Integrating Free Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a Systems Approach

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $210,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Anne Fanatico
Appalachian State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: poultry, bovine, goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, housing, parasite control, free-range, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Energy: solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life

    Proposal abstract:

    Interest is growing in natural livestock production and products, including poultry with outdoor access. Free-range poultry production is a land-based production system where using an extensive pasture can provide many benefits to the birds. However, poultry cannot manage a pasture sward alone, and it is difficult to economically justify the cost of significant land area for poultry alone. Integrating poultry with ruminants on pasture can maintain the forage in a nutritious, vegetative state for the birds and provide additional benefits for both enterprises, while reducing economic risks. Poultry grazing will potentially reduce parasites that impact ruminants; gastrointestinal parasites are a particular problem in sheep and goats and natural controls are needed. The birds could improve the pasture for ruminants by providing nutrients through manure and their scratching action that aerates the soil. Raising birds on high-quality pasture can reduce poultry feed costs. Protein is the most expensive nutrient to provide, but high-protein forages, such as chicory, can be used to help meet the birds’ protein needs. Some forages, such as sericea lespedeza, have been shown to have anti-parasital activities in sheep and should be tested on poultry. Trees or wooded areas are often associated with pastures and can offer cover, shade, and, in the case of leguminous trees, high-protein fodder. Birds may forage more under tree cover than without. There is little literature on these topics and scientific research is critically needed to investigate an integrated system of raising poultry on ruminant pasture with agroforestry practices to reduce risks and increase income for small- and mid-size farms. The USDA Agriculture Research Service Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit and Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Arkansas will lead a research and education team, which includes the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Louisiana State University, and farmer cooperators. The team will determine the impact of raising poultry with ruminants on animal and bird performance, livestock parasites, benefits to pasture, and economics. Data collected will include animal and bird weight gain, nematode larvae on pasture, ruminant fecal egg counts, forage quality, pasture fertility, and costs associated with production. The impact of high-protein forage (chicory/cowpea) and forage high in condensed tannins (sericea lespedeza) will also be determined on poultry performance, parasite control, feed saving, and cost of production. In addition, the impact of grazing poultry utilizing high-protein tree fodder and under shade/shelter/roosts will be evaluated. Meat and egg product quality will be evaluated for nutrients and food safety. Results of the experiments and best management practices will be disseminated to the agricultural community via web-based publications, webinars, mailings, conferences, and training. Our multidisciplinary partners and systems approach to researching the impacts of poultry/ruminant/agroforestry interactions will have lasting environmental, economic, and social benefits.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Determine impact of integrating poultry with ruminant grazing on animal and poultry performance

    2. Determine impact of grazing poultry on high-protein forage and forage with condensed tannins on performance and parasite control

    3. Determine impact of grazing poultry under shelter/shade/roosts and feeding tree fodder for agroforestry systems

    4. Determine the nutrient content of poultry products due to integrating poultry with livestock production and agroforestry

    5. Conduct on-farm verification trials to determine the impact of practices developed

    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.