Making beef production more sustainable

Written by Jacobo Arango and Jon Moorby, GROW Colombia Co-investigators

Cattle are an important part of many Colombian farmers’ lives, but climate change and the pressures of increased production on land use mean that more sustainable systems of agriculture are urgently needed. As part of the GROW Colombia project we have been investigating the benefits of using new and improved crops of Brachiaria, a drought-resistant grass native to Africa, grown together with leguminous shrubs (Leucaena) in silvopastoral plots at the Alliance Bioversity-CIAT’s (ABC) headquarters in Cali, Colombia. The leaves of Leucaena are rich in protein, which complements the grass growing around them to produce a nutrition-rich diet for the cattle.

Improving the diet of cattle means they grow faster and are ready for market more quickly, which in turn lowers the carbon footprint of Colombian beef production and means that land freed up from cattle production can be returned to other uses, such as forestry.

The GROW work at ABC is a valuable resource for demonstrating the potential value of silvopastoral systems to local farmers, encouraging them to sow better crops of grass and plant trees on their land.

This research will help farmers to make more money from their land and animals at the same time as reducing the burden of beef production on the local environment.

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