Cattle production is an important contributor to human nutrition, income generation, and culture, but causes significant negative environmental impacts and is among the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. Silvopastoral systems (SPS), which include trees, shrubs, and grasses, are sustainable alternatives to improve efficiency in cattle production and reduce its environmental footprint. In many circumstances, however, their adoption is linked to high initial investments. In this way, the gradual introduction of legumes as a first step towards the transformation of grass-monoculture grazing systems can already result in important economic and environmental benefits that can then support the subsequent addition of trees. In this study, we analyze such a scenario for the case of cattle production on poorly drained soils in the foothills of the Colombian Orinoquía region. The region is dominated by extensive grazing systems with Brachiaira humidicola cv. Humidicola (Humidicola), a highly adaptable grass under temporary waterlogging conditions with low nutritional quality. As a result, feed scarcity is a serious limitation for the Orinoquían cattle systems, especially during the dry season. According to climate estimates, annual precipitation and maximum temperatures are expected to further increase in the region, reducing the quantity and quality of forages and increasing the risk of waterlogging. In response to this, the legume Arachis pintoi CIAT 22160 (Arachis) was selected by AGROSAVIA as a possible alternative for cattle production due to its nutritional content, durability, and compatibility with grasses like Humidicola. Based on this, our study assesses milk profitability in the Colombian Orinoquía foothills from an economic perspective, through the evaluation of two different production systems: T1, the Arachis – Humidicola association, and T2, a Humidicola monoculture (traditional system). To estimate economic indicators, we employed a cashflow model and risk assessment. The projections consider expected changes in forage performance for both treatments, resulting from variations in the projected climatic variables under different climate change scenarios for the region RCP (2.6 & 8.5). Milk production was simulated using the LIFE-SIM model. Results show that T1 increments animal productivity by 11% and shows better grass persistence due to higher soil-nitrogen (N) levels resulting from the association with the legume, among others. The legume also provides positive impacts on soil structure and composition, which helps improving the adaptation capacity of the system. Finally, producer incomes increase because of a lower vulnerability to (climate) risks and reduced production costs (due to lower N fertilizer use).
climate change, forage legumes, adoption, risk analysis, land-use change