MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS
Location: Range Management Research
Title: Increasing shrub use by livestock in a world with less grass
Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 26, 2012
Publication Date: November 1, 2012
Citation: Estell, R.E., Havstad, K.M., Cibils, A.F., Fredrickson, E.L., Anderson, D.M., Schrader, T.S., James, D.K. 2012. Increasing shrub use by livestock in a world with less grass. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 65:553-562.
Interpretive Summary: Shrubs dominate much of the world's rangeland. More productive grasslands continue to be converted for other uses, including food and fuel production. At the same time, demand for meat-based diets is expected to continue and livestock numbers are projected to increase globally. Because it is expensive and in some cases not possible to revert shrublands into grasslands, it would be beneficial to increase the potential for livestock production on shrub-infested rangelands. Approaches that are currently available for enhancing shrub use by livestock include choosing appropriate breeds and species, modifying consumption through genetic selection, and providing dietary nutrients and additives that allow animals to safely eat a greater percentage of shrubs. New approaches are needed to harness this underutilized forage resource to help meet future demand for livestock products.
Much of the world's rangelands are dominated by woody species. Competing land uses and continued encroachment of woody species into non-woody dominated rangelands have reduced grasslands in many parts of the world. Land use conversions to fuel and feed global populations, especially for increasing numbers of middle class people seeking broader, meat-based diets, will certainly continue. Halting and/or reversing further encroachment of woody species into grasslands is slow, expensive, and in some cases, not possible. Yet, global livestock numbers continue to increase to meet the growing demand for red meat and other livestock products. How do we reconcile a world with less grass and the concurrent increased demand for forages to feed livestock, either in extensive rangeland production systems or intensive confined feeding systems? Strategies and mechanisms are needed to safely enhance shrub use by ruminants in order to capitalize on a presently underutilized forage resource. Such strategies could provide important means for rural communities to adapt to changing land cover and climate.