Browse preferences of goats in a savanna rangeland in Zimbabwe
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The browsing behaviour of four free ranging goats was studied in the Wedza Communal Area of Zimbabwe over a four-day period in March 1997. Line intercepts were used to record the occurrence of browse species on range. Time spent on individual browse species was recorded. Preference indices for individual browse species were computed by relating relative frequency of consumption to relative frequency of occurrence on range. Acacia karoo had the highest relative frequency of occurrence. Of the 28 species that occurred on range, only 75 percent were consumed. Of these species, goats had a high preference for only 28 percent on which they spent 79 percent of their browsing time. Thirty percent of the highly preferred species had a trace occurrence on range. Strychos cucculoides, a trace species, had the highest preference index of 6.1. The correlation coefficient between relative frequency on range and relative frequency of consumption was 0.6. Crude protein content of the browse and the preference indices had a correlation coefficient of 0.16. Apparently, availability of the browse species and crude protein content did not fully explain the preferences. These preferences are important when considering increased sustainable goat production from range ecosystems.