Fodder trees in livestock farming are receiving more and more attention. The positive qualities are appreciated more. This includes current topics such as heat stress, nitrogen capture and biodiversity.
This is the signal of Heleen van Kernebeek, researcher at Wageningen University & Research and project leader of the 'Agroforestry for climate-positive dairy and biodiversity' project that was recently launched in the Northern Netherlands. 'There are many more aspects to fodder trees than just supplying feed. In this project, in which dairy farmers can still participate, we want to look in a broad sense at services that agroforestry could provide for dairy farmers and society. What can trees mean for water, air and soil quality, carbon sequestration and biodiversity?' explains Van Kernebeek.
Elsewhere, research has been done into the role of trees in ammonia reduction, says researcher Evert Prins of the Louis Bolk Institute. 'A model calculation shows that an ammonia reduction of up to 27 percent can be achieved around a stable by placing trees. This is also apparent from a poultry house in practice, where 22 percent ammonia is immediately intercepted.' The trees at this company also block the ammonia, causing it to rise higher into the air.
Trees can also contribute to methane reduction, according to the first results of the Belgian 'Biomora' project that started in April. 'Laboratory research shows that certain plant parts can fix methane in the rumen,' says Jan Valckx of the Belgian agricultural consultancy Wim Govaerts & Co. There are also opportunities for biodiversity, says Prins. Wooded banks provide berries for birds and flowers for insects. This way you can turn the knobs to increase biodiversity.' Van Kernebeek also sees more value for cows than just food. 'Shade from trees can reduce heat stress in cows. This advantage will be even greater in the future when the temperature continues to rise.'
Good for animal welfare
Prins also sees added value here. 'Trees can keep the wind away and provide shade. That is good for the crop and animal welfare. Under trees, the grass withers less quickly and stays in production longer. The wind speed decreases in front of a row of trees and is lower far into the plot than when you have no trees. As a result, you also have less evaporation and desiccation elsewhere.' According to Prins, the question is how much grass production an farmer sacrifices by placing trees. 'Under optimal growing conditions for grass growth, you have a loss of production with trees. This is probably not compensated by the extra production during drought, but in times of drought that production is worth extra.'
Source: Pieter Stokkermans in Nieuwe Oogst, 9 November 2022