Combining beef cattle and sheep in an organic system. I. Co-benefits for promoting the production of grass-fed meat and strengthening self-sufficiency - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Animal Year : 2023

Combining beef cattle and sheep in an organic system. I. Co-benefits for promoting the production of grass-fed meat and strengthening self-sufficiency

Abstract

Numerous advantages of combining cattle and sheep have been demonstrated at the grazing-season level, but the effects of this practice on system self-sufficiency require system-level and longer-term studies. We established three grassland-based organic systems as separate farmlets: one mixed system combining beef cattle and sheep (MIX) and two specialised systems, beef cattle (CAT) and sheep (SH), to serve as reference points. These farmlets were managed for 4 years, to assess the benefits of combining beef cattle and sheep in promoting the production of grass-fed meat and strengthening system selfsufficiency. The ratio of cattle to sheep livestock units in MIX was 60:40. The surface area and stocking rate were similar across all systems. Calving and lambing were adjusted to grass growth to optimise grazing. Calves were pasture-fed from 3 months old on average until weaning in October, fattened indoors with haylage and slaughtered at 12–15 months. Lambs were pasture-fed from 1 month old on average until slaughter; if lambs were not ready for slaughter when the ewes mated, they were stall-finished with concentrates. The decision to supplement adult females with concentrate was based on the achievement of a target body condition score (BCS) at key periods. The decision to treat animals with anthelmintics was based on mean faecal egg excretion remaining below a certain threshold. A higher proportion of lambs were pasture-finished in MIX vs SH (P < 0.001) due to a higher growth rate (P < 0.001) which led to a lower age at slaughter (166 vs 188 days, P < 0.001). Ewe prolificacy and productivity were higher in MIX vs SH (P < 0.02 and P < 0.065, respectively). The levels of concentrate consumption and number of anthelmintic treatments in sheep were lower in MIX vs SH (P < 0.01 and P < 0.08). Cow productivity, calf performance, carcass characteristics and the level of external inputs used did not differ between systems. However, cow BW gain during the grazing season was higher in MIX vs CAT (P < 0.05). These outcomes validated our hypothesis that the association of beef cattle and sheep promoted the self-sufficient production of grass-fed meat in the sheep enterprise. It also promoted better ewe and cow BCS and BW at key stages of the reproduction cycle and better development of the females used for replacement, which may enhance animal and system resilience.
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hal-04056667 , version 1 (03-04-2023)

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Sophie Prache, Karine Vazeille, Weaam Chaya, Bernard Sepchat, Priscilla Note, et al.. Combining beef cattle and sheep in an organic system. I. Co-benefits for promoting the production of grass-fed meat and strengthening self-sufficiency. Animal, 2023, 17 (4), pp.100758. ⟨10.1016/j.animal.2023.100758⟩. ⟨hal-04056667⟩
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