Browse from Three Tree Legumes Increases Forage Production for Cattle in a Silvopastoral System in the Southwest Amazon

Dablin, Lucy; Lewis, Simon L.; Milliken, William; Monro, Alexandre and Lee, Mark A. (2021). Browse from Three Tree Legumes Increases Forage Production for Cattle in a Silvopastoral System in the Southwest Amazon. Animals, 11(12), article no. 3585.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123585

Abstract

Assessing the palatability of forage from locally adapted trees could improve the sustainability of livestock production systems. However, grasses continue to dominate livestock feed across the Amazon. We established a silvopastoral cattle farming system in Peru, comparing three different forage tree species with grass monocultures using a randomised block design. Trees were arranged in alleys of 0.5 × 7.5 m, planted alongside grass, and were directly browsed by cattle. Browse removal was estimated by three methods: destructive sampling, canopy measurements and leaf counts. We found that all three tree species were palatable to cattle. Plots containing trees and grass produced more available forage (mean > 2.2 Mg ha−1) for cattle than the grass monocultures (mean = 1.5 Mg ha−1). Destructive sampling below 1.6 m demonstrated that cattle consumed 99% of the available Erythrina berteroana forage, 75% of the available Inga edulis forage and 80% of the available Leucaena leucocephala forage in 8 days. This research demonstrates methodologies to estimate the intake of locally adapted browse species by cattle and highlights the potential benefits of silvopastoral systems in the Amazon. Planting trees could also benefit animal health and provide ecosystem services such as soil regeneration, enhanced nutrient cycling and carbon capture.

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