The Importance of Groves for Cattle in Semi-Open Pastures
Groves are of ecological importance, but can reduce the productivity of pastures. They may be used by cattle for nutrition as well as for comfort and shelter. To describe the importance and to estimate the influence of cattle on groves, the behavior of cattle around trees and shrubs was observed on six semi-open pastures in the mountain range of Thuringia and the Southern Black Forest (Germany). The groves were divided into formations, species and structures. The cattle used the groves more for browsing than rubbing. Significantly preferred species calculated by Chesson-Index were dogwood ( Cornus sanguinea ), black elder ( Sambucus nigra ), fly honeysuckle ( Lonicera xylosteum ), plum ( Prunus domestica ), osier ( Salix viminalis ), white beam ( Sorbus chamaemespilus ), and guelder rose ( Viburnum opulus ). The browsing preference is discussed in relation to nutritional importance and as self-medication. Cattle suppressed some species according to the utilization frequency, but for other species, there was no correlation. The animals preferred the tree hedges in comparison to the other formations. Hedges were utilized as shelter in extreme weather. In addition, under high browsing pressure, hedges were sustained and regenerated. Hedges on pastures turned out to be important for cattle under several aspects and accordingly should be preserved.
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