February 03, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Lamb performance in hardwood silvopastures, II

Interpretive Summary: Lamb performance in hardwood silvopastures, II: animal behavior in summer

By: Anne Wallace

Silvopasture is a farming practice that sustainably and deliberately plants trees for grazing livestock. Benefits from silvopasture may potentially stem from reduced foraging stress due to the shade provided from trees, however studies evaluating how open grazing versus grazing in silvopasture may impact animal behavior is lacking.

In this study published in the January 2020 issue of Translational Animal Science, researchers evaluated and compared the behavior of lambs grazing in silvopasture and open pastures to determine if silvopasture provided any benefit over open grazing.  Observation, audio recording device, and cameras were used to observe and document lamb behavior. Silvopasture included two types of hardwood trees: black walnut and honey locust.

Silvopasture lambs preferred grazing in shaded areas during the majority (>90%) of daylight hours. Open pasture lambs spent 2 hours more standing than laying down and less time grazing, without the option for shaded areas, when compared to silvopasture lambs.

The results of this study validate silvopasture as a potential way to increase grazing and resting time, suggesting it provides lambs with an overall more comfortable grazing environment. Expanded studies looking at how the health and growth performance of sheep or other grazing farm animals may be impacted by silvopasture versus open pastures may help to broaden understanding of the potential advantages of silvopasture.