Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Agroforestry As An Agricultural Alternative

#1 Shelterbelt Trees. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, shelterbelt trees provide the biggest return on the investment dollar year after year regardless of what type of farming operation they are planted around. The grain and forage producer will realize higher yields, the livestock producer will require less feed for the winter and higher gains during the summer, the orchard owner can plant varieties rated for warmer climates and the farmer or rancher will use less fuel to heat his house in the winter and less electricity to cool the house in the summer.

By stopping the wind, shelterbelts allow fields to retain more moisture for both grain and forage production. With documented yield increases of over 10% for wheat and up to 100% for forage crops like alfalfa, it’s a wonder that more farmers are not willing to reap the yearly benefits that shelterbelt provide. .

With the high Canadian dollar, export markets that have been hammered by BSE and feedgrain prices that have gone through the roof, it seems that the beleaguered livestock industry could use a couple breaks to get them by for another year. Unlikely as it seems, it appears the prosaic shelterbelt could be part of the answer to many of the stockman’s woes.

Every one who has blown his breath across a spoonful of hot soup knows that moving air strips heat off a warm surface at a faster rate than when conditions are still. Known as the windchill factor, the moving air makes the temperature feel colder than the actual thermometer reading. Warm-blooded animals such as cows, sheep and horses standing out on a windswept pasture are no different. When the wind blows they lose heat faster and need to eat more to maintain their body temperature. Ranchers can save more than a big round bale per season by properly sheltering their cattle. On a herd of 100 cows that can amount to a savings of $3000 per year, every year The following graphs illustrate just how much effect the wind has over average daily gain and the feed conversion ratio

The shade that the shelterbelt provides to the livestock in the summer can be as important to the producer as the wind protection in the winter. Livestock producers backgrounding cattle know that when the temperature soars above 30ยบ C, if the cattle do no have access to shade, water consumption can double and daily gain can drop to zero.

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