We discussed in an earlier post our plans to plant new hedgerows and a shelter belt of trees.
There are a wide variety of benefits planting hedgerows and trees to us on the croft; to the animals; and to the wider environment. The most well-know is probably the benefits that trees can have for carbon capture and the sequestering of CO2 from the atmosphere. A broad-leafed tree will capture approximately one tonne of carbon dioxide over a lifespan of about 100 years. We therefore work on four or five trees sequestering a tonne of carbon dioxide over a period of 20-25 years.
Planting trees and hedges also increases the area of habitat available to wildlife such as birds. Tress can also be planted on areas to poor to support stock, and can be planted with consideration to alleviate the loos of substantial grazing. There are a lot of other very beneficial reasons to plant more trees, which we are going to discuss here.
Reducing exposure to extremes of weather, both cold winds and extreme heat, can help improve the general health and welfare of livestock through improved nutrition, reduced stress and improved immune function. Hedgerows and tree shelter belts can also improve animal welfare and productivity by providing an alternative source of browse
Strategically sited tree belts can have significantly improve field drainage. Water infiltration rates can be improved and by increasing soil permeability and water-storing capacity, planting trees can reduce runoff, poaching and consequent damage to the grass sward. Such improvements also contribute to preventing health issues such as liver fluke and lameness. Tree shelter belts and wide hedges that increase water infiltration in to the soil, reduce surface water and the wet conditions that favour the snails which act as host for the Liver Fluke parasite. Many causes of lameness are increased by damp conditions that soften the hoof and cleft between it and make it more susceptible to infections.
Benefits for Lambing
Good shelter is recognised as important for successful outdoor lambing and for young lamb survival. Exposure to cold is one of the biggest causes of loss of lambs – around a third of lamb deaths are due to exposure and starvation. Sheltered, well drained fields provide the best physical conditions for lambing and good mothering. By creating the right conditions for ewes and young lambs, lamb mortality can be reduced.
Studies have shown that lamb losses can be reduced by up to 30% if good shelter is provided. Adequate shelter is most important for twin and triplet lambs due to their relatively lower birth weight and higher susceptibility to cold, wet and windy conditions.
Shelter belts can promote natural behaviours of ewes and they can provide opportunities for ewes to isolate themselves during lambing. Isolation increases the chances of early development of a strong bond between the ewe and her lambs,
Shade and Shelter
Trees and hedges provide a good source of shelter for the sheep all year round. During the summer the trees provide shade from the sun and during winter months sheep are able to shelter from the elements, protecting them from exposure and wind chill.
This means the sheep can put more energy into lamb production, rather than into keeping warm. Using shrubs to provide good cover down to ground level and gives a dense base to tree shelter belts ensuring that enough low level cover to protect the sheep.
Increased Grass Growth
Shelter belts reduce wind speeds and this reduces the evaporation of water from the grass. In dry weather, particularly in spring and summer, this can be an important factor in continuing grass growth. The shelter also has the effect of increasing soil temperature in the early spring and late autumn, extending the growing season for grass so animals can be left out longer and put out to pasture earlier.
Well considered planting of trees and hedges protects and enhances valuable natural resources by helping to absorb water and air pollution, and prevent soil erosion and flooding, while creating wildlife habitats and improving landscape character. Such schemes can improve soil quality by protecting soils from erosion by wind and water. Trees with long root structures anchors soils while increasing soil organic matter in the form of decomposing leaf litter.
Hedgerows and Biosecurity
Tree belts or thick hedges around the boundary of the croft can reduce the possibility of direct contact and spread of disease with neighbouring flocks and herds.
A lot of information used is this post was obtained from the Agricology Website.
More details on Agroforestry can be found in the Agroforestry Handbook.