Brushing up on silvopastoral farming

No longer are consumers content with just having meat available in the market. Customers want sustainable meat that is raised consciously with minimal impact to the environment, and in safe conditions for both the animals and the farm workers. The demand for commercial meats combined the overall decline in the number of farmers makes raising livestock difficult, and raising livestock sustainably a substantial challenge. While traditional techniques used for raising livestock do little to help the environment, recent research from Cambridge shows that employing the silvopastoral method of farming, combining existing grassland with small plants and shrubs to be consumed by livestock, will not only preserve and restore the local environment, but benefit farmers too.

Traditionally, raising livestock requires large open pastures for animals to graze upon. Producing these pastures often requires the detrimental practice of slashing and burning or clear-cutting native forests, often combined with heavy use of herbicides to encourage grass growth, all extremely harmful for the biological diversity in an area. Silvopastoral landscapes combine native plant life with livestock and pastures for grazing, which enables greater biodiversity.

The study, ‘Sustainable, efficient livestock production with high biodiversity and good welfare for animals’, looked at silvopastoral methods of rearing livestock in comparison to traditional methods of livestock production, and found that the silvopastoral system benefits the environment and boosts meat production. “The planting as forage plants of both shrubs and trees whose leaves and small branches can be consumed by farmed animals can transform the prospects of obtaining sustainable animal production,” said Donald Broom, Professor at the University of Cambridge and study lead. “Such planting of ‘fodder trees’ has already been successful in several countries.”

Cattle farmers in Colombia mixed the common shrub Leucaena with grass used for grazing and saw an increase of 27 percent in dry food for cattle to eat, and a 64 percent growth in protein yield. Milk production also increased when silvopastoral systems were employed. Farmers saw a boost in average milk output by .63 kg per cow compared to traditional pasture-only farming.

With environmentally conscious food production techniques factoring more and more into consumer’s decisions at the grocery store, there is a good chance farmers will start to employ the silvopastoral method on a large scale. Supporting your local, sustainable farm is a good way to make sure this happens. Find the organic farm closest to you at localharvest.org

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Brushing up on silvopastoral farming

No longer are consumers content with just having meat available in the market. Customers want sustainable meat that is raised consciously with minimal impact to the environment, and in safe conditions for both the animals and the farm workers. The demand for commercial meats combined the overall decline in the number of farmers makes raising livestock difficult, and raising livestock sustainably a substantial challenge. While traditional techniques used for raising livestock do little to help the environment, recent research from Cambridge shows that employing the silvopastoral method of farming, combining existing grassland with small plants and shrubs to be consumed by livestock, will not only preserve and restore the local environment, but benefit farmers too.

Traditionally, raising livestock requires large open pastures for animals to graze upon. Producing these pastures often requires the detrimental practice of slashing and burning or clear-cutting native forests, often combined with heavy use of herbicides to encourage grass growth, all extremely harmful for the biological diversity in an area. Silvopastoral landscapes combine native plant life with livestock and pastures for grazing, which enables greater biodiversity.

The study, ‘Sustainable, efficient livestock production with high biodiversity and good welfare for animals’, looked at silvopastoral methods of rearing livestock in comparison to traditional methods of livestock production, and found that the silvopastoral system benefits the environment and boosts meat production. “The planting as forage plants of both shrubs and trees whose leaves and small branches can be consumed by farmed animals can transform the prospects of obtaining sustainable animal production,” said Donald Broom, Professor at the University of Cambridge and study lead. “Such planting of ‘fodder trees’ has already been successful in several countries.”

Cattle farmers in Colombia mixed the common shrub Leucaena with grass used for grazing and saw an increase of 27 percent in dry food for cattle to eat, and a 64 percent growth in protein yield. Milk production also increased when silvopastoral systems were employed. Farmers saw a boost in average milk output by .63 kg per cow compared to traditional pasture-only farming.

With environmentally conscious food production techniques factoring more and more into consumer’s decisions at the grocery store, there is a good chance farmers will start to employ the silvopastoral method on a large scale. Supporting your local, sustainable farm is a good way to make sure this happens. Find the organic farm closest to you at localharvest.org

Did you get your free issue of the Intelligent Optimist?  Click here for a free download.

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