Integrating Free-Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a System Approach
Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center
2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Determine the impact of integrating poultry with ruminant grazing on animal and bird performance, with a long-term focus of reducing pathogens (including Salmonela and Campylobacter) and parasite loads in animals and birds. Also determine the impact of forages high in protein on bird performance and disease/pathogen resistance.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Birds will be housed in small protable shelters that follow ruminant grazing. Bird weight gain, feed efficiency, parasite and pathogen colonization will be determined. Impact of poultry grazing on ruminant parasite control will also be determined.
An experiment was initiated (in 2010 and 2011) to examine the effect of integrating poultry with growing lambs on transmission of gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) to sheep and resulting GIN infection in the animal. The trial ended early in 2011 due to animal welfare concerns. Initially, three birds died while in the pasture system due to excessive heat. The drought rendered poor conditions for parasite transmission. Thus, it was unlikely to obtain meaningful data. In 2010, the study ended early because of problems with the temporary fences. The lambs became entrapped in the fence because the charge was not high enough, which became an animal welfare issue. In addition, the parasite infection was very low in the lambs, resulting in poor transmission of parasites. It has become clear that the pasture system in place is not adequate to conduct research with integrated poultry and small ruminants. It was recently learned that poultry will not break up the fecal pellets, as related by a farmer. This would have served to break the parasite cycle on pasture by drying out pellets and killing hatched larvae. Farmers are encouraged to run multiple species including sheep/goats and poultry and others if possible to diversify the farming system to reduce financial risk. In an organic farming system, diversity serves to dilute problems with disease and make more efficient use of farmland and forages.