25 September 2013, University of Cambridge -- "New research advocates use of pastures with shrubs and trees as it is more sustainable, improving animal welfare and increasing biodiversity.
Consumers are increasingly demanding higher standards for how their meat is sourced, with animal welfare and the impact on the environment factoring in many purchases. Unfortunately, many widely-used livestock production methods are currently unsustainable. However, new research out today from the University of Cambridge has identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.
When ruminants, such as cows, goats and sheep, are consuming the plants from a silvopastoral system, researchers have seen an increase in growth and milk production. [...] As the numbers of animals per hectare was much greater, production of good quality milk per hectare was four to five times greater on the silvopastoral system.
One of the additional benefits of using the silvopastoral system is that it increases biodiversity. Biodiversity is declining across the globe, and the main culprit is farming – 33% of the total land surface of the world is used for livestock production. If farmers were to switch to sustainable livestock production methods, such as the silvopastoral system, the result would be much greater biodiversity with no increase in land use.