The University of Arizona

Increasing Shrub Use by Livestock in a World with Less Grass

R. E. Estell, K. M. Havstad, A. F. Cibils, E. L. Fredrickson, D. M. Anderson, T. S. Schrader, D. K. James


Much of the world’s rangeland is dominated by woody species. Competing land uses and continued encroachment of woody species into non–woody-dominated rangelands have reduced grasslands in many parts of the world. Land use conversions to fuel and feed global populations, especially the increasing number of middle class people seeking broader, meat-based diets, will certainly continue. Halting and/or reversing further encroachment of woody species into grasslands is slow, expensive, and in some cases not possible. Yet, global livestock numbers continue to increase to meet the growing demand for red meat and other livestock products. How do we reconcile a world with less grass and the concurrent increased demand for forages to feed livestock? Strategies and mechanisms are needed to safely enhance shrub use by ruminants in order to capitalize on a presently underutilized forage resource. A number of approaches are presently available (e.g., choosing appropriate species and breeds, providing dietary supplements and additives, behavior modification, genetic selection) to increase shrub consumption, and new technologies such as biochemical markers of shrub intake need to continue to be identified and developed. Such strategies could
provide important means for rural communities to adapt to changing land cover and climate.

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