The project aims to measure diet selection and grazing and social behaviour in new species ( deer, goats and south American Camelids) and to examine how they might best be exploited together with traditional species. It also aims to examine the potential complementary of traditional livestock species such as sheep and cattle.
The project aimed to measure diet selection and grazing and social behaviour in new species (deer, goats and South American camelids) and to examine how they might best be exploited together with traditional species such as sheep and cattle. Experiments have been established in Scotland by studying deer, goats and camelids (guanacos) in a range of vegetation communities and in France in Montpellier, by studying goats and camelids (llamas) and in the Jura Mountains, by studying free ranging deer. Preliminary results indicated important differences in grazing behaviour between camelids and other species. Goats and deer tend to show synchrony of time of grazing, while camelids and other species. Goats and deer tend to show synchrony of time of grazing, while camelids tend to graze as individuals. Llamas are primarily grazers, but when the availability of herbaceous species declines, they increase the proportion of browse in their diet, in contrast to goats which primarily browse and graze only when the availability of browse declines. Studies conducted on wild red deer suggest that the different methods of rearing have large effects on their behaviour towards man and indicate that in wild fawns subject to domestication, there is initially, at least, considerable instability in the social hierarchy.
To develop systems of mixed grazing using both traditional and new livestock species, different combinations of animal species (deer and sheep; cattle and sheep; sheep and goats and cattle and sheep) grazing on different combinations of vegetation communities, have been set up in Scotland, Spain and Ireland. Preliminary results from Scotland confirmed the known positive complementarity of the grazing behaviour and diet selection between sheep and cattle when they graze together. Data from Spain indicated that the performance of sheep and cattle has clear implications for the utilization of areas of Calluna. These can only be utilized in conjunction with a large complement ary area of grass.
Semi-natural vegetation shows considerable heterogeneity in species composition and structure and as such is probably best grazed by a mix of ruminant species, but the optimum mix of animal species for a given situation is not known. Equally, it is not known how novel farmed animal species might complement traditional livestock. Many areas of semi-natural vegetation are in marginal areas and are undergrazed as a result of reduction in stocking rate or even the complete removal of grazing livestock. Increasing the number of animal species in these areas offers the opportunity for broadening the base of the rural economy.
Experiments are being conducted across a wide range of vegetation communities in Northern and Southern EC countries taking account of both the effects on animals and the effects of grazing on the vegetation.