Western Morning News
SUPERMARKET SEEKS TOP QUALITY BEEF FROM THE WEST
INTRODUCING tree leaves to a sheep’s diet could play an important role in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, research suggests.
Scientists from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) monitored four groups of six Aberfield cross lambs, half of which were fed around 200g of goat willow leaves each per day.
When their urine patches were monitored, they found significant reductions in both nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide in those groups which fed on willow leaves.
The work, part-funded by the Woodland Trust, also found lower emissions of ammonia from urine patches where lambs were fed willow.
Professor Chris Stoate, who undertook the research, said: “This study is a novel application of the specialist expertise and equipment we have at the Allerton Project and builds on our recent research on grass and livestock systems.
“The results are preliminary, but they provide an exciting indication that feeding willow leaves to ruminants may contribute to national targets for both climate change and air quality. It certainly warrants further investigation.”
While cutting branches to feed to livestock is labour intensive, a move towards agroforestry with livestock would allow the direct browsing of coppiced trees if livestock access is managed to ensure sustainability, Professor Stoate added. “The use of tree fodder as an alternative source of food during periods of drought may become increasingly relevant as the climate changes, but these results suggest that a supplementary benefit of incorporating willow into grazing ruminant systems may be a contribution to climate change mitigation, as well as air quality improvement.”
Defra has recently made it clear that agroforestry is eligible for support through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), including both silvoarable (trees planted at wide spacings and intercropped with a cereal or bio-energy crop) and silvopasture (trees combined with forage grassland and livestock production). The Committee on Climate Change estimates that agroforestry could result in carbon emissions savings of 5.9 MtCO2e per year by 2050, approximately 13% of agriculture’s current total emissions.