We assessed whether prior foraging by wild herbivores affected foraging behaviour of cattle in Laikipia rangeland, Kenya, during February 2001, August 2001 and February 2002.
The study compared cattle bite rate, step rate and bites per step in plots exclusively accessible to cattle and those accessible to cattle and large wild herbivores. During February 2001 when conditions were dry, cattle bite rate was 18–19% lower, step rate 25–26% higher, and bites per step 36% lower in plots shared by cattle and wildlife compared to those exclusively accessible to cattle. Differences in these measured foraging behaviour parameters were strongly correlated with reductions in herbage cover in plots accessible to wild herbivores. Plot differences in herbage cover and the measured foraging behaviour parameters were not significant in the subsequent trials when conditions were wet, suggesting that wild herbivore impacts reported here are short-term within season and dependent on weather conditions (and plant productivity). With reduced herbaceous plant cover in wildlife grazed realms in the dry season, cattle respond with increased travel and reductions in bite rate and bites per step, suggesting that wild herbivores can seasonally affect foraging behaviour of cattle. It remains to be demonstrated whether or not these altered behaviours of cattle affect weight gains or other measures of performance.