Achieving grassland production and quality that matches animal needs

A. van den Pol, Juan Busqué, P. Golinski, Katrin Noorkõiv, Michael O'Donovan, Giovanni Peratoner, D. Reheul

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperProfessional

Abstract

Permanent grasslands are exploited by grazing animals or as meadows depending on different
constraints. Grazing is the most common use in large parts of Europe, especially in the northwest of
Europe. However, certain areas are less suitable for grazing. In the Alps e.g. meadows are the most
relevant grassland utilization option because of the steepness of the terrain and a short favourable
season, so animals use stored forage during the long winter period. In the Cantabrian fringe, although
climate and topography allows for a long grazing season, this is practiced in few farms due to the
small size and dispersion of parcels, making it very difficult to organise a reasonable grazing scheme.
In several countries in the North West of Europe zero-grazing is practised due to different reasons like
large herds or use of Automated Milking Systems (AMS).
Permanent grasslands are highly variable. They differ markedly in their botanical composition and
productivity, ranging from agricultural-improved grasslands with few very productive plant species, to
natural and semi-natural grasslands (Peeters et al., 2014), found in a high variety of ecological
conditions and thus with a high number of potentially dominant plant species, mostly of low
productivity. Most ruminant livestock farmers have some agricultural-improved grassland, but
depending on the livestock system, this will be the majority of their farmland (e.g. dairy farms) or the
minority (e.g. goats for meat in mountain areas).
For every grassland based livestock farm, irrespective of the types of grassland used, the ideal target
is that its own forage allowance matches animal needs. These two variables –forage allowance and
feed requirements- are mainly dependent on the stable components of the farm (animals: type,
number and annual and seasonal productivity (milk and/or meat); and grasslands: type, area,
botanical composition, annual and seasonal productivity, nutritive quality), but also on the weather.
Normally, the stable components of the farm are adapted to the climate, soils and other use
restrictions of the area. It is the changeable inter-annual weather conditions that lead to variability in
the quantity and quality of available forage, and so weather conditions are the main factor affecting
the forage allowance, and so the profitability of the system in the short-medium term. The farmers
have to adjust their management (fertilisation, timing of grazing / cutting, etc.) to these changeable
weather conditions.
Farmers feel the need to control this short-term variability generated by changing weather conditions.
Staying in control is a big issue for the farmers and they feel unsure about their livestock and
grassland management if external factors like weather affect the functioning of their system. When
they are not in control, it is difficult for them to see the economic profits of certain improvements,
such as grazing instead of cutting in dairy or beef cattle systems (Peyraud et al, 2010).
Aim of
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProfitability of permanent grassland - Final Report
Subtitle of host publicationEIP-AGRI Focus Group on Permanent Grassland
PublisherEIP-AGRI
Pages9
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2016

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Achieving grassland production and quality that matches animal needs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this