a1 Laboratoire Adaptation des Herbivores aux Milieux, INRA de Theix-Clermont-Ferrand, 63122 Sf Genés Champanelle, France
Two groups of eight Charolais heifers were used to examine the effect of feeding level during the post-weaning winter on the grazing behaviour and herbage intake over three periods during the first 2 months of grazing. The winter diets (L and H) were given to achieve a mean difference of 50 kg between groups at turn-out. The heifers were set-stocked together on a hill pasture where sward height was maintained at 12 cm.
The winter live-weight gains were 0·31 and 0·70 (s.e. 0·032) kg/day for L and H heifers respectively, and spring gains 1·94 and 1·66 (s.e. 0·082) kg/day respectively. Intakes increased throughout the spring grazing for both groups. Absolute intakes were lower for L than for H heifers only during the first period (P < 0·05). Intake per kg live weight was higher in L than in H heifers (23·0 v. 21·1 (s.e. 0·54) g organic matter (OM) per kg live weight). Bite weights of H heifers were constant throughout (434, (s.e. 12·9) mg OM), while bite weights ofL heifers only reached those of H heifers in the last period. Bite weight was linearly related to live weight. Bite rates were not different between groups, but L heifers compensated for lower bite weight by grazing longer and they increased their grazing time after turn-out faster than H heifers. Grazing time was mainly responsible for higher relative intakes in L heifers, and thus, partly, for compensatory gain observed.
(Received February 16 1995)
(Accepted March 23 1995)