Foraging behaviour and performance of steers from two local breeds (Asturian Valley and Asturian Mountain) grazing in Cantabrian (N Spain) summer pastures

Alicia Román-Trufero, Antonio Martínez, Luis M. M. Ferreira, Valentín García-Prieto, Rocío Rosa-García, Koldo Osoro, Rafael Celaya


Steer meat production in northern Spain is deficient to attend market demand. This research aimed to compare the foraging behaviour and production of yearling steers from two local breeds differing in body weight (BW), Asturian Valley (AV, 372 kg) and Asturian Mountain (AM, 307 kg), grazing in summer pastures consisting of 70% grassland and 30% heathland. Bodyweight gains from a total of 42 steers were recorded during four grazing seasons (from June to October). In two years, in July and September, plant community selection and diet composition were estimated by direct observation and using faecal markers, respectively. Grazing time increased from July to September (488 vs. 557 min/day; p<0.001) as sward height in the grassland decreased. Although AV steers grazed proportionally for longer on herbaceous pastures than AM steers (81.3 vs. 73.3%; p<0.05), no differences between breeds were found in diet composition. AM steers showed greater mean daily BW gains than AV steers (252 vs. 133 g/day; p<0.01). From June to August, steers from both breeds gained BW (487 vs. 360 g/day for AM and AV, respectively; p<0.01), but thereafter BW gains decreased (120 vs. –12 g/day for AM and AV, respectively; p<0.05), because of reduced availability of grassland herbage. Yearling steers from AM breed seem to be better suited to mountain conditions than those from AV breed, probably because of their smaller body size and lower total nutrient requirements for maintenance.


beef; body weight; grazing behaviour; mountain pasture; rustic breed

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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2019171-13541