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Foraging Niche Characteristics of Horses, Sheep and Goats in an Alpine Meadow of the Indian Central Himalaya

G. C. S. Negi, H. C. Rikhari, Jeet Ram and S. P. Singh
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 30, No. 3 (1993), pp. 383-394
DOI: 10.2307/2404180
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2404180
Page Count: 12
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Foraging Niche Characteristics of Horses, Sheep and Goats in an Alpine Meadow of the Indian Central Himalaya
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Abstract

1. Data on plant species foraged, foraging hours, bite rate, bite size and species dry matter (DM) removed per species per bite were collected in tussock grass-forb (Grass-F), forb-tussock grass (Forb-G), Trachydium-forb (Forb), Rhododendron-Cassiope and early successional communities from May to September in a moderately foraged Central Himalayan alpine meadow in order to study the foraging niche characteristics of horses, sheep and goats. 2. The three animals together grazed 30 plant species, of which 20 were grazed by horses, 22 by sheep and 16 by goats. 3. The average foraging hours (5.2-13.2), bites per minute (23-51) and mg DM per bite (59-99) for horses, sheep and goats were significantly different in different communities and months. 4. The foraging search cost, reckoned as distance walked per unit DM eaten, was highest for goats (15.4 km kg-1), followed by sheep (8.1 km kg-1) and horses (1.2 km kg-1). 5. Of the total intake of horses (3.25 kg DM day-1), the Forb community alone accounted for 40%. Sheep (0.74 kg DM day-1) resembled horses in this respect. In contrast, the contribution of this community was negligible in the diet of goats in which the Grass-F community contributed most to the intake. 6. Forbs were the largest dietary category for all animal species. The selection ratio varied from 0.7 to 11.3 for forbs, 1.0 to 7.2 for sedges and 1.1 to 2.5 for grasses. 7. Response breadth (in terms of species grazed) was similar for horses and sheep (0.46 vs. 0.43) and somewhat wider for goats (0.49). 8. Grazing pressures below the carrying capacity of the community appeared to favour botanical diversity.

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