Quantifying Nutritional Value and Best Practices for Woody Fodder Management in Ruminant Grazing Systems

Project Overview

FNE19-930
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,920.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Wellspring Forest Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Steve Gabriel
Cornell University / Wellspring Forest Farm

Commodities

  • Animals: sheep

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, grazing management, grazing - rotational

    Proposal summary:

    While existing research suggests numerous nutritional benefits of many tree and shrub fodder species commonly found on Northeast farms, there is no a side-by-side comparison specific to the region, nor data that specifically compares nutrition over several seasons, tracking changes within the growing cycle. While simple forage analysis through a lab can offer this data, the ability to consistently sample is cost-prohibitive on a farm-by-farm basis.

    Woody trees and shrubs offer farmers better utilization of farmland, high-quality feed sources during drought and excessive rain conditions, and the development of silvopasture systems that are among the best at carbon sequestration. If farmers know that these plants have food value to their animals, they will seek more opportunities to include them in grazing plans.

    This project seeks to develop an applied management guide for utilizing tree fodders in the northeast landscape with two main components; (1) results of multi-year farm research collecting consistent forage analysis for six species of common woody plants and trees that are persistent in northeast farm landscape, and (2) a complete literature review and profile for the six species.

    Research will establish a baseline nutritive quality values for six common tree/shrub species, accounting for seasonal variation and site characteristics (Year 1). The species will then be grazed by sheep and assessed to determine any impacts on nutrition from grazing (Year 2).

    Results will be shared via a published guidebook and through our existing farm educational programming, online courses, and though articles and informational webinars.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to develop an applied management guide for utilizing tree fodders with two main components; (1) results of multi-year farm research collecting consistent forage analysis for six species of common woody plants and trees that are persistent in northeast farm landscape, and (2) a literature review and profile for the six species.

    Research will establish a baseline nutritive quality values for the tree/shrub species, accounting for seasonal variation and site characteristics (Year 1). The species will then be grazed by sheep and assessed to determine any impacts to plant nutrition from grazing (Year 2).

    This research will coincide with a literature review of each species and any relevant data on nutritive quality from forage analysis, to compare these figures with the data we collect.

    The project results will offer farmers the opportunity to improve on-farm productivity and reduce feed costs, which could result in an increase in farm income from grazing operations. Valuing woody vegetation in the farm landscape also increases grazing resilience in extreme climate conditions, and offers immense opportunities to value woody plants in a range of resource conservation efforts compatible with rotational grazing, from riparian buffers to windbreaks to nutrient runoff capture.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.