Domestic cattle generally graze during the day although some night-rime grazing also occurs. However, questions remain as to the effect of management on circadian grazing patterns. This study provides for the first time a quantification of seasonal, circadian and animal variation in grazing behaviour and grazing time in cattle in semi-wild conditions.The objectives of the study were to examine how daily grazing times and the temporal distribution of grazing activity changed with season and to examine the extent to which grazing patterns were influenced by day-length. A group of 12 heifers of the Kerry breed continuously grazed a lowland field of 4.7 ha. The old permanent pasture sward was dominated by Holcus spp. and Agrostis spp. Feed availability was never limiting. Length and periodicity of grazing were recorded using vibracorders attached to the necks of seven animals.Results showed that daily grazing times remained constant over most of the grazing season (circa 10-11 h per day), however, some variation occurred late in the season. The temporal distribution of grazing activity changed as the season advanced so that by October grazing patterns became significantly different to those of July. The time interval between grazing bouts at dawn and dusk decreased with decreasing day-length. nn increased percentage of night-time grazing occurred at shorter day-lengths.It is concluded that there is a significant seasonal effect of day-length on temporal distribution of grazing activity with night-time grazing featuring more as day-length decreases. The maintenance of similar total daily grazing times in the face of changing day-length (with the exception of late in the season) suggests that daily grazing times are a function of the attainment of a relatively constant nutritional requirement by the animal. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.