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Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science

Print version ISSN 0864-0408On-line version ISSN 2079-3480

Cuban J. Agric. Sci. vol.50 no.1 Mayabeque Jan.-Mar. 2016


Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science, 50(1): 51-59, 2016, ISSN: 2079-3480




Performance of replacement Cuban Charolais females in a silvopastoral system compared to a monoculture


Comportamiento de hembras de reemplazo Charolais de Cuba en un sistema silvopastoril con respecto a un monocultivo



Ana M. Vega,I R. S. Herrera,II Verena Torres,II L. Lamela,III I. Montejo,III A. Santana,I Delia M. Cino,II

IUniversidad de Granma, Apartado Postal 21, Bayamo, Granma. C.P. 85 100.
IIInstituto de Ciencia Animal, Apartado Postal 24, San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque.
IIIEstación Experimental de Pastos y Forrajes “Indio Hatuey”, España Republicana, Perico, Matanzas.




The productive performance of growing females of the Cuban Charolais breed under a silvopastoral system with Leucaena leucocephala cv. Peru, in a 3 x 5 sowing frame, associated with an improved grass (Cynodon nlemfuensis) was studied compared to a monoculture. The experiment was conducted at the Empresa de Genética y Cría “Manuel Fajardo”, Granma province, Cuba.  Thirty animals per cycle were used and the experiment lasted three years.  Data were processed through a multivariate analysis and measurement of the impact index.  The best live weights gains with 0.55 kg.animal.d-1 and age at incorporation to reproduction of the females of 19 months of age were obtained in the leucaena silvopastoral system.  The best gain and the lowest cost per animals were recorded in the silvopastoral system.  It is recommended using this leucaena sowing density for maintaining favorable total pasture productions, live weight gains and adequate weight for age relationship at the incorporation in rearing systems of replacement Cuban Charolais growing females.

Key words: Charolais, age at incorporation, live weight gain, silvopastoral system, monoculture.


Se estudió el comportamiento productivo de hembras en crecimiento de la raza Charolais de Cuba en silvopastoreo con Leucaena leucocephala vc. Perú, en marco de siembra 3 x 5, asociada a gramínea mejorada (Cynodon nlemfuensis), con respecto a un monocultivo. La investigación se realizó en la Empresa de Genética y Cría “Manuel Fajardo”, Granma, Cuba. Se utilizaron 30 animales por ciclo y el experimento duró tres años. La información se procesó mediante análisis multivariado y medición del índice de impacto. Las mejores ganancias de peso vivo, con 0.55 kg.animal.d-1 y edad de incorporación a la reproducción de las hembras de 19 meses se obtuvieron en el silvopastoreo con leucaena. La mayor ganancia y el menor costo por animal se registraron en el silvopastoreo. Se recomienda utilizar esta densidad de siembra de leucaena para sostener favorables producciones totales de pasto, ganancias de peso vivo y adecuada relación de peso por edad a la incorporación en sistemas de crianza de hembras bovinas en crecimiento Charolais de Cuba, destinadas al reemplazo.

Palabras clave: Charolais, edad de incorporación, ganancia de peso, silvopastoreo, monocultivo.




The bovine breed Charolais is multipurpose (meat, milk and work), very useful for crossings in view of its capacity for adaptation, precocity, rusticity, robustness and tendency to gain weight at any age, traits which are determined by its effectiveness in the use of nutrients, excellent feed conversion, reproductive efficacy, maternal ability and efficient assimilation of great variety of forage and native flora of poor nutritional content (Díaz 2008 y Vega et al. 2013).

Data from the Empresa de Genética y Cría “Manuel Fajardo” in Granma province, Cuba indicate that under the present production conditions, live weight gains of the Charolais do not surpass 200 g.animal-1 and ages at incorporation are superior to 20 months.  Therefore, the need of the integrated evaluation with growing Charolais females in grass-legume grazing systems due to the advantages presented by the inclusion of legume trees for the efficient and friendly with the environment livestock exploitation, implicating improvements in the weight for age relationship at incorporation, in the replacement index and in the better use of the beneficial life of the females besides guaranteeing the needed animals for the growth of the cattle mass.

The objective of this paper was to study the productive performance of replacement Cuban Charolais females under a silvopastoral system with Leucaena leucocephala-Cynodon nlemfuensis and Cynodon nlemfuensis grazing.



The study was carried out for three years at the “San José del Retiro” farm belonging to the Empresa de Genética y Cría “Manuel Fajardo” in Jiguaní municipality, Granma province, Cuba, located at 115 m a.s.l. in a brown soil with carbonates (Hernández et al. 2015) and slightly flat relief.

The annual mean temperature was of 25.4ºC with means of 23.9 ºC and 26.8 ºC in the dry and rainy periods, respectively.  Throughout the experiment the annual mean rainfall was of 939 mm, 225.7 mm corresponded to the dry period.  Relative humidity was of 81.7 % with values of 81 and 82 % in the dry and rainy periods, respectively.

