Special Issue "Sustainable Grazing Systems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (14 January 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. A (Agnes) Van den Pol-van Dasselaar
Website
Guest Editor
Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands / Aeres University of Applied Sciences, Dronten, the Netherlands
Interests: animal production systems; climate change; crop husbandry; grasslands; plant production systems; soil fertility; soil sciences; mitigation; management; forage; greenhouse gases; grazing
Dr. Deirdre Hennessy
Website
Guest Editor
Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland
Interests: grass growth; grazing management; milk production from grazed pasture; white clover; environmental sustainability
Prof. Dr. Johannes Isselstein
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Crop Sciences, Grassland Science, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
Interests: grazing; biodiversity; grazer-sward interaction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will comprise a selection of papers addressing the importance of sustainable grass-based systems. More and more, citizens demand a sustainable agricultural production. In this respect, grazing is of particular importance. First, grasslands occupy a vast area of agricultural lands and grazing systems are therefore important components of the landscape in almost all European countries. Second, grass is the main feed for dairy cattle in Europe. Grazing ruminants are capable of transforming feed (a resource that could otherwise not be used by humans), into human edible food and are thus important for food production. Next to producing food, grazing systems deliver a large number of other ecosystem services. Grazing systems contribute to, e.g., soil carbon sequestration, biodiversity, beauty of the landscape, maintaining populations in rural areas, conservation of soil quality and supply of feed protein at farm level. To ensure a continuation of grazing on future dairy farms, we need to optimize the grazing system, from a technical, socio-economic and environmental perspective, and we need to do this tailor-made and region specific. Novel grazing systems are needed that: i) are technically and socially feasible for dairy farms in different regions, and ii) are economically viable and environmentally sound. This requires an analysis of the technical, socio-economic and environmental performance of present and novel grazing systems from different stakeholder perspectives. Selected papers should contribute to this analysis.

Dr. A (Agnes) van den Pol-van Dasselaar
Dr. Deirdre Hennessy
Prof. Dr. Johannes Isselstein
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • grazing
  • ecosystem services
  • biodiversity
  • forage
  • carbon sequestration
  • mineral cycling
  • sustainability

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Grazing System on Grassland Plant Species Richness and Vegetation Characteristics: Comparing Horse and Cattle Grazing
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3300; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083300 - 18 Apr 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Horses are of increasing relevance in agriculturally managed grasslands across Europe. There is concern to what extent grazing with horses is a sustainable grassland management practice. The effect of longer-term horse grazing on the vegetation characteristics of grasslands has received little attention, especially [...] Read more.
Horses are of increasing relevance in agriculturally managed grasslands across Europe. There is concern to what extent grazing with horses is a sustainable grassland management practice. The effect of longer-term horse grazing on the vegetation characteristics of grasslands has received little attention, especially in comparison to grazing cattle. Our study analyses the relative importance of grazing system (grazer species and regime) and grassland management for vegetation characteristics in grasslands as indicator for sustainable management. We monitored grassland vegetation in western central Germany and compared paddocks grazed by horses under two different regimes, continuous (HC) vs. rotational (HR), to paddocks grazed by cattle (C) under similar trophic site conditions. We observed more plant species and more High Nature Value indicator species on HC compared to C. The vegetation of C was more grazing tolerant and had higher forage value than HC. Regardless of the grazing regime, the competitive component was lower, the stress-tolerant component higher and the floristic contrast between patch-types stronger on HC and HR paddocks compared to C. Species richness was strongly influenced by the extent of the floristic contrast. Our results emphasize the potential of horse grazing for biodiversity in agriculturally managed grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Using a Citizen Science Approach with German Horse Owners to Study the Locomotion Behaviour of Horses on Pasture
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1835; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051835 - 29 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Engaging farmers as citizen scientists may be a cost-efficient way to answering applied research questions aimed at more sustainable land use. We used a citizen science approach with German horse farmers with a dual goal. Firstly, we tested the practicability of this approach [...] Read more.
