A 17-yr grazing trial was conducted in the eastern Galilee of Israel to quantify trade-offs among the responses of pasture and livestock productivity, duration of grazing, amount of supplementary feed, and profitability to higher stocking density during the growing season of a Mediterranean grassland. Treatments included two stocking densities and two grazing protocols. The stocking densities throughout the grazing period were 0.55 animal unit (AU)·ha-1, which is common in this region, and 1.1 AU·ha-1, which is considered high. The grazing protocols were continuous grazing throughout the grazing season and split-paddock grazing in which the herd grazed one subpaddock from the onset of grazing until the pasture was depleted, after which the herd was moved to the second ungrazed subpaddock. Under both protocols, heavier stocking density reduced standing biomass of the whole paddock at the end of the growing season by 43% and grazing duration during the subsequent dry season by 38% but increased the daily consumption of supplementary feed and the weaned live-weight production per unit area. Under continuous grazing the high stocking density of 1.1 AU·ha-1 was maintained throughout the grazing season for 17 consecutive yr with no detectable effect on productivity of the pasture, typical to the resilience of Mediterranean grasslands that have been grazed for thousands of years. The lower pasture biomass production was compensated by higher weaned calf production. At the current local prices, the heavier stocking density was close to the economically optimal stocking density for the pasture in the region. It is concluded that on Mediterranean grassland intensive use of the pasture with high stocking density during the growing season can be economically feasible in those cases where the feed requirement of the herd can be maintained throughout the growing season.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4