Research project Weidescherm

sheep in the shade

Project description

The project Weidescherm includes the assignment ‘Determining adequate planting as shelter for animals that are kept outside’. A growing part of the population pays attention to animal welfare and believes that a natural living environment is part of this. In addition, our climate is becoming more extreme. Specifically for Flanders, more and longer periods of drought and heat are expected. Commissioned by the Dierwelzijn Vlaanderen, BOS+ and ILVO investigate how to guarantee the welfare of cattle, sheep and horses in the paddock.

The first work package of the project investigates the effect of extreme weather conditions on the welfare of outdoor animals, what preferences they have in terms of shelter, microclimate or feed value and also identifies which tree and shrub species are less suitable or even poisonous. Since not all trees tolerate every location equally well (e.g. by wind or treading), we also include this aspect in the investigation. In addition, we also summarize the relevant legislation and subsidy options. Finally, based on field visits to ten applicators, we examine how reality is experienced and what the advantages, disadvantages and any bottlenecks or needs are.

In the second work package we formulate practical sheets with information on the construction and management of different types of natural shelter (wood edges, hedges, orchards, etc.). In the third work package we build a new user-friendly module for the ‘Agroforestry Planner’, specifically aimed at supporting farmers in making a suitable choice of tree species based on plot and farm type. This work package uses input from the first two work packages. The Pedological Service of Belgium is responsible for the technical development of this new software module.

The knowledge gathered in this project will be disseminated widely using an appealing brochure and five provincial interactive information moments.