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Article

Mechanisms of Grazing Management in Heterogeneous Swards

1
Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
2
Grazing Ecology Research Group, UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS 90040-060, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8676; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12208676
Received: 20 August 2020 / Revised: 15 October 2020 / Accepted: 15 October 2020 / Published: 19 October 2020
We explored the effects of heterogeneity of sward height on the functioning of grazing systems through a spatially implicit mechanistic model of grazing and sward growth. The model uses a population dynamic approach where a sward is spatially structured by height, which changes as a function of defoliation, trampling, and growth. The grazing component incorporates mechanisms of bite formation, intake, and digestion rates, but excludes sward quality effects. Sward height selection is determined by maximization of the instantaneous intake rate of forage dry mass. For any given average sward height, intake rate increased with increasing spatial heterogeneity. Spatio-temporal distribution of animal density over paddocks did not markedly affect animal performance but it modified the balance of vegetation heterogeneity within and between paddocks. Herbage allowance was a weak predictor of animal performance because the same value can result from multiples combinations of herbage mass per unit area, number of animals, animal liveweight, and paddock area, which are the proximate determinants of intake rate. Our results differ from models that assume homogeneity and provide strong evidence of how heterogeneity influences the dynamic of grazing systems. Thus, we argue that grazing management and research need to incorporate the concept of heterogeneity into the design of future grazing systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: grazing management; sward height distribution; spatial heterogeneity; ecological modeling; grazing behavior; resource heterogeneity; integral projection matrix grazing management; sward height distribution; spatial heterogeneity; ecological modeling; grazing behavior; resource heterogeneity; integral projection matrix
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MDPI and ACS Style

Pontes-Prates, A.; de Faccio Carvalho, P.C.; Laca, E.A. Mechanisms of Grazing Management in Heterogeneous Swards. Sustainability 2020, 12, 8676. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12208676

AMA Style

Pontes-Prates A, de Faccio Carvalho PC, Laca EA. Mechanisms of Grazing Management in Heterogeneous Swards. Sustainability. 2020; 12(20):8676. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12208676

Chicago/Turabian Style

Pontes-Prates, Arthur, Paulo C. de Faccio Carvalho, and Emilio A. Laca 2020. "Mechanisms of Grazing Management in Heterogeneous Swards" Sustainability 12, no. 20: 8676. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12208676

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