Meadow up a tree: Feeding flocks with a native ash tree in the Moroccan mountains

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Abstract

The pastoral interest in Fraxinus dimorpha foliage from the High Atlas of Morocco was assessed both in terms of its role with regard to the feeding of small ruminant flocks and for its nutritive value. Observation, measurements, and interviews with 57 households revealed that ash trees are regularly pollarded, following very precise four-year cycles, during late August to November. Native ash tree stands are subject to characteristic shaping, which enables a continuous capability to provide fodder, and gives rise to characteristic sylvo-pastoral landscapes. A digestion trial was conducted in goats and sheep. Five two-year-old rams (19.5 ± 1 kg) and five two-year-old uncastrated bucks (22.2 ± 1.7 kg) were placed in individual metabolism cages over 18 days, and fed fresh ash tree leaves with a light dietary supplementation. The apparent digestibility coefficients between goats and sheep did not differ significantly for dry matter (69.5% versus 67.5%, respectively), organic matter (70.5% vs 68.3%), and Neutral Detergent Fibre (53.8% vs 52.3%), in contrast to crude protein (54.2% vs 45.3%, p < 0.001) and Acid Detergent Lignin (29.7 vs 26.4, p < 0.05). Due to a higher intake relative to metabolic weight (57.1 vs 47.7 gDM/kgBW0.75), goats valorize this type of forage better than sheep. It is concluded that ash tree foliage presents considerable nutritive interest in autumn when overall range forage is scarce and lacking in quality, and, hence, constitutes a useful forage resource for feeding the small ruminant flocks found in these low-input mountain livestock farming systems. Associated traditional management practices were revealed to be both technically and ecologically efficient, and should be better taken into account by policy-makers.

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Genin, D., Crochot, C., MSou, S., Araba, A., & Alifriqui, M. (2016). Meadow up a tree: Feeding flocks with a native ash tree in the Moroccan mountains. Pastoralism, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13570-016-0058-9

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