Agenda Gotsch

Integrating cattle in a Syntropic System

EXPERIMENT OF CATTLE INTEGRATION IN A SYNTROPIC AGRICULTURE SYSTEM ON THE FARM “ESTRELA DALVA LAMARÃO”

Authors: Luisa Nogueira Queiroz & Luciano Queiroz Neto

Our experience with Syntropic Farming began in 2017, when we implemented the first module on the farm, in a 3-hectare pilot area.
The farm is located in the municipality of Unaí, approximately 200km from Brasília, and its main activity is dairy cattle.
 
As our intention with the pilot project of Syntropic Farming was to verify, in practice, the reconciliation of productive activity with the regeneration of soil and the environment, we chose one of the most degraded areas of the farm for the implementation of the project, and we designed the thinking system on the possibility of future integration of dairy cattle.

We adopted, therefore, a spacing of 7 meters between the tree lines – part of the grass was thought to generate biomass for soil cover; and the other part to feed the cattle. From the beginning, our idea was to have in the same area: sustainable production of food, improvement of soil conditions and gain of productivity of the pasture area.

Initial condition of the area
Design of the tree lines and grass strips.

After 16 months of planting, we performed the first experience of integrating the dairy cattle in the area. Initially, we thought of installing fences with shock lines to protect tree lines from interacting with livestock. However, considering that it would take approximately 5,600m of fence for a only 3-ha area, and also that we were already expanding it of Syntropic Farming, we concluded that the installation of the fences was financially infeasible, besides making it difficult to manage the lines. Thus, we decided to initiate the integration allowing the interaction of the cattle with the tree lines. To minimize possible damage, however, we chose to insert only young animals in the area, rather than adult cattle.

We then opened the area for 60 animals in March 2019. In the first three days, we observed that the cattle concentrated their feed on the abundant massai and mombaça grass (types of Panicum maximum, which were already too high – that is, with more stalk and less leaf, having passed from the “optimum”), also ingesting, if necessary, some leaves of cassava planted in the tree lines.
 
Picture below:  area immediately before cattle integration – part of the grass had been cut to cover the tree lines with biomass, and part was reserved for cattle feed. In the photo, you can check that the grass was already out of the “optimum” moment.

Over the next few days, the cattle also fed on the Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) and Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato) leaves planted in the first row, and on a few small Euterpe oleracea (açai palm) and Musa sp (bananas). We observed that the interaction with the species of the tree lines occurred with older animals (over 6 months).

Although this interaction did not generate significant damages in the main crops, we temporarily removed the cattle from the area and mechanically cut the grass so that the calves could be reinserted when the grass gets to the appropriate size for their feeding. Also, reintegration will occur with younger calves (3 to 6 months of age), and probably at a lower density. In our assessment, under these circumstances, interactions will be more beneficial to the whole system, including livestock.

During the dry season, when the grass becomes weaker / drier, we will evaluate the evolution of the integration and then define the best behavior.
From the next experience, we will send more reports, learnings and conclusions.

Life in Syntropy Partner

3 comments

  • you should definitively look at planned grazing (Holistic Management, Allan Savory)

    • Thanks Chris, we know his work and admire it quite a lot, as well as all Voisin systems. We also believe that we can’t turn all cattle areas into grassland, ignoring the forest. So there are farmers investing more and more into the integration of rotational pastureland with agroforestry. Cheers!

  • Ive seen with the holistic grazing method they only allow cattle to graze for around around 40 mins (Depending on cell size of course) in different cells. This way allows for new growth (but not all grasses eaten, around 3,4s) and with the hooves doing the rest of the work in the soil. I guess they didn’t have the optimal extras of the tree line though.

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