Sustainable intensification of cultivated pastures using multiple herbivore species
Demand for animal products is growing faster than for any other agricultural product. As a result, pressure for greater output from cultivated pastures is expected to increase. Assuming cultivated pasture area will decrease with land degradation, conversion to grain crops or urban expansion, the only alternative is to increase productivity per area. We suggest an underutilised solution: increase herbivore diversity on cultivated pastures. We review multiple herbivore species (MHS) ecology in natural ecosystems (rangeland and wildlife parks) for guidelines to implementing this approach in cultivated pasture. In rangeland or natural grassland systems, sequential or simultaneous introduction of MHS results in greater productivity, diversity and resilience of plant as well as animal populations. Replacing historical mono-ruminant systems with MHS or classes on cultivated pasture is currently beyond landowner experience and will stretch cultivated pasture science. This approach becomes more feasible, however, as cultivated pastures increase in plant biodiversity and canopy complexity. We enumerate research and demonstration topics that might promulgate MHS in cultivated pastures.
Keywords: animal production, biodiversity, cultivated pastures, foraging ecology, plant–herbivore interactions