Two experiments examined the effect of sheep and cattle on the grazing preference of red deer. In the first experiment deer initially showed a significant (P <0.01) preference to graze on areas of ryegrass/white clover previously grazed for six weeks by cattle (77% of observations) rather than by sheep (23% of observations). However, 14 days later, deer grazing was equally distributed between cattle- and sheep-grazed areas (52% and 48% of observations respectively). In a second experiment deer, on pastures grazed by deer, showed no preference to graze close to cattle (48% of observations) or sheep (52% of observations). The strong but shortlived preference of deer for areas previously grazed by cattle cannot be explained by botanical composition, because although cattle-grazed areas contained a higher percentage of clover (22% with cattle, 16% with sheep), this difference was maintained for the later observation period when there was no difference in deer grazing preference. We conclude that any short-term preference shown by deer to graze with cattle rather than sheep is more likely to be due to their respective faeces/urine than their respective presence.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 70, Palmerston North, 3-7, 2010
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