Atlantic Canadian Pasture Research Group

The Atlantic Canadian Pasture Research Group is an informal association of scientists in the Atlantic region with an interest in conducting research related to grazing animals and pastures.

The purpose of the association is to

  • coordinate pasture research efforts,
  • encourage a more integrated approach to pasture research,
  • and to provide a venue for sourcing and exchanging pasture research information in the region.

The group meets at least twice yearly, and members cooperate on research funding proposals and research projects. The group is currently engaged in a five-year interdisciplinary study on biodiversity and multi-functionality of pasture for dairy cattle production.

Funding for the Atlantic Canadian Pasture Research Center is provided by

  • The Canadian Foundation for Innovation
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
  • The Canada/Nova Scotia COOPERATION Agreement on Economic Diversification
  • Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association
  • ElectroBraid Fencing Limited

Pasture research infrastructure

Research pastures and facilities have been established at the Faculty of Agriculture (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College) in Truro and the Nappan Research Farm. In addition, research is being conducted on a number of Nova Scotia farms that employ management intensive grazing.

With the assistance of the Canadian Foundation of Innovation and other partners listed above, the Atlantic Pasture Research Centre was established at the Faculty of Agriculture. The pasture-land base on the Agricultural Campus is 25 hectares. Dairy, beef and sheep handling facilities (fencing, corrals, weigh scales, watering systems) and laneways for accessing new pastures have been developed at both the Boulden and Brookside properties to permit multi-species grazing (sheep, cattle, and poultry). Hedges and herbal pharmacies are being incorporated into the pasture design.

New laboratory facilities for sorting, drying, grinding, and analyzing forage and feed samples, as well as for conducting in vivo and lab-based analysis of feeds, have been installed to improve the scope of the research.

Chewing harnesses, data loggers and high-resolution video equipment for monitoring animal behaviour and spatial movement have been acquired, and computer capacity with video interface and software for analysis and digitization have been developed.

The Nappan Research Station

Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC) supports a significant pasture and research infrastructure at Nappan. Individual research projects are funded from various sources, including AAFC, Agri-Focus (NS), Agri-Futures, through the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development (CARD) program, and the New Brunswick Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries (NBDAF).

Pastures include 75 hectares of grazing land, all fenced with electric wire, subdivided for grazing management, with water piped in. Good handling facilities are available for all pastures, with holding areas, crowd gates, and working chutes. Most land is native pasture, some on dyke-land. The pastures normally support 80 beef cow/calf pairs, 60 finishing cattle, and 25 to 30 heifers.

Researchers have access to rising plate meters for estimating pasture biomass, laboratory support for full nutritional and botanical analysis of samples, and support via AAFC collaborators for fatty acid analysis (meat nutritional value), and alkane analysis (for estimating forage intake and digestibility using alkane markers).

Importance of pasture ecosystems

Dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep are ruminants well suited to grazing in the Atlantic farming communities. Only a fraction of potential pastureland, however, is actually grazed; most farmers harvest forages mechanically.

Strict new environmental laws and changing consumer preferences, however, combined with declining levels of government subsidy and increased global competition, are prompting new interest in the value of pasture. Pasture-based production capability is a cornerstone of sustainable economic growth in the ruminant-based industries, which contribute greatly to the economy. Pastures permit a high degree of self-sufficiency by reducing the need for fertilizers and fuel eliminating the need for pesticides. Pasture also plays an important role in defining landscape quality and adding biodiversity.

Researchers

  • Dr. Sina Adl - Soil biology, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax
  • Dr. Tessema Astatkie - Statistician, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS
  • Dr. Thomas Bouman - Plant and soil ecology, Cape Breton University, Sydney
  • Dr. David Burton - Soil microbiology and greenhouse gas emissions, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS
  • Dr. Cathy Conrad - Biologist, Saint Mary's University, Halifax
  • John Duynisveld - Beef production, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Nappan
  • Sean Firth - Ruminant animal production, Agrapoint International Inc., Kentville
  • Dr. Alan Fredeen - Sustainable dairy systems and ruminant nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS
  • Dr. Alex Georgallas - Biophysics, agricultural modeling, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS
  • Dr. Ralph Martin - Sustainable and organic agriculture, forage agronomy; director of the Organic Agriculture Center of Canada
  • Dr. David McCorquodale - Entomologist, Cape Breton University, Sydney