New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1980) 3: 85- 96

The grazing behaviour of sheep (Ovis aries) on a high-country summer range in Canterbury, New Zealand

Research Article
P. S. Harris  
K. F. O'Connor  
  1. Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute, P.O. Box 56, Lincoln College, Canterbury, New Zealand

The distribution of sheep was monitored from 1974 to 1977 on part of an unimproved high-country range consisting of 19 land units with different phases of degraded tall tussock and short tussock grassland. Abundance and dominance of the many plant spp. found in the land units, levels of available DM, percentage water content of vegetation/land unit, digestibility of available DM, sheep distribution and av. index of grazing pressure are tabulated. Between late Nov. and early April in 1976-7 the calculated available herbage on the well vegetated portion of the study area declined steadily from 700 kg DM/ha to 410 kg. Digestibility of available inter-tussock herbage declined from Dec. to April but m.c. remained at approx. 50%. Anthoxanthum odoratum and Trifolium spp. each accounted for an av. of 21% of the cuticle fragments recovered in faeces. As the available DM and m.c. of the inter-tussock vegetation declined up to mid-Jan., sheep tended to move to damper areas. Facto!