There is scope of increasing the nitrogen (N) efficiency of grazing cattle through manipulation of the energy and N concentrations in the herbage ingested. Because of asymmetric grazing by cattle between individual plant parts, it has not yet been established how this translates into the concentrations of N and water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) in the herbage ingested. A model is described with the objective of assessing the efficacy of individual tools in grassland management in manipulating the WSC and N concentrations of the herbage ingested by cattle under strip-grazing management throughout the growing season. The model was calibrated and independently evaluated for early (April), mid- (June, regrowth phase) and late (September) parts of the growing season. There was a high correlation between predicted and observed WSC concentrations in the ingested herbage (R-2 = 0.78, P <0.001). The correlation between predicted and observed neutral-detergent fibre (NDF) concentrations in the ingested herbage was lower (R-2 = 0.49, P <0.05) with a small absolute bias. Differences in the N concentration between laminae and sheaths, and between clean patches and fouled patches, were adequately simulated and it was concluded that the model could be used to assess the efficacy of grassland management tools for manipulating the WSC and N concentrations in the ingested herbage. Model application showed that reduced rates of application of N fertilizer and longer rotation lengths were effective tools for manipulating herbage quality in early and mid-season. During the later part of the growing season, the large proportion of area affected by dung and urine reduced the effect of application rate of N fertilizer on herbage quality. In contrast, relative differences between high-sugar and low-sugar cultivars of perennial ryegrass were largest during this period. This suggests that high-sugar cultivars may be an important tool in increasing N efficiency by cattle when risks of N losses to water bodies are largest. The model output showed that defoliation height affects the chemical composition of the ingested herbage of both the current and the subsequent grazing period.
Hoekstra, N. J., & Schulte, R. P. O. (2008). Modelling the concentrations of nitrogen and water-soluble carbohydrates in grass herbage ingested by cattle under strip-grazing management. Grass and Forage Science, 63(1), 22-37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2494.2007.00611.x