How Silvopasture Combines Trees and Grazing Livestock for Improved Production

How Silvopasture Combines Trees and Grazing Livestock for Improved Production

Agroforestry can combine multiple crops for increased yields and income. One agroforestry practice, silvopasture, incorporates trees and grazing livestock on the same land to manage both forest products and forage. This diversification provides both short- and long-term income sources. Silvopasture can also help farms with livestock make good use of forested land.

Silvopasture is more than adding livestock to your woods or planting trees in the pasture. Farmers need to give careful thought and planning to achieve a successful system. A native tree nursery can help farmers do silvopasture efficiently. Here are a few points to consider when integrating silvopasture practices:

Adapt an Existing Forest

Farmers can adapt an existing forest for silvopasture. The forest should be healthy but not threaten a sensitive ecosystem. A healthy forest can increase forages with selective thinning. Forages include grasses, legumes, and forbs, plus woody shrubs and trees for livestock fodder.

Trees may also produce fruits and nuts for foraging, like honey locust and persimmon. Both livestock and wildlife can enjoy these once they fall to the ground in fall.

Add Trees to an Established Pasture

Adding trees benefits pastures by adding shade to the area, increasing the survivability of plants and protecting livestock. Planting plans may incorporate rows, clusters, or random placement. The arrangement should be wide enough to allow sunlight for forage growth.

Some pasture grasses perform better under partial shade, such as orchard grass. Orchard grass pasture grass seed is a very robust, drought and shade-tolerant grass.

The root production method offers native species the advantage of better survivability and regeneration. They grow above browse height faster to allow quicker integration with grazing livestock. Adding shade by planting more trees also benefits livestock as they can stay protected under the cooling shade, especially during hot, summer months.

Match Livestock to Land Type and Implement a Rotation Schedule

Matching animals to the land type and rotation method is necessary for efficient silvopasture practice. Grazing traffic, rooting, and tree bark damage can be caused by livestock. Mitigate pasture and forest area damage with a range of forage and conditions.

Livestock must be rotated to allow land and plants to recover. It also helps improve animal health by reducing exposure to disease and maintaining the highest forage quality.

Match Trees to Farm Environment

Match trees to your soil type, climate, and planned farm functions. Native specialty crops can fit all these goals. A native tree nursery can give you a few ideas for native crop species. Some farms may plant trees to increase shade, while other farmers may want to expand their revenue stream.

An agroforestry project with fruit trees could yield a harvest in three to five years or nuts in five to ten. Or a long-term agroforestry plan might add a timber species and wait 50 or more years to harvest.

Start a Silvopasture

Native plant nurseries might recommend silvopasture and can often provide supplies to get started with the project. Here is a way to implement a silvopasture practice for your farm:

Install a fence around the crops or orchard. This creates several paddocks for rotational grazing of a herd of animals like sheep. The rotating herd of grazing animals reduces the need for physical mowing and adding fertilizer. The manure promotes healthier soil. Better soil improves stormwater absorption and reduces water runoff.

For livestock, silvopasture increases dry matter food and protein production. It can even increase milk production and quality over a pasture system. Silvopasture also can help restore the earth’s ecosystems. Livestock production uses one-third of the world’s land surface. Silvopasture adds the diversity that the earth needs.

Visit a Native Tree Nursery Today

A local native tree nursery can help you with all your agroforestry projects. Nurseries grow a vast selection of native plants that are perfect for specialty crops and windbreaks. Native species are important for restoring the Earth’s ecosystem.

Talk to a professional at a native plant nursery to get help with agroforestry and specialty crop projects of any scope. They can give recommendations and information on native plant availability.

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