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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service



Project Number: 1932-21630-004-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 6, 2007
End Date: Jan 12, 2012

Develop small-scale ruminant production systems for the humid temperate Appalachian Region by managing interactions among forages, environment, and grazers. Emphasis is on hair sheep and meat goat production to satisfy consumer-driven and ethnic market demand. Systems are economically viable and environmentally benign. Specific objectives are: 1) Identify and assemble combinations of plants that can supply forage in sufficient quantity and quality for small ruminants as a function of microsite capabilities; 2) Integrate forage array components defined in Objective 1 into small-ruminant production systems that deliver carcass characteristics and meat quality defined by specialty market demand; 3) Identify plant and landscape capabilities that support productive pasture plant communities improved ecosystem functions, and grazing practices that contribute to desirable water quality.

Controlled-environment, field-plot, and paddock-scale experiments will be conducted to determine sequences and combinations of forages that expand the duration of forage production, and deliver herbage mass with the energy-to-protein ratio required by grazing livestock when needed. Responses to site specific conditions encountered in traditional open pasture and silvopastoral management will be determined as a function of site conditions, seasonal forage productivity patterns and nutritive value, and the interactive relationship among plant species in the sward. Basic studies linking above- and below-ground processes in forage swards will be obtained by controlled environment and field experimentation on root development and the interaction of plant-derived biomolecules (e.g., polyphenolics) with soil chemical and physical processes. Grazing experiments will result in pasture management practices for economically viable lamb and meat goat production. Carcass and meat quality assessments will be made and evaluated relative to consumer preferences for lean cuts and desirable chemical composition. Small paddock and landscape-scale data mapping will be used to determine how landscape and grazing management practices interact to influence water quality. Findings will provide a framework for evaluating how local agricultural practices influence regional systems in terms of water, nutrient, and pathogen partitioning and transport at multiple scales. Decision support tools will aid in design of pasture systems that synchronize forage quantity and nutritive value with grazing animal requirements while maintaining or improving water resource quality.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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