Integrating links between tree coverage and cattle welfare in silvopastoral systems evaluation

  • Karen F. Mancera
  • Heliot Zarza
  • Lorena López de Buen
  • Apolo Adolfo Carrasco García
  • Felipe Montiel Palacios
  • Francisco Galindo
Research Article


Livestock production in Latin America is strongly associated with deforestation. Silvopastoral systems are an alternative; however, the relation between animal welfare and tree coverage has been poorly studied. We hypothesized that a connection between these features exist and that its evaluation can influence system management decisions. A general assessment of tree coverage percentage and tree distribution in ten Mexican cattle ranches was performed using satellite images. Animal welfare indicators from the Welfare Quality® dairy cattle protocol measurable in extensive conditions were also assessed. Tree coverage percentage was highly variable and formed a gradient (52.42% in Ranch J2 to 2.00% in Ranch S1). The tree coverage percentage of two ranches was deemed as silvopastoral (between 22 and 35%). Body condition was better in ranches with high tree coverage compared to those with low (P < 0.05). The percentage of wooded grassland was negatively correlated with flight distance reductions (P < 0.05). Less integument alterations were present in high tree coverage ranches compared to low (P < 0.05). Our landscape analysis showed the presence of different vegetal compositions in silvopastoral systems of the Mexican tropics. This knowledge can be applied to improve management decisions and promote the use of silvopastoral systems in the area. Additionally, this is the first study proving a relationship between landscape structure and welfare indicators, since body condition and integument alterations were positively affected. Although our results need further research, similar analyses can be implemented to improve cattle well-being in production systems associated to trees. In conclusion, landscape analysis in combination with animal welfare measurements could increase productivity by identifying important links between cattle welfare and the presence of trees, as well as help to identify areas of further research for the implementation of silvopastoral systems in Mexico.


Animal welfare Dairy cattle Flight distance Silvopastoral systems Sustainability Welfare quality 


Funding information

We would like to thank the Welfare Quality WQ® project as well as the Program PAPIIT-UNAM (RV200715) for the funding given to this study.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen F. Mancera
    • 1
  • Heliot Zarza
    • 2
  • Lorena López de Buen
    • 3
  • Apolo Adolfo Carrasco García
    • 3
  • Felipe Montiel Palacios
    • 3
  • Francisco Galindo
    • 1
  1. 1.Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y ZootecniaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad de MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciencias AmbientalesCBS, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Lerma Lerma de VilladaMexico
  3. 3.Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y ZootecniaUniversidad VeracruzanaVeracruzMexico

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