Grasslands are unique components of agroecosystems. Grazed pastures display multiple roles that can benefit the sustainability of ruminant-based agriculture, such as, lower feeding costs, higher animal welfare and lower occurrence of lameness and mastitis, good public image and increased milk quality. Pastures can play a significant role in trapping atmospheric CO2 through soil C storage. In addition, grasslands provide many social and environmental services. Hence, our goal in IPAN is to strengthen the role of grazing as a key element of ruminant husbandry.
Grazing is a multiscale process, heterogeneous in space and time, involving a combination of one-time confined choices to perform bites on specific feeding stations to large movements of the animals across the whole pasture over meals, days and months. In IPAN, we developed precision tools to analyze this process, such as rtk-GPS and activity sensors to monitor the grazing animals and drone-based imaging to analyze at a high spatial and temporal resolution the interactions between the grazed vegetation and the gazing animals. Such technological advances open the doors to novel grazing methods that valorize heterogeneity in the grazed vegetation and inter-individual difference in the animals as opportunities for more a sustainable management of grasslands. Innovative pasture management can indeed be proposed to farmers to confer increased stability in their pasture primary (plant) and secondary (animals) productivity. Based on the principles of agroecology which aim to take advantage of (i) diversity, i.e. heterogeneity, in biotic components and the (ii) maximization of ecological (e.g. predator/plant–prey/ruminant) interactions to maintain the metabolic, immune, and production functions of the pasture, the research we conduct in IPAN on grazing management aim to lay the scientific bases for a redesign of intensively managed temperate pastures where “natural” stability would be maximized.