Seasonal variation in water buffaloes’ diet grazing in wet grasslands in Northern Greece


  • Eleni T. Tsiobani
  • Maria D. Yiakoulaki
  • Georgios Menexes


vegetation composition, dietary preferences, grazing livestock, plant functional types, wetlands


Seasonal variability in grasslands’ vegetation affects animals’ diet selection. We studied the seasonal changes in water buffaloes’ diet during grazing in wet grasslands in Northern Greece. We recorded each month the plant species of the vegetation and the species consumed by buffaloes. We categorized the former into three functional groups (graminoids, legumes, and forbs) and the latter into five groups (graminoids, legumes, forbs, shrubs, and trees). There were significant differences in the proportions (%) of functional groups in the vegetation and in buffaloes’ diet between seasons (χ2 test, P<0.05). Graminoids, legumes, and forbs participated in buffaloes’ diet in all seasons, while the less preferred functional groups were trees and shrubs. Buffaloes consumed ten species in all seasons but we observed the most diverse diet, in terms of plant species, in spring. The most frequently consumed species in each functional group were Cynodon dactylon (graminoids), Trifolium repens (legumes), Cichorium intybus (forbs), Rubus sp. (shrubs), and Populus sp. (trees). However, the majority of plant species in buffaloes’ diet was in very low proportions (<1%), while buffaloes did not sample at all 38 herbaceous species. Researchers need to conduct further research to understand water buffaloes’ foraging strategy regarding plants’ anti-quality characteristics.


Download data is not yet available.


Al-Sultan, S. I., Hussein, Y. A. & Hegazy, A. 2003: Toxicity of Anagallis arvensis plant. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 2(3): 116–122.

Altmann, J. 1974: Observational study of behaviour: sampling methods. Behaviour 49(3-4): 227–267.

Antkowiak, I., Pytlewski, J., Purczynska, A. & Skrzypek, R. 2012: A preliminary study of the behaviour of water buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) imported to Poland. Archiv Tierzucht 55(5): 415–419.

Blondel, J. 2003: Guilds or functional groups: does it matter? Oikos 100(2): 223–231.

Bogdan, A. V. 1977: Tropical pasture and fodder plants (graminoids and legumes). Longman: London and New York. p. 475.

Bonham, C. D. 2013: Measurements for terrestrial vegetation. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 254.

Cibils, A. F., Howery, L. D. & Ruyle, G. B. 2004: Diet and habitat selection by cattle: the relationship between skin-and gut-defense systems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 88(3-4): 187–208.

Duncan, P., Danell, K., Bergström, R. & Pastor, J. 2006: Large herbivore ecology, ecosystem dynamics and conservation. Cambridge University Press. p. 523.

Evans, P. S. 1973: The effect of repeated defoliation to three different levels on root growth of five pasture species. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 16: 31–34.

FAO 2007: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Breeds currently recorded in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources. Rome, Italy, pp. 155.

Fraser, M. D., Theobald, V. J., Griffiths, J. B., Morris, S. M. & Moorby, J. M. 2009: Comparative diet selection by cattle and sheep grazing two contrasting heathland communities. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 129(1-3): 182–192. https://doi.


Galt, H. D., Theurer, B., Clark Martin, S. 1982: Botanical Composition of Steer Diets on Mesquite and Mesquite-Free Desert Grassland. Journal of Range Management 35(3): 320–325. doi: 10.2307/3898310

Georgoudis, A. G. 1993: Population characteristics and production systems of water buffaloes in Greek wetlands. Greek Biotope / Wetland Centre and Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. p. 64. (In Greek, English summary)

Ginane, C. & Dumont, B. 2010: Do grazing sheep use speciesbased categorization to select their diet? Behavioural Processes 84(2): 622–624.

Ginane, C., Bonnet, M., Baumont, R. & Revell, D. K. 2015: Feeding behaviour in ruminants: a consequence of interactions between a reward system and the regulation of metabolic homeostasis. Animal Production Science 55(3): 247–260.

Grime, J. P. 1979: Plant strategies and vegetation processes. John Wiley & Sons, New York. p. 222.

Harlan, J. R., de Wet, J. M. J., Huffine, W. W. & Deakin, J. R. 1970: A guide to the species of Cynodon (Gramineae). Bulletin of the Agricultural Experiment Station Oklahoma State University B 673: p. 37.