Engaging farmers as citizen scientists may be a cost-efficient way to answering applied research questions aimed at more sustainable land use. We used a citizen science approach with German horse farmers with a dual goal. Firstly, we tested the practicability of this approach for answering ‘real-life’ questions in variable agricultural land-use systems. Secondly, we were interested in the knowledge it can provide about locomotion of horses on pasture and the management factors influencing this behaviour. Out of 165 volunteers, we selected 40 participants to record locomotion of two horses on pasture and provide information on their horse husbandry and pasture management. We obtained complete records for three recording days per horse from 28 participants, resulting in a dataset on more individual horses than any other Global Positioning System study published in the last 30 years. Time spent walking was greatest for horses kept in box-stall stables, and walking distance decreased with increasing grazing time. This suggests that restrictions in pasture access may increase stress on grass swards through running and trampling, severely challenging sustainable pasture management. Our study, involving simple technology, clear instructions and rigorous quality assessment, demonstrates the potential of citizen science actively involving land managers in agricultural research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Do Grazing Systems and Species Composition Affect Root Biomass and Soil Organic Matter Dynamics in Temperate Grassland Swards?
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1260; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031260 - 10 Feb 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Elevating soil organic matter (SOM) levels through changes in grassland management may contribute to lower greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. SOM dynamics of grassland soils may be affected by grazing systems and plant species composition. We analyzed the [...] Read more.
Elevating soil organic matter (SOM) levels through changes in grassland management may contribute to lower greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. SOM dynamics of grassland soils may be affected by grazing systems and plant species composition. We analyzed the effects of simulated grazing systems (continuous (CG), rotational (RG), and lenient strip grazing (LG)) and species composition (monocultures of perennial ryegrass fertilized (LP+) and unfertilized (LP−)), tall fescue (fertilized, FA+), and a mixture of these two species with white clover (fertilized, LFT+)) on root biomass and SOM dynamics in field experiments on loamy and sandy soils in the Netherlands. Dried cattle manure was added to all fertilized treatments. We hypothesized that SOM accumulation would be highest under CG and LG, and FA+ and LFT+ as a consequence of greater belowground biomass production. SOM was monitored after conversion from arable land for a period of two years (loamy and sandy soil) and five years (sandy soil). We found that management practices to increase SOM storage were strongly influenced by sampling depth and length of the grassland period. SOM increased significantly in nearly all fertilized treatments in the 0–60 cm layer. No differences between species compositions were found. However, when only the 30–60 cm soil layer was considered, significantly higher SOM increases were found under FA+, which is consistent with its greater root biomass than the other species. SOM increases tended to be higher under LG than RG. The results of this study suggest that it seems possible to comply with the 4-thousandth initiative during a period of five years with fertilized perennial ryegrass or tall fescue in monoculture after conversion from arable land. It remains to be investigated to which extent this sequestration of carbon can be maintained after converting grassland back to arable land. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Grazing of Dairy Cows in Europe—An In-Depth Analysis Based on the Perception of Grassland Experts
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1098; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031098 - 04 Feb 2020
Cited by 8
Abstract
Grazing is inherently close to the nature of herbivores, but no longer applied everywhere in Europe. Therefore, the perception of grassland experts on the occurrence, importance, constraints, solutions and future of grazing of dairy cows was studied. The study builds on results from [...] Read more.
Grazing is inherently close to the nature of herbivores, but no longer applied everywhere in Europe. Therefore, the perception of grassland experts on the occurrence, importance, constraints, solutions and future of grazing of dairy cows was studied. The study builds on results from the European Grassland Federation Working Group Grazing in the period 2010–2019. Both surveys and focus group meetings were used. There is a clear trend of reduced grazing in Europe. Since grazing is valued by different stakeholders and provides many ecosystem services, solutions to the constraints to grazing must be found. Constraints can be divided into region specific constraints, farm specific constraints and farmer specific constraints. The solutions include developing new knowledge, bringing the knowledge already available to practice and rewarding farmers for grazing as a service to society. If grazing is not supported, it will further decline. However, a joined endeavour has the potential to make a significant difference in transforming grass-based production systems and stimulating grazing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Grazing System and Level of Concentrate Protein Feeding on Milk Production and N Use Efficiency of Dairy Cows on Peat Meadows
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1055; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031055 - 02 Feb 2020
Abstract
The aim of the study was to assess the effect of two contrasting grazing systems, strip-grazing and kurzrasen, at a high stocking rate on herbage intake and milk production and quality on a peat meadow. Additionally, we assessed the effect of the level [...] Read more.
