Foraging behaviour of cattle, sheep and goats on semi-arid pastures in Kenya

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: ABSTRACTThe principal aim of the study was to compare the feeding behaviour of cattle, sheep and goats on pasture and explain any differences between speices. Furthermore, I compared foraging behaviour between dry season and the beginning of the rainy season, in order to see any relationships between weather and behaviour.The study was carried out in Shompole in southern Kenya. Behavioural data were collected by observing herds of cattle, sheep and goats on pasture. The livestock were herded on pasture during the days and kept in bomas, where people live, during the nights. The weather in Shompole is characterized by high ambient temperature and low, bimodal rainfall. However, precipitation during 2008 and 2009 was almost absent, and consequently a severe drought affected the study area.The study was conducted from middle of December 2009 to middle of February 2010. A trained observer followed the livestock on pasture and recorded behaviour of twenty animals seven times per hour. The behaviours recorded were standing, lying, grazing, browsing, foraging fruits and seeds, ruminating, social behaviour and moving.The study showed that goats browsed more than sheep and cattle. This is consistent with other similar studies that found that goats browse more than sheep. Morphological features of goats that contribute to their preference for browsing include their mobile upper lip and their ability to assume a bipedal stance. Results of the study showed that sheep behaved like cattle, both preferred grazing to browsing. Furthermore, goats in the present study increased their browsing over time after rainfall improved, which is contrary to other studies. Sheep, on the other hand, decreased their browsing after the rainfall improved and the vegetation improved.I concluded that goats in Shompole browsed more than cattle and sheep. Goats increased their browsing as forage improved while sheep on the other hand decreased their browsing as vegetation improved.

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