With the right tools for alternative feeding systems and pasture enrichment, farmers can successfully incorporate poultry into free-range, multi-species pasture or agroforestry production, based on the results of a USDA-ARS Arkansas study. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE)-funded project, “Integrating Free Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a Systems Approach,” examines the various ways pasture can be used as a resource in ecological poultry production.
“In ecological poultry production, using a pasture resource effectively can be key to sustainability. You can use the pasture to its full benefits, but the challenge for farmers is to know how to do it,” said Anne Fanatico, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.
Fanatico and her colleagues looked at alternative feeding systems, parasite control and pasture enrichment.
“When integrating poultry with other animal species on pasture or agroforestry systems, high-quality forage can be an important source of nutrients for poultry, but the birds also need a concentrated source of feed, particularly energy feed because they do not ferment fiber like ruminant animals do,” said Fanatico.
The researchers studied two feeding systems: free-choice feed and choice feeding as an alternative to fully formulated diets that can make use of the pasture resource.
In the choice feeding studies, researchers found that birds on a fully formulated diet gained more weight than those on a choice feeding diet. However, feed efficiency in the choice feeding diet was greater and was less expensive.
This report appears in the May 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.