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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Grazinglands Research Laboratory » Forage and Livestock Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #315881

Research Project: IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF DIVERSIFIED FORAGE-BASED LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Location: Forage and Livestock Production Research

Title: Herbage production, nutritive value, and animal productivity within hardwood silvopasture, open and mixed pasture systems in Appalachia, United States

Author
item Neel, James - Jim
item Belesky, David - West Virginia University

Submitted to: Grass and Forage Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/23/2015
Publication Date: 11/19/2015
Citation: Neel, J.P., Belesky, D.P. 2015. Herbage production, nutritive value, and animal productivity within hardwood silvopasture, open and mixed pasture systems in Appalachia, United States. Grass and Forage Science. doi:10.1111/gfs.12211.

Interpretive Summary: Demand for livestock food products are projected to increase dramatically through 2050. Increased livestock production capacity on marginal lands will be critical to meeting demand. The Appalachian region contains approximately 16.4 million hectares of farmland, of which an estimated 40% is woodland. Growing forages within woodlots offers promise of increased farm production and income. A 5-year research effort was undertaken to evaluate lamb and pasture productivity within conventional pasture and hardwood silvopasture (SP) systems in Appalachia. Development of silvopasture within a grazing system and from existing woodlots can in improve whole farm forage productivity. Within Appalachia, silvopasture herbage productivity is equal to approximately 60% that of conventional open-pasture when adequate sunlight reaches the forage plants. Silvopasture herbage nutritive value is comparable to open pasture, provided adequate tree stand thinning is applied. Livestock performance was found to be comparable to that of conventional pasture. This information provides livestock producers the ability to better manage pasture systems and improve farm productivity.

Technical Abstract: Demand for livestock food products are projected to increase dramatically through 2050. Increased livestock production capacity on marginal lands will be critical to meeting demand. A 5-year research effort was undertaken to evaluate lamb and sward productivity within open and hardwood silvopasture (SP) systems in Appalachia, USA. Grazing began in mid-to late-April each year, with the grazing season averaging 141 d. Grazing system treatments during 2002 and 2003 grazing seasons were: 100% open pasture (OP), 67% OP and 33% SP, and 67% OP and 33% SP with delayed SP grazing initiation (OSD). In 2004, a 100% SP (SP) system was added. Animals were rotationally grazed through either 6 (2002-04) or 7 (2005-06) paddocks. Open pasture produced greater (P<0.001) grazing season herbage yield, while all systems generated similar animal performance. Based on summer solstice, herbage production in spring was greater (P<0.001) than summer, except in 2003. Total non-structural carbohydrate (TNC) content was greater (P<0.05) in spring than summer, except in 2004. Animal performance was superior in spring versus summer (P<0.001). Animal plasma urea nitrogen (PUN) was lower (P<0.05) for OP in 2003. When PUN was correlated with nutritive value indicators, the ratio of TNC to crude protein (CP) had the strongest correlation. The strong correlation indicates the need for synchronized ruminal energy and CP availability. Development of silvopasture from existing woodlots has potential to improve whole-farm productivity on marginal lands.