Chital deer (Axis axis) are an ungulate species introduced to northern Queensland, Australia, in an environment where land is managed for large scale cattle production. Rainfall and pasture growth are markedly seasonal and cattle experience a nutritional shortfall each year before monsoon rain. The presence of chital is perceived by land managers to reduce dry-season grass availability and this study sought to estimate the potential effect of free-living chital on regional cattle production. Diet overlap was greatest during the wet season when both ungulates principally consumed grass, and least during the dry season when chital diet comprised only ~50% grass. Using local estimates for energy values of wet and dry season grass, and the maintenance energy requirements of chital and cattle, we estimated the relative dry-matter seasonal grass intakes of both ungulates. The grass consumed annually by 100 chital could support an additional 25 cattle during the wet season and an additional 14 cattle during the dry season.
Article available here:
Watter Kurt, Baxter Greg S., Pople Anthony, Murray Peter J. (2020) Dietary overlap between cattle and chital in the Queensland dry tropics. The Rangeland Journal 42, 221-225.