A test apparatus was developed to study feeding station (FS) use and abandonment by sheep, by controlling FS number, characteristics and distance between FS. It consisted of a rectangular pen with openings in one of the long sides through which the sheep could extend its head to graze. FS behaviour of 15 Romanov x Limousin dry ewes (67.7 kg mean weight, 3-5 years old) according to the number of FS offered, at 2 sward heights was studied to determine the test conditions (FS number, test duration, sward height) most conducive to grazing. The experiment was conducted from 28 April to 17 May 1995. Eight dry ewes were subjected to 4 grazing treatments (2 FS numbers (8 vs. 12) x 2 sward heights (7 vs. 15 cm)), during four, 3-day periods. Sward used was vegetative cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) regrowths. Sheep were starved for 17 h and then tested individually for 15 min. A 34-session preliminary training period was necessary to select suitable sheep. Behaviour at FS was independent of the FS number, until 10 min, when idling increased, particularly for 8 FS and on short swards. A test limited to 10 min using an 8-station device seems practical, subject to a sufficiently motivating sward height. FS behaviour was closely related to sward height; grazing time per FS was longer on tall compared with short swards, which was consistent with field observations and optimum foraging predictions. However, grazing times per FS were much longer in test than in field conditions, which may partly be explained by the absence of other sheep, a long starvation period, and constraints of the device.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||Laboratoire Adaptation des Herbivores aux Milieux, Centre de Clermont-Ferrand/Theix, 63122 St Genes Champanelle, France.|
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