The impacts of wild herbivores on cattle diet selection were investigated in an East African rangeland during August 2001 and February 2002. The study compared cattle diets in plots exclusively accessible to cattle (C) and those accessible to megaherbivores (elephants and giraffes), non-megaherbivore wild herbivores > 15 kg (zebras, hartebeests, Grant's gazelles, oryx, elands, and buffaloes) and cattle (MWC); or non-megaherbivore wild herbivores and cattle (WC). There were no treatment differences in selection of most grass species in either sampling period (P > 0.05). However, selection of forbs differed among treatments during February when conditions were relatively dry and percent of bites taken by cattle on this forage class increased (P < 0.005) from 1.8% ± 0.3 to 7.7% ± 1.6 (mean ± SE). During this period, cattle took a lower percent of bites on forbs in MWC (4.3% ± 1.7; P = 0.01) and WC (5.9% ± 2.2; P = 0.03) than in C (12.9% ± 0.9). These patterns were generally driven by Commelina spp., which comprised 65% ± 9.4 of total bites on forbs. Notably, these differences were associated with differences in cover of forbs, which was positively correlated with percent of bites on forbs (r2 = 0.86, P < 0.01). Because forbs may be critical components of cattle diets in such rangelands during relatively dry periods, these dietary changes may indicate potential seasonal costs of wildlife to cattle production. Looking for ways to offset such costs may be worthwhile for livestock properties that accommodate wildlife.
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Vol. 60 • No. 2