Hejcman, M., Žáková, I., Bílek, M., Bendová, P., Hejcmanová, P., Pavlů, V. & Stránská, M. 2008: Sward structure and diet selection after sheep introduction on abandoned grassland in the Giant Mts, Czech Republic. Biologia 63(4): 506–514. doi: 10.2478/s11756-008-0076-1

Jerrentrup, J. S., Seither, M., Petersen, U. & Isselstein, J. 2015: Little grazer species effect on the vegetation in a rotational grazing system. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 202: 243–250. doi: http://

Kazoglou, J. E. 2007: Effects of water buffalo grazing on wet meadows of Prespa National Park. PhD Thesis. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Forestry and National Environment. Thessaloniki. p. 254.

Keddy, P. A. 2010: Wetland ecology: principles and conservation (2nd Edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, p. 548.

Launchbaugh, K. L., Daines, R. J. & Walker, J. W. (Eds.) 2006: Targeted grazing: a natural approach to vegetation management and landscape enhancement. Centennial, CO, USA: American Sheep Industry Association. p. 199.

Mardirossian, Z. H., Kiryakovt, H. G., Ruder, J. P. & MacLean, D. B. 1983: Alkaloids of Fumaria officinalis. Phytochemistry 22(3): 759–761.

Mislevy, P. 1979: Encroachments of common Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon L.) in subtropical and tropical perennial graminoids. In: Proceedings of the 36th Southern Pasture and Forage Crop Improvement Conference, Beltsville, MD: pp. 119–120.

Mládek, J., Mládková, P., Hejcmanová, P., Dvorský, M., Pavlu, V., De Bello, F., Duchoslav, M,. Hejcman, M. & Pakeman, R. J. 2013: Plant trait assembly affects superiority of grazer’s foraging strategies in species-rich grasslands. PLoS ONE 8: e69800. doi: 10.1371/journal.


Moen, J., Andersen, R. & Illius, A. 2006: Living in a seasonal environment. In: Duncan, P., Danell, K., Bergstrom, R. & Pastor, J. (eds): Large herbivore ecology ecosystem dynamics and conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 50–70.

Napolitano, F., Grasso, F., Saltamacchia, F., Martiniello, P., Bilancione, A., Pacelli, C. & De Rosa, G. 2007: Grazing behaviour of buffalo heifers. Italian Journal of Animal Science 6 (Suppl.2): 1256–1259.

Napolitano, F., Pacelli, C., Grasso, F., Braghieri, A. & De Rosa, G. 2013: The behaviour and welfare of buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) in modern dairy enterprises. Animal 7(10): 1704–1713. doi:10.1017/S1751731113001109

Orr, R. J., Parsons, A. J., Penning, P. D. & Treacher, T. T. 1990: Sward composition, animal performance and the potential production of grass/white clover swards continuously stocked with sheep. Grass and Forage Science 45(3): 325–336.

Owen-Smith, N. & Novellie, P. 1982: What should a clever ungulate eat? American Naturalist 119(2):151–178.

Papanastasis, B. & Ispikoudis, B. 2012: Rangeland ecology, 1st Edition, Giahoudis Press, Thessaloniki, Greece, p. 325. (In Greek).

Papastergiadou, E. & Balabonas, D. 1992: Ecological studies on aquatic macrophytes of a dam Lake Kerkini Greece. Archiv für Hydrobiologie Supplement 90(2): 187–206.

Phillips, C. 1988: Cattle behaviour and welfare. Second Edition. Blackwell Science. p. 274.

Provenza, F. D., Pfister, J. A. & Cheney, C. D. 1992: Mechanisms of learning in diet selection with reference to phytotoxicosis in herbivores. Journal of Range Management 45(1): 36–45.

Provenza, F. D., Villalba, J. J., Dziba, L. E., Atwood, S. B. & Banner, R. E. 2003: Linking herbivore experience, varied diets and plant biochemical diversity. Small Ruminant Research 49(3): 257–274.

Psilovikos, A. & Margoni, S. 2010: An empirical model of sediment deposition processes in Lake Kerkini, Central Macedonia Greece. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 164(1-4): 573–592.

Ramirez, R. G., Gonzalez-Rodriguez, H. & Garcia-Dessommes, G. 2003: Nutrient digestion of common bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon L.) pers growing in Northeastern Mexico. Journal of Applied Animal Research 23(1): 93–102.

