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Agroforestry for ruminants: a review of trees and shrubs as fodder in silvopastoral temperate and tropical production systems

Animal Production Science


Among the oldest agroforestry systems, silvopastoralism uses shrubs and trees to feed ruminants. The practice is common in extensive livestock production systems, whereas the intensification of grass-based systems in the past century has led to the removal of woody species from agricultural temperate landscapes. In Europe however, woody species are promoted again on grasslands through environment-friendly policies due to the ecosystem services they provide such as carbon sequestration, control of soil erosion, limitation of airborne pollutants and biodiversity conservation. Positive effects of browse on rumen digestion and parasite control have also been documented across different plant species and regions. Under optimal conditions, feeding ruminants from woody fodder sustains animal production. Nonetheless, limitations can restrict the use of woody forage into animal diets, such as the presence of anti-nutritive and toxic compounds. The incorporation of this resource in ruminant feeding systems raises the question of the management of the interface between the plant and the animal. Various management systems are practiced. Temperate species such as Salix spp. and Populus spp. are fed to sheep and cattle in fodder blocks or by pruning trees in New Zealand, and Fraxinus spp. or Corylus avellana in hedgerows supply forage to livestock in Belgium, whereas Leucaena leucocepahala and Desmanthus spp. browsing is common in Australia. Nowadays, ensiling and pelleting techniques are being developed as a way to store browse forage. As the renewed interest in using shrubs and trees to feed ruminants is recent, especially in temperate regions, additional research about the optimal introduction of this resource within systems is needed.

Author(s): Vandermeulen, S; Ramirez-Restrepo, CA; Beckers, Y; Claessens, H; Bindelle, J

Journal: Animal Production Science

Year: 2018