Two treatments were established: Leucaena leucocephala-Cynodon nlemfuensis silvopastoral system and Cynodon nlemfuensis monoculture. The total area was of 26.40 ha distributed in 24 paddocks of similar size, 12 for each treatment. Thirty Cuban Charolais were used, 15 animals per treatment. The experiment was replicated during two successive grazing cycles for three years, for a total of 60 animals.

Females were grouped in homogenous lots according to live weight (168 kg in cycle 1 and 155 in cycle II) and 8 months of age in both cycles.  Animals had free access to mineral salt, grazed 14 h daily and were maintained in a corral during the night with water, but without feeds.  A stocking rate of 1.10 animals.ha-1 was used with resting times of 77 and 110 d per paddock in the rainy and dry periods, respectively.  No fertilization or irrigation was applied.

Life weight was established by weighing all animals on fast every 28 d for calculating average daily gain (ADG) and accumulated in the period, length of the stage until the incorporation and age at the start of  incorporation (Preston and Willis 1970) and biomass availability, according to Martínez et al. (1990). In addition, data on rainfall, temperature and evaporation were taken from the meteorological station of the Instituto de Recursos Hidráulicos of the municipality of Jiguaní, Granma.

For the economic analysis of the growing cattle rearing (females), a herd of 120 animals was taken as scale, simulating a productive herd with a stocking rate of 1.10 animal.ha-1. Primary data were the starting point for assessing the two productive alternatives. Index cards were prepared of the cost.treatment-1 and the fixed expenses were considered (depreciation of pastures, equipments and facilities) and the variables (feeding, salaries and veterinary expenses, among others), involved in the rearing process of the growing cattle, according the price list of 2012 (Consejo de Ministros 2015). The methodology for the determination of the impact index (MEMI), developed by Torres et al. (2007) was applied for the statistical analysis.



The analysis of the main component (MC) evidenced the presence of four components with eigenvalues higher than the unit accounting for 82.22 % of the variability in the systems. MC1 was designated as animal component, since it represented the weight and weight gains. MC2 was assigned to the feed-age, because it consisted of the availability and age at incorporation.  MC3, climate, it was constituted by the temperature and rainfall.  MC4 was represented as initial age since it included that variable (table 1).

In MC1, gains per animal and weight were the variables with important preponderance factors, accounting for 33.83 % of the variability of the systems. This indicated its importance in technologies relating the female Charolais incorporation.

The MC2 feed-age showed a positive relationship for the availability and an inverse relationship for the age at  incorporation of the Charolais female:  This accounted for 18.72 % of the variability and the relationship between feed availability and age at incorporation of the female: greater availability will decrease age at  incorporation and vice versa.  Also, together to MC1 this relationship contributed to account for 52.56 % of the variability.

MC3 climate, rainfall and temperature outstood as of highest preponderance in a direct relationship and accounted for 15.81 % of the variability.  The magnitude of these variables is determined by its influence on biomass availability and animal welfare.

The fourth component, age at starting, accounted for 13.86 % of the variability, linked to the growth processes of the animals which are determined by the performance of the variables integrating the above described components.

Regarding the animal impact, the most represented variables were weight gain (kg.animal-1 and kg.animal-1d-1) and weight that attained values of 0.93, 0.92 and 0.67, respectively. The introduction of the silvopastoral system only reached values lower to zero (figure 1) from April to July, period coinciding with the lack of water supply in cyle 1 (silvopastoral system and monoculture).  However, it must be highlighted that the highest impact indexes obtained coincide with the rainy period and beginning of the dry in both cycles of the introduction of the technology.

The monoculture presented variables with similar situation in the weight and gains, although it was not superior to the cycles of the silvopastoral system.  The highest values were obtained in both cycles in the silvopastoral system agreeing with the highest feed availability.

In spite of the above mentioned, weight gains increased favoring the silvopastoral system in both cycles and highest values were found where the tree was present. However, the high temperature during the rainy and part of the dry periods probably influenced on these results, considering that consumption and animal welfare could have been affected to a lesser extent, in the silvopastoral system compared to the monoculture of improved pasture (Álvarez and Milera 2014).

The water stress could have also affected the weight gain results, since water is a vital element, and in very few opportunities its importance is considered.  By its nature this resource is one of the most important for the development and success of the productive processes, since it fulfills fundamental physiological functions in the animal’s organism.  Depending from the type of feed, the objective of production and the climate, water consumption varies, although it can be considered that is equal to 10 % of live weight.  It is known that for the heifer category is 38 L.animal-1.d-1 (García 2011). Hence, the lack of water can explain the negative values during the assessment, which were higher in cycle 1 of the silvopastoral system, due to the higher bromatological composition of the diet by the presence of leucaena.

If considered that animals could have been submitted to a certain lack of water, the analysis carried out demonstrated the impact that this could have had on live weight and gains, in both cycles, with the different treatments. However, it would be imperative to realize future experiments in which it would be possible determining, under these same conditions, the effect of the lack of water on the studied indicators.

