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Ruminants may change their effectiveness in the search for and capture of forage by identifying the quality of the grazing environment and changing their ingestive behaviour. To test this hypothesis, an experiment was conducted in managed natural grassland under distinct forage allowances (FA). The objective of this study was to advance in the understanding of how the animals react to the heterogeneity of vegetation in natural grasslands. The experimental units received their respective forage allowances since 1986. We conducted two experiments that evaluated the ingestive behaviour of animals at the end of winter and at the end of spring; the animals remained in the experimental area between April 2007 and March 2008. The tested treatments were FA of 4, 8, 12 and 16% of LW. Four tester animals were used per experimental unit (3 to 5 ha each). When FA was low, the animals increased their total number of bites and decreased the foraging path through the pasture. In such a situation, the number of steps between feeding stations was also decreased along with selectivity at the feeding station level. The FA of 4% constrains the grazing process because it offers a sward structure with a height of approximately 3 cm. The FA of 16% also constrains grazing because it produces a percentage of tussocks between 30-40%, thereby acting as a complicating determinant parameter in the displacement of grazing animals. The 8 and 12% FAs exhibit favourable sward structures for the grazing process. These results suggest that the monitoring of ingestive behaviour allows for the qualification of forage resource attributes.
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