The aim of the study was to assess the effect of two contrasting grazing systems, strip-grazing and kurzrasen, at a high stocking rate on herbage intake and milk production and quality on a peat meadow. Additionally, we assessed the effect of the level of crude protein (CP) fed in concentrate on milk production and N use efficiency. Even at the relatively high stocking rates, cows still achieved substantial fresh grass intake (on average >6 kg dry matter cow−1 day−1) from both systems. Despite the lower level of gross grass production under kurzrasen management, the difference in milk production between kurzrasen and strip-grazing was small and non-significant. Feeding concentrate with a lower CP level, had no negative impact on milk yield, provided that the CP content of the total ration remained above ~150 g kg−1 DM and milk urea content was above ~18 mg 100 g−1 milk. Reducing the CP content in the concentrate significantly increased the N use efficiency, and both were strongly related to the milk urea content. Therefore, optimising the use of milk urea as a management tool on dairy farms, also during the grazing season, could reduce N losses to the environment, while maintaining productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
What Drives Green Fodder Supply in China?—A Nerlovian Analysis with LASSO Variable Selection
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6692; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236692 - 26 Nov 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
To understand key factors that drive China’s green fodder supply, this study estimates a Nerlovian partial-adjustment model, using provincial-level panel data spanning two decades (1997–2016). Based on a set of explanatory variables selected by the LASSO (Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator) method, [...] Read more.
To understand key factors that drive China’s green fodder supply, this study estimates a Nerlovian partial-adjustment model, using provincial-level panel data spanning two decades (1997–2016). Based on a set of explanatory variables selected by the LASSO (Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator) method, estimation of the Nerlovian model by the system-GMM (Generalized Method of Moments) method yields three key findings. First, while farmers’ previous cultivation decisions on green fodder supply strongly predict their current decisions, without the influence of other drivers, China’s green fodder supply tends to decline over time. Second, among the identified drivers, government policy plays the most significant role—the availability of subsidies for cultivation of green fodder crops raises the sown area of green fodder crops by more than 30 percent. In contrast, farmer’s sown-area decision is only modestly responsive to price incentives. Finally, while the stock of fixed capital inputs (e.g., number of combine harvesters) and natural disasters (e.g., floods) both affect green fodder supply, their impacts are small. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Kurzrasen and Strip-Grazing on Grassland Performance and Soil Quality of a Peat Meadow
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6283; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226283 - 08 Nov 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Due to the increased herd size in the Netherlands, there is need to assess the performance of different grazing systems at high stocking densities. The objective of the current experiment was to assess the effect of two extreme grazing systems, kurzrasen (continuous grazing [...] Read more.
Due to the increased herd size in the Netherlands, there is need to assess the performance of different grazing systems at high stocking densities. The objective of the current experiment was to assess the effect of two extreme grazing systems, kurzrasen (continuous grazing at 3–5 cm sward height) and strip-grazing at a high stocking rate, on grass production and quality, grass morphology and sward density, root development and load bearing capacity on peat soil. To this end, a two-year grazing trial with four herds of 15 cows on 2 ha each was conducted. Kurzrasen showed 18% lower herbage dry matter production on average compared to strip-grazing. The yield penalty of using a shorter regrowth period under kurzrasen was limited due to the strong response in grass morphology, resulting in a dense and lamina-rich sward. There was a small decline in root density at 10 cm soil depth, but no evidence of a lower root density at 20 cm soil depth for kurzrasen compared to strip-grazing. Sward density was higher for kurzrasen compared to strip-grazing, which had a positive impact on load bearing capacity. This is an important feature on peat soils, where load bearing capacity is often limited. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Amazing Grazing: A Public and Private Partnership to Stimulate Grazing Practices in Intensive Dairy Systems
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5868; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205868 - 22 Oct 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
In many intensive dairy regions in northwest Europe, a decline in grazing is observed. In the Netherlands, the proportion of dairy cows with access to pasture is declining, as well as the time spent grazing per cow. The decline in grazing is seen [...] Read more.
In many intensive dairy regions in northwest Europe, a decline in grazing is observed. In the Netherlands, the proportion of dairy cows with access to pasture is declining, as well as the time spent grazing per cow. The decline in grazing is seen as an unwanted trend by many stakeholders and is, thus, under debate amongst dairy farmers, the dairy chain, and society. Therefore, a public–private partnership was initiated to encourage grazing by providing farmers with usable means of improving their grazing systems. The partnership involved stakeholders from the dairy farming community, dairy and feed industry, agrotechnical industries, advisory services, and research. The objective of this partnership was to develop and stimulate technological innovations and management measures that increase fresh grass intake at pasture. The innovation network combined an integrated research approach with farmer working groups and broader stakeholder interactive meetings. The project started with a comprehensive grass intake framework, which was the foundation for exploration of innovations. The framework consisted of six interlinked components: soil, grass growth, grass supply, grass intake, feed supplementation, and cow behavior. In a continuous interactive cycle, strategic choices were made to focus on potentially effective innovations. The use of a public–private partnership to develop usable innovations that encourage grazing practices proven to be a good approach to develop a shared vision among stakeholders. It provided a basis to work together toward innovative practices and to disseminate the outcomes to the foreseen users. The approach succeeded in design concepts for two specific innovations, i.e., weekly grass growth predictions and daily fresh grass intake tracking. We demonstrated that meaningful grazing and fresh grass intake are possible in intensive dairy systems with high stocking rates and high levels of supplementary feeding. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Evolution of Grazing Practices in Belgian Dairy Farms: Results of Two Surveys
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 3997; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11153997 - 24 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Numerous publications have highlighted the potential role of grassland in the mitigation of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the agricultural sector. Yet, the preservation of grassland is included in the main objectives of the greening policies of the European Union (EU). To [...] Read more.
