Virginia – SARE Southern

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Hannah Stevens

Silvopasture Systems Help Reduce Heat Stress in Livestock

According to research by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Graduate Student Grant, silvopasture (the integration and maintenance of livestock and trees) can increase animal welfare and reduce stress from long exposure to high temperatures.

Sanjok Poudel, a Virginia Tech University graduate student, and John Fike, an agroforestry specialist used cortisol biomarkers to determine stress levels in Katahdin sheep raised in silvopasture systems with honey locust and black walnut silvopasture and open-range pastures. The researchers found that open-range pasture ewes had higher body temperatures (0.9-1.8% hotter than silvopasture animals).

Open pasture ewes spent more time sitting or lounging than silvopasture ewes, which indicates that they were trying to reduce heat stress. An animal’s behavior and health can be affected by prolonged heat stress.

Researchers also discovered that cortisol levels could be measured using hair samples, rather than blood samples. This was an easier way to measure stress in animals. The collection of hair samples is much less difficult than collecting blood samples. Blood samples require restraint, and can lead to an increase in animal stress. Because it is not affected by handling or restraint of animals during sampling, hair cortisol can reflect long-term stress levels in animals.

SARE in Virginia

Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education is a program that promotes professional development. It is sponsored by the Southern Region SARE and coordinated by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. Our collective efforts are to provide a professional development program that improves the state’s environmental, social and economic sustainability. We focus on the most pressing issues in the state, including soil health and the regional food system. Over $4 million has been awarded to Virginia’s Extension faculty, researchers, producers, and community groups for 83 projects. These projects use science-based techniques to increase on-farm sustainability and produce sales.

You can also read more about Farm Certifications – SARE Southern.

Virginia Impacts

  • $6.4 million in funding since 1988
  • 132 projects funded since 1988

You can also read about the U.S. Virgin Islands – SARE Southern and the Alabama – SARE Southern.

Professional Development Program

In each state, agricultural educators work directly alongside farmers and ranchers to promote sustainable agriculture production and marketing. SARE state agricultural coordinators offer support in sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies through a program called “The Professional Development Program” (PDP).

Fellows Program

The Sustainable Agriculture Fellows Program is offered by SARE and NACAA. It enhances Cooperative Extension staff’s knowledge of sustainable agriculture and gives them broad-based national exposure to unique and successful sustainable agriculture programs.

State Contacts

SARE State Coordinators play a vital role in expanding sustainable agriculture training for Extension, NRCS and other agricultural professionals. This will help producers transition to a more sustainable farming system.

Eric Bendfeldt

Extension Specialist, Community Viability
Virginia Tech

Email | (540) 432-6029 Ext: 106

Chris Mullins

Extension Specialist, Greenhouse
Virginia State University

Email | (804) 524-5834

You can see more Farm Grants for Females elsewhere on this website.