Indonesia’s considerable oil palm plantations represent a potential abundance of feed for cattle. Both the Indonesian Government and the cattle industry support the integration of raising cattle and growing oil palm. However, despite this enthusiasm uptake has been slow, as many plantation managers have been cautious about integration.

The caution surrounding integration by palm plantation owners is partially linked to a fear that it may negatively impact palm productivity. Our aim is to address this and other key barriers to integration with an evidence-based approach, grounded in whole-system analysis.

Our research focuses on demonstrating viable business models to cattle and palm stakeholders, while building evidence to support wider adoption. We will identify and test scalable business models with smallholders and plantations, before making them more widely available to all stakeholders. By engaging with stakeholders at all levels of cattle and palm production - including national and regional institutes - we will ensure stakeholder ownership and commitment. This stakeholder network will also provide a key scaling-out mechanism.


  1. identify constraints and opportunities for improving beef cattle productivity and profitability in association with palm systems;

  2. develop strategies to address constraints to successful palm-cattle integration;

  3. identify potential business models for improving smallholder beef cattle productivity and profitability in palm systems; and

  4. provide a strategy for scaling out palm-cattle integration.

Our research

The PalmCow project will address key factors influencing palm-cattle integration, including issues of palm production, the feeding and breeding of cattle, market chain factors and broader socio-economic impacts in three project locations: Riau, East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur; KalTim) and South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan; SumSel).

The project will develop and test new approaches to palm and cattle integration that are viable for wider adoption. Current indications suggest that when palm production is integrated with controlled cattle grazing, palm production may improve by as much as 10%, though these figures require further testing.

The results will be communicated to government, industry and the financial sector, boosting local expertise and providing decision tools for key stakeholders in the process.

Our key research questions include:

  • What effect does cattle grazing in plantations have on the productivity and profitability of palm plantations?

  • Which aspects of cattle and palm production systems favour competitive and profitable integration?

  • What are the driving factors and constraints that may motivate stakeholders to increase palm-cattle integration?

  • Which business models will benefit smallholder cattle producers and improve gender equity in association with oil palm plantations?

  • How can cattle production and market chains be improved in oil palm plantation systems?

  • How can successful palm-cattle integration be scaled out to generate economic and social benefits to men and women in target regions?

Download: PalmCow Project Outline


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