Numerous publications have highlighted the potential role of grassland in the mitigation of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the agricultural sector. Yet, the preservation of grassland is included in the main objectives of the greening policies of the European Union (EU). To assess how this greening program has influenced the behaviour and perceptions of the dairy sector, two surveys were foreseen during the project LIFE dairyclim and sent to all the dairy farmers of Wallonia (Belgium) at three-year intervals (2016 – 2019). The answer rates reached 32.6%. Questions concerned four topics: General farm description, grazing practices, perceptions and expectations, and general grassland management. Following the results of these surveys, a large majority of lactating dairy cows grazed in Wallonia (96.5%). The main differences between 2016 and 2019 were the increase in size of the dairy farms in terms of surface (77.2 ha in 2016 to 84.4 ha in 2019) and production, the disappearance of small farms of less than 60 cows, and the progression of the organic sector from 9.3% to 11.7%. Perceptions of farmers on grazing differed following their grazing practices: No-grazing farmers were very sceptical about the advantages of grazing. On the opposite hand, organic farmers were very enthusiastic. Awareness of farmers about the preservation of landscape and the image of the sector for the consumers has increased during the three-year period. The requirements of the dairy industry and authorities were cited as incentives to keep grazing. The expectations of the farmers differed from 2016 to 2019 with a smaller proportion desiring to increase their grazing practices and more, staying stable. These results seem to indicate that the support of farmers and the involvement of authorities and stakeholders could contribute to maintain grazing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Resilience in Mountain Farming in Norway
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3476; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123476 - 25 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The concept of socio-ecological farm resilience is used to understand how farmers manoeuvre in a context of change, what choices and priorities they make, and how that subsequently influences the development of the farming landscape. The author uses farm resilience, the capabilities of [...] Read more.
The concept of socio-ecological farm resilience is used to understand how farmers manoeuvre in a context of change, what choices and priorities they make, and how that subsequently influences the development of the farming landscape. The author uses farm resilience, the capabilities of buffering, adaptation and transformation, and the response of bouncing back or forward as a conceptual frame in a study of farmers in a mountain community in Norway. Interviews were held with selected farmers. The results indicated that the resilience framework is useful in order to understand farmers’ priorities and situations. The author finds that the responses and decisions are in line with all three capabilities as well as with bouncing back and forward. However, most responses were categorized as bouncing back (i.e. adjustments and changes) but the logic of the farm system remained the same. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)

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Open AccessDiscussion
Increasing Grazing in Dairy Cow Milk Production Systems in Europe
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2443; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062443 - 20 Mar 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
In temperate regions of Europe where grass grows for most of the year, grazed pasture is the lowest cost feed for milk production. Grazed pasture can make a contribution to dairy cow feeding systems in other parts of Europe, but is less important. [...] Read more.
In temperate regions of Europe where grass grows for most of the year, grazed pasture is the lowest cost feed for milk production. Grazed pasture can make a contribution to dairy cow feeding systems in other parts of Europe, but is less important. While there are many challenges to maintaining or increasing the proportion of grazed grass in dairy cow diets, there are also opportunities to increase its contribution. Grass use and quality can be challenging for several reasons, including the cow and sward interaction, and factors influencing dry matter intake. Adapting grazing management strategies can provide opportunities for incorporating grazing and perhaps increase grazing in dairy cow milk production systems. Pasture management tools and techniques offer the opportunity to increase herbage use at grazing. While there are many benefits of grazing including economic, environmental, animal welfare and social, there are also the challenges to maintaining grazed pasture in dairy cow diets. The objective of this paper is to present an overview of the challenges and opportunities for grazing in dairy milk production systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Grazing Systems)
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