and b) is herbivore foraging behaviour affected by habitat differences and can it be explained by optimal foraging theory? The study was carried out in the Netherlands using free- ranging steers in an experimental set-up with four combinations of two habitats of contrasting soil fertility: heathland and riverine grassland.A hand-plucking method was developed to estimate forage quality and intake; calibration was carried out using oesophageally fistulated steers. Cattle performance was significantly affected by habitat quality. On heathland animals showed relatively low weight gains and slow fat accumulation coupled to high weight loss over winter. These impairments were caused by deficiencies in sodium and phosphorus which led to a reduced energy retention, bone resorption and pica behaviour. Animals on riverine grassland demonstrated a performance close to their growth potential. The treatments with combinations of habitats emphasized these differences.Foraging selectivity increased with differences in forage quality and quantity and with spatial scale. Selectivity between short, tall and stemmy patches within two grassland communities was low but significant. Short and tall patches were preferred over stemmy patches. The preference for short patches was consistent with a daily intake maximization of digestible organic matter but not in agreement with instantaneous maximization. It is suggested that cognitive limitations reduce selectivity of cattle at lower spatial scales. At a higher scale level selection between landscape types was distinct and broadly agreed with model predictions assuming daily maximization for the intake of digestible organic matter, sodium and phosphorus.Implications of the relation between habitat quality and herbivore performance are discussed with regard to nature conservation. Breed differences in cattle are of little consequence in mild climates. Fragmentation and uniformity of habitats are of much greater importance. It is argued that the habitat requirements of large herbivores should be used to develop guidelines for basic conditions to the design of nature reserves. Experiments using free-ranging domestic herbivores can elucidate these habitat requirements.",
    keywords = "begrazing, bedrijfsvoering, natuurbescherming, dieren, voedingsgedrag, heidegebieden, wetlands, polders, Nederland, grazing, management, nature conservation, animals, feeding behaviour, heathlands, wetlands, polders, Netherlands",
    author = "{Wallis de Vries}, M.F.",
    note = "WU thesis 1777 Proefschrift Wageningen",
    year = "1994",
    language = "English",
    isbn = "9789054852575",
    publisher = "Wallis de Vries",

    }

    Foraging in a landscape mosaic : diet selection and performance of free-ranging cattle in heathland and riverine grassland. / Wallis de Vries, M.F.

    S.l. : Wallis de Vries, 1994. 161 p.

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

    TY - THES

    T1 - Foraging in a landscape mosaic : diet selection and performance of free-ranging cattle in heathland and riverine grassland

    AU - Wallis de Vries, M.F.

    N1 - WU thesis 1777 Proefschrift Wageningen

    PY - 1994

    Y1 - 1994

    N2 - This thesis focuses on two main questions regarding the relation between a large herbivore, Bos taurus, and habitat quality: a) how do differences in habitat quality relate to nutrition and herbivore performance? and b) is herbivore foraging behaviour affected by habitat differences and can it be explained by optimal foraging theory? The study was carried out in the Netherlands using free- ranging steers in an experimental set-up with four combinations of two habitats of contrasting soil fertility: heathland and riverine grassland.A hand-plucking method was developed to estimate forage quality and intake; calibration was carried out using oesophageally fistulated steers. Cattle performance was significantly affected by habitat quality. On heathland animals showed relatively low weight gains and slow fat accumulation coupled to high weight loss over winter. These impairments were caused by deficiencies in sodium and phosphorus which led to a reduced energy retention, bone resorption and pica behaviour. Animals on riverine grassland demonstrated a performance close to their growth potential. The treatments with combinations of habitats emphasized these differences.Foraging selectivity increased with differences in forage quality and quantity and with spatial scale. Selectivity between short, tall and stemmy patches within two grassland communities was low but significant. Short and tall patches were preferred over stemmy patches. The preference for short patches was consistent with a daily intake maximization of digestible organic matter but not in agreement with instantaneous maximization. It is suggested that cognitive limitations reduce selectivity of cattle at lower spatial scales. At a higher scale level selection between landscape types was distinct and broadly agreed with model predictions assuming daily maximization for the intake of digestible organic matter, sodium and phosphorus.Implications of the relation between habitat quality and herbivore performance are discussed with regard to nature conservation. Breed differences in cattle are of little consequence in mild climates. Fragmentation and uniformity of habitats are of much greater importance. It is argued that the habitat requirements of large herbivores should be used to develop guidelines for basic conditions to the design of nature reserves. Experiments using free-ranging domestic herbivores can elucidate these habitat requirements.

    AB - This thesis focuses on two main questions regarding the relation between a large herbivore, Bos taurus, and habitat quality: a) how do differences in habitat quality relate to nutrition and herbivore performance? and b) is herbivore foraging behaviour affected by habitat differences and can it be explained by optimal foraging theory? The study was carried out in the Netherlands using free- ranging steers in an experimental set-up with four combinations of two habitats of contrasting soil fertility: heathland and riverine grassland.A hand-plucking method was developed to estimate forage quality and intake; calibration was carried out using oesophageally fistulated steers. Cattle performance was significantly affected by habitat quality. On heathland animals showed relatively low weight gains and slow fat accumulation coupled to high weight loss over winter. These impairments were caused by deficiencies in sodium and phosphorus which led to a reduced energy retention, bone resorption and pica behaviour. Animals on riverine grassland demonstrated a performance close to their growth potential. The treatments with combinations of habitats emphasized these differences.Foraging selectivity increased with differences in forage quality and quantity and with spatial scale. Selectivity between short, tall and stemmy patches within two grassland communities was low but significant. Short and tall patches were preferred over stemmy patches. The preference for short patches was consistent with a daily intake maximization of digestible organic matter but not in agreement with instantaneous maximization. It is suggested that cognitive limitations reduce selectivity of cattle at lower spatial scales. At a higher scale level selection between landscape types was distinct and broadly agreed with model predictions assuming daily maximization for the intake of digestible organic matter, sodium and phosphorus.Implications of the relation between habitat quality and herbivore performance are discussed with regard to nature conservation. Breed differences in cattle are of little consequence in mild climates. Fragmentation and uniformity of habitats are of much greater importance. It is argued that the habitat requirements of large herbivores should be used to develop guidelines for basic conditions to the design of nature reserves. Experiments using free-ranging domestic herbivores can elucidate these habitat requirements.

    KW - begrazing

    KW - bedrijfsvoering

    KW - natuurbescherming

    KW - dieren

    KW - voedingsgedrag

    KW - heidegebieden

    KW - wetlands

    KW - polders

    KW - Nederland

    KW - grazing

    KW - management

    KW - nature conservation

    KW - animals

    KW - feeding behaviour

    KW - heathlands

    KW - wetlands

    KW - polders

    KW - Netherlands

    M3 - internal PhD, WU

    SN - 9789054852575

    PB - Wallis de Vries

    CY - S.l.

    ER -