Figure 2 shows the effect of the feed and age at  incorporation. These latter performed above zero only when the silvopastoral technique was introduced, even in the dry period, due to the fact that feed availability was increased with the legume inclusion that improved the quality of the diet.  Nonetheless, in both cycles, animals grazed in the monoculture and only October occupied a value of 0.09.  The rest of the months showed negative values.  In the same way performed age at  incorporation in both treatments. This demonstrated that feeding has impact on age at incorporation to reproduction of the replacement female, since on existing higher availability and quality of the feed, ages at incorporation could decrease or vice versa, as evidenced in the evaluation of the Charolais replacement females (Iglesias et al. 2012).

In animals of the cycles corresponding to monoculture, which consumed only pastures and mineral salts, the first only contributed with 8 to 8.7 % of protein.  These animals did not receive the benefits of the legume trees that contribute to the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen what justify values attained (Murgueito 2011 and Fernández et al. 2014).

The agronomic-productive performance in the areas evolved with the stability in the time and attained high biomass production in the cycles represented by the silvopastoral technology (Uribe et al. 2011), which was of special importance, since it was attained under totally natural conditions, without the application of any type of fertilizer or irrigation.  Probably, this biomass production in the system did not limit animal consumption however this did not occur in the monoculture where the yield in the dry period was low, less than 20 % of its annual yield.

The climatic variables that were represented by rainfall, temperature and evaporation, in both cycles, demonstrated their effect on the rainy period as in the dry, although the evaporation had lower significance (figure 3).  Rainfall occurrence propitiated higher feed availability (biomass). Especially in the case of the silvopastoral system, it also increased the protein contents and digestibility of the grass and the legume (Molina et al. 2009).

The highest feed availability in the rainy period regarding the dry which marks the seasonal nature of the biomass production is related to the age at  incorporation and weight, according to Milera et al. (2012). However, the genotype used in this study is expressed in animals which are high feed converters, which allows obtaining higher weight, especially in the silvopastoral system compared to the monoculture, in spite of being both under similar climatic conditions during the experimental period.  Animal incorporated to the silvopastoral technology could not be exposed, in a direct form, to the high temperatures of the evaluated period, due to the shade projected by the trees. This supplied a favorable environment, greater welfare and stress decrease, allowing higher intake (Álvarez and Milera 2014), since shade is one of the mildness offered by trees in the cattle productive systems.

In this region during the greatest part of the year, and in some hours of the day, the climatic conditions are adverse for the implantation of cattle systems with specialized breeds where the presence of trees is not included. The indices of temperature and relative humidity, for example, exhibit extreme values throughout almost all the year and influence on the reproductive performance of the breeds. This was demonstrated by Benítez et al. (2009) who indicated that the Charolais breed had better performance than the Zebu and the Criolla.

As last impact variable in the silvopastoral technology, the initial age coincides with weaning of the Charolais females. Animals weaned at nine months, approximately attained positive values in both treatments, which were higher where trees were incorporated demonstrating the impact at the animals in this stage (figure 4).  This variable, although was the last regarding to its impact was determinant in the age to  incorporation, gain and weight of the animals, since it was demonstrated that when the requirements of the animals are covered, better productive indicators can be attained (Iglesias et al. 2012). It is necessary to restate that with the introduction of the silvopastoral technology, daily gains and weight were higher and, thus, age at  incorporation was optimized.

Cost index cards of these systems are shown in table 2 and were prepared based on a herd of 120 animals. The comparative analysis of cycles I and II of the introduction of the silvopastoral technology indicated increase in the total incomes, as consequence of the weight gain increase.  In cycle I, as in II, economic incomes improved by 5.6 %, which was favorable.

In both treatments satisfactory economic indicators were registered.  However, they were more favorable for females in the silvopastoral system, with live weight and produced weight and higher benefit/cost relationship.  In the silvopastoral treatment the importance of decreasing the duration of the rearing stage was verified, since in cycle II only 273 d were invested, regarding the 366 d of cycle I, being thus even more economic the performance of these indicators.

In this system (silvopastoral), feeding expenses did not surpass 10 % regarding the total, due that the diet of the animals improves the contribution of L. leucocephala. The most expensive element of the system was the purchase of animals which was higher to 80 % of the expenses.  On the matter, Cino  (2008) indicated that this aspect is the strongest element of the rearing and fattening cost of bovines, but it grants profitability to the system.

In cycle I as in II, the economic incomes improved (table 2), favoring the silvopastoral system by 5.92 and 0.94 %, respectively, which is considered an acceptable result (González and Alcaráz 2013).

Results obtained during three years of researchs evidenced that the advantages of the silvopastoral systems regarding the monoculture of star grass as for its productive and economic efficiency.  For that, it is necessary to consider as main premise the adequate establishment of the system and strict fulfillment of the technological discipline requiring the exploitation of this system. It must be underlined that results were obtained under commercial production conditions and in soils under degradation process.

It is recommended to extend this system to other units of commercial production, as well as realizing future investigations involving the aspects related with the climate, soil and animal and plant nutrition.



Thanks are due to the Empresa de Genética y Cría “Manuel Fajardo”, from Jiguaní municipality, Granma province, Cuba and to the workers for the help offered for conducting this investigation.



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Received: February 8, 2016
Accepted: April 20, 2016



Ana M. Vega, Universidad de Granma, Apartado Postal 21, Bayamo, Granma. C.P. 85 100. Email:

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