Sarawak, which is free from the incidence of foot and mouth diseases, is embarking in livestock-oil palm integration as a strategy to increase local livestock production. The abundance of undergrowth in oil palm plantation offers a free source of forage for livestock integration. It has been reported that the nutritive value of these forages is comparable to some improved pasture grasses.
However, the compositions of the undergrowth in oil palm plantation is dependant on various interacting environmental factors, especially the limits on light penetrating the ground as oil palm matures due to the canopy closure. There is little information on the quantity of vegetations and composition of undergrowth species in Sarawak oil palm plantation. Hence, a study was conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, University Malaysia Sarawak at a mature oil palm plantation (13 years old oil palm trees) in Sarawak to identify the major undergrowth species and determined the quantity of vegetations at different intervals after the grazing activities.
Random sampling was conducted in selected blocks and the selection of blocks was based on post-grazing intervals (current, 1 month, 3 month and 5 month post-grazing interval). Six botanical groups were found in the oil palm plantation, namely grasses, broadleaved plants, legumes, sedges, ferns and palms. Grasses had the largest population in the oil palm plantation ecosystem. The observation of undergrowth in oil palm plantation indicates that most of the species are suitable for livestock production though selective weeding may be necessary for non-edible ones.
The finding of the study showed that shade tolerant plant species tend to dominate the ecosystem in mature oil palm plantation as the canopy close. The emergence of these shade tolerant species in mature oil palm plantation is important as they ensure continuous supply of forages for livestock production.
The Sarawak oil palm industry will continue to expand and livestock-oil palm integration system is emphasised in the 3rd National Agriculture Policy (NAP3, 1998-2010) as a holistic approach to maximise land use and increase farm income. But there are concerns regarding to the effects of soil compaction due to animal trampling and of increase complexity in management practices. The problem here is that there is not much research conducted in Sarawak to demonstrate the benefits of livestock integration on the soil, crop and livestock productivity. Thus, there are urgent needs to continue to explore the potential of this system in the areas where livestock integration has started.
ABOUT UNIVERSITI MALAYSIA SARAWAK (UNIMAS)
UNIMAS was established in 1992. The University's mission is to generate, disseminate and apply knowledge strategically and innovatively to enhance the quality of the nation’s culture and prosperity of its people. The knowledge creation initiatives at UNIMAS are premised partly upon the wealth of natural resources and diverse socio-cultural make up of the State of Sarawak. UNIMAS commitment to research has already been recognized by the stakeholders and partners in industry through provision of endowments for the establishment of eight research chairs; these include the Tun Zaidi Chair for Medicinal Chemistry, the Tun Openg Chair for Sago Technology, the Shell Chair for Environmental Studies, and the Sapura Chair for ICT.
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