Main research question
In the Pasture Protection project, we are determining which tree species and shrub plantings are most adequate as shelter for animals kept outdoors, and which, in addition to having a good effect on animal welfare, also score in terms of forage value, wind resistance and exposure to soil compaction. We are looking at both green screens for cattle, sheep and horses on pasture. Weidescherm is carried out by BOS+, ILVO and the Soil Science Service on behalf of Animal Welfare Flanders.
We collect data through two methods: literature analysis and expert input and consultation with farmers. We find out what effect extreme weather conditions have on animal welfare, and what the species' preferences are in terms of shelter, microclimate or feed value. In each case we evaluate which tree and shrub species are less suitable or even toxic. The tolerance of trees to strong exposure to wind or trampling of the roots is also considered. We make an inventory of relevant legislation and subsidy possibilities.
We aim for clear and usable communication products based on these research results: Practical information sheets are published on the construction and management of various types of natural shelter (wood edges, hedges, orchards, etc.). By means of an attractive brochure and five provincial interactive information moments, we provide for a widespread dissemination of the knowledge gained within the project. Finally, we are creating a new user-friendly digital module for the decision support system 'Agroforestry Planner', specifically aimed at supporting farmers in making an appropriate choice of tree species based on plot and farm type. The relevance of this project is clear: A growing part of the population pays attention to animal welfare and feels that a natural environment is part of this. The second observation is that our climate is becoming more extreme, with specifically for Flanders more and longer periods of drought and heat.