Milk and pastures at the frontier: The case of the Peruvian forest margins
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Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/43856
The use of tropical grass legume mixtures containing the grasses Brachiaria decumbens or Andropogon gayanus associated with a mixture of several herbaceous legumes was tested on farms in the rainforest area of Pucallpa, Peru. Pastures were established by farmers using manual labour and without fertilizer in previously deforested areas covered with secondary growth. The pastures, together with their grass-alone control, were incorporated by farmers into the normal paddock rotation, and were grazed by dual-purpose cattle of mixed breeding. Cows were milked once daily by hand and with their calves at foot. Following a training period, farmers kept records of milk yields. Frequent and unannounced visits at milking time by the research team were used to verify milk yields and to annotate events such as calving, drying out, sales and others. Across farms and years, grass legume mixtures significantly outyielded grass-alone pastures by 9%. Milk yields on the mixed pastures were examined further by stepwise regression. A positive and significant effect of the proportion of crossbred cows in the herd was established, whereas soil quality (evaluated by the percentage of aluminium saturation) had a negative impact on milk yields. Two of the farms, which for different circumstances had poorer than average animal and pasture management, also had a significantly negative effect on milk yield. The interactions between animal and pasture management, and regional infrastructure are discussed. It is concluded that grass legume mixtures increased milk yields on farms. Nevertheless, it is also hypothesized that they may have a more restricted niche than anticipated and that their adoption may be highly sensitive to the overall economic context of the region.