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Grasslands and pastures are at the core of herbivorous farming. Swiss government encourages milk and meat production based on grasslands. A number of issues affect the management of pastures and constitution of forage stocks for the winter.
Good management of pasturelands presupposes a balance between the availability of the grass and its consumption by the livestock. Climatic risks and the significant effects of seasonality on the growth of the grass, requires quick responses in the way the land is farmed. Consumption by the livestock in terms of both quantity and quality is moreover difficult to estimate.
In mountainous areas, the costs of production are higher and the working conditions are often difficult. Good pasture management and the selection of suitable livestock are the important elements for the valorisation of the pastoral resources. The proportion of requests for technical advice in the western part of Switzerland and in neighbouring France is rapidly increasing (sowing and renovation, grazing systems, strategies for dealing with droughts etc.). Our group occupies an ideal situation in the Jura Mountains that is typical of the region, close to our research partners (PNRJV, EPFL and HEPIA).
Taking into account the difficulties in adapting farming practices to both the natural conditions and to the market, the overall objectives of the project are to ensure the best growth and development of grass and an improvement in the understanding of the functioning of pasturelands.
1. Grassland observatory
To characterise grassland production, particularly in pasturelands (phytosociology, phenology, production of DM, and the quality and potential of animal production) on a network of plots chosen at various altitudes in the Jura. To test models for forecasting the growth of the grass. To provide updated seasonal information on the growth of the grass.
2. Forage strategy and the importance of water
To determine the influence of the availability of water on forage production.
2a. To supply references related to the choice of a feeding strategy in areas of field crops (crops in a rotation versus "full grass").
2b. To evaluate the consequences of drought on the agronomic, functional and botanical characteristics on mountain pastures and to then develop a model on a regional level for forecasting forage resources.
3. Grass-legumes mixtures
To maintain an up to date list of standard mixtures to support ART activities. In particular, to develop alfalfa grass mixtures and mixtures for grazing that have a duration of more than five years.
4. Mixed grazing
To finalise and disseminate the findings resulting from the three years of trials of "mixed pasture" and to ensure the transfer of knowledge (courses, events and scientific articles and practices).
5. Fattening cattle on pasture
To study the characteristics and the growth rates of grass in fields occupied by fattening cattle, that are subject to different methods of treatment (full grass versus grass + fattening diet). The focus is on evaluating the efficiency of the different production systems, with a particular emphasis on the growth and development of the grass and to make recommendations for those involved in the management of the pastureland.
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