Sanderson, A. M., Labreveux, M., Hall, H. M. & Elwinger, F. G. 2003: Nutritive value of chicory and English plantain forage. Crop Science 43: 1797–1804.

Soder, K. J., Gregorini, P., Scaglia, G. & Rook, A. J. 2009: Dietary selection by domestic grazing ruminants in temperate pastures: current state of knowledge, methodologies, and future direction. Rangeland and Ecololgy Management 62(5): 389–398.

Strid, A. 1986: Mountain Flora of Greece. Vol.1. Cambridge University Press. p. 819.

Strid, A. & Tan, K. 1991: Mountain Flora of Greece. Vol. 2. Edinburgh University Press. p. 974.

Todd, F. G., Stermitz, F. R., Schultheis, P., Knight, A .P. & Traub-Dargatz, J. 1995: Tropane alkaloids and toxicity of Convolvulus arvensis. Phytochemistry 39(2): 301–303.Tóth, E., Deák, B., Valkó, O., Kelemen, A., Miglécz, T., Tóthmérész, B. & Török, P. 2018: Livestock type is more crucial than grazing intensity: Traditional cattle and sheep grazing in short-grass steppes. Land Degradation & Development 29(2): 231–239.

Tsiobani, E. T., Yiakoulaki, M. D., Hasanagas, N. D. & Papanikolaou, K. Ch. 2014: Water buffaloes’ diet selection grazing at the area of the Lake Kerkini, Northern Greece. Journal of Mountain Agriculture on the Balkans 17(1): 30–40.

Tsiobani, E. T., Yiakoulaki, M. D., Hasanagas, N. D., Menexes, G. & Papanikolaou, K. 2016: Water buffaloes grazing behaviour at the Lake Kerkini National Park, Northern Greece. Hacquetia 15(2): 133–142. doi: 10.1515/hacq-2016-0015

Tutin, T. G., Heywood, V. H., Burges, N. A., Moore, D. M., Valentine, D. H., Walters, S. M. & Webb, D. A. (Eds.): 1964–1980. Flora Europaea, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 1-5.

Ulyatt, M. J., Thomson, D. J., Beever, D. E., Evans, R. T. & Haines, M. J. 1988: The digestion of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne cv. Melle) and white clover (Trifolium repens cv. Blanca) by grazing cattle. British Journal of Nutrition 60(1): 137–149.

Valentine, J. 1990: Grazing management. Academic Press, 2nd Edition. p. 533.

van der Valk, A. 2006: The Biology of Freshwater Wetlands. Biology of Habitats.Oxford University Press, p.186.

Verhoeven, J. T. A., Beltman, B., Whigham, D. F. & Bobbink, R. 2006: Wetland functioning in a changing world: Implications for natural resources Managements. In: Verhoeven, J. T. A., Beltman, B., Bobbink, R. & Whigham, D. F. (Eds.). Wetlands and natural resource management. Ecological Studies, Vol 190, Analysis and Synthesis, Springer Books, pp. 1–12.

Villalba, J. J. & Provenza, F. D. 2009: Learning and Dietary Choice in Herbivores. Rangeland Ecology & Management 62(5): 399–406.

Vough, L. 1978: Preventing Prussic Acid Poisoning of Livestock. Extension Circular 950. Oregon State University Extension Service (retrieved from Station of Chrysochorafa, 2018: http://xrysoxorafa.

Whitmore, J. S. 2000: Drought management on farmland. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Netherlands. p. 293.

Yiakoulaki, M. D., Pantazopoulos, Ch. I. & Papanastasis, V. P. 2007: Nutritive value of diet selected by sheep and goats grazing on woody rangelands in Northern Greece. In: Journal of Mountain Agriculture on the Balkans. Proceedings of 14th FAO –CIHEAM Mountain Pastures Network pp. 172–180.

Zweifel-Schielly, B., Leuenberger, Y., Kreuzer, M. & Suter, W. 2012: A herbivore’s food landscape: seasonal dynamics and nutritional implications of diet selection by a red deer population in contrasting Alpine habitats. Journal of Zoology 286(1): 68–80.


How to Cite

Tsiobani, E. T., Yiakoulaki, M. D., & Menexes, G. (2019). Seasonal variation in water buffaloes’ diet grazing in wet grasslands in Northern Greece. Hacquetia, 18(2). Retrieved from




Most read articles by the same author(s)