Researchers from the Research Group on Ruminants led by Elena Albanell, lecturer in Animal and Food Science at Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona, have successfully achieved to prevent sheep and goats from chewing on the young leaves of olive trees and grapevines when grazing. By using the natural mechanism of conditioned taste aversion, researchers redirected the food preferences of ruminants, making them more willing to eliminate undesirable plants from these types of pastures, and thereby reducing the use of pesticides and farming equipment.
The cultivation of woody plants (olive trees, grapevines, fruit trees, etc.) take up 27% of the cultivated land in Spain (MARM, 2010). This cultivation system permits plants to grow around the trees or vines, but in order to prevent these plants from becoming a problem for the cultivations, they must be controlled with herbicides and/or farming equipment. In the long term, these practices can cause environmental problems due to the residues they leave behind or to the compactation of soil produced by farming equipment. A more environmentally sustainable and respectful system would be to control these undesired plants with the grazing of sheep and goats. This system would reduce the use of herbicides and fertilisers, given that the droppings of these animals provide many nutrients for the soil and thus could be used as an agricultural resource, as well as favour a better integration between the agricultural and farming sectors.
The negative side to grazing in these pastures are the damages caused by the animals, since sheep and goats are also free to eat leaves and soft shoots and thus affect the amount and quality of the crops. That is why a perfect solution would be the ability to guarantee farmers that these animals pose no threat to their lands and crops while grazing. This was the objective of researchers at the UAB Faculty of Veterinary Medicine when they proposed the use of conditioned taste aversion in the a
|Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado|
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona