Beef from the forest

By Carlos Fioranti
FAPESP – One of the highlights of the reforestation congress held in São Paulo last November was the presentation of the results of 26 years of field work by researchers from Colombia. Their research work focused on cattle raising in tree-covered pasture land, an agroforestry practice that is referred to as silvopastoral system. In Brazil, the silvopastoral system is still in its earliest stages. This system is very simple: the cattle, instead of lowering their heads under the hot sun to graze on pastureland, feed on the leaves and fruit from shrubs and trees planted in the middle of the pasture. As a result, cattle ranchers can raise up to five cows per hectare, producing an annual yield of 10 to 15 thousand liters of milk without the need to use fertilizers and hardly any dietary supplements. In contrast, cattle ranchers raising cattle on treeless pasture land raise one animal per hectare – the average in Brazil´s Amazon Region is even lower : 0.9 cattle per hectare, yielding 400 liters of milk a year per hectare. In addition, trees preserve springs, protect the soil from erosion, significantly reduce the population of disease-transmitting flies and ticks, reduce the costs of veterinary medicine, fertilizers, and pesticides, and recover part of the original biodiversity – destroyed by animal husbandry activities – thanks to the fact that they attract birds and other animals.

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Source and Photo: FAPESP, February 2012
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