The effect of different legume-based swards on intake and performance of grazing ruminants under Mediterranean and cool temperature conditions

G. Molle, M. Decandia, U. Solter, J. M. Greef, J. J. Rochon, M. Sitzia, A. Hopkins, A. J. Rook

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12 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Intake and performance of sheep or cattle grazing legume-based swards were assessed over 2 years at four locations in Europe with different climatic conditions: Sardinia (Italy), southern France, northern Germany and south-west England (UK). Legume species were sown in mixtures with locally appropriate companion grass species. Standard legume species commonly used at the location (Medicago polymorpha in Italy, Medicago sativa in France, and Trifolium repens in Germany and UK) were compared with two alternative legume species characterized by different agronomic or nutritional characteristics. They were: Trifolium subterraneum and Hedysarum coronarium in Italy; Trifolium incarnatum and Onobrychis sativa in France; Trifolium pratense and Lotus corniculatus in Germany; and Trifolium ambiguum and L. corniculatus in the UK. Lactating milk sheep in Italy, non-lactating ewes in southern France, growing cattle in Germany, and ewes and lambs in the UK were used in three replicates per treatment. Intake and performance of sheep and cattle in various treatments varied with location, year and period within year. In Germany, intake and performance by cattle were not affected by treatment. In contrast, at the other locations, sheep grazing standard or alternative legume species known to contain condensed tannins (sulla, sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil) had higher proportions of legume and crude protein (CP) concentrations in the diet and higher CP intakes than those grazing the other alternative legume species. Sheep performance paralleled these results. It is concluded that there is potential for a greater use of alternative legume species, at least for sheep-grazing systems, in both the Mediterranean and cool temperate zones of Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-530
Number of pages18
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Volume63
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • intake
  • grazing
  • liveweight gain
  • sheep
  • milk yield
  • cattle
  • legume

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