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cattle grazing in Silvopasture systems

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Landowners of all kinds share a similar goal in wanting to keep their land in the best shape possible for future generations. Agroforestry practices may help landowners meet this goal. One of the most recognized forms of agroforestry is the practice of establishing silvopasture systems. Becky Barlow, an Alabama Extension forestry and wildlife sciences specialist, explains silvopasture systems and their benefits to landowners.

What are Silvopasture Systems?

Silvopasture is an agroforestry system in which landowners manage for timber, livestock and forage on the same acre. According to Barlow, there are three goals associated with this practice:

  • Optimizing timber, livestock and forage components
  • Improving cashflow through annual income from livestock and forage
  • Securing long-term income from timber

“Silvopasture systems in the southeastern United States are often composed of pine trees in the overstory planted on a double or triple row set with a wide alley between them in which forage grows,” Barlow said.

Uses and Benefits

A few situations may lead landowners to implement a silvopasture system. One of these is the necessity to reduce heat stress on livestock. Planting trees in existing pasture settings can improve livestock health and reduce heat stress.

“Landowners may also have forestland on which they decide to thin trees to a silvopasture configuration,” Barlow said. “They can then manage the area for forage and eventually introduce livestock.”

Establishing silvopasture systems provides multiple benefits to landowners and the land itself. Rotational gazing improves forage production while also limiting compaction to the soil as livestock tend to spread across sites. It can serve as a way to restore ecosystems and filter runoff for improved water quality.

Reducing heat stress is the main benefit of this system to livestock. For landowners, it provides the opportunity to diversify revenue and improve cash-flow.

Livestock

According to Barlow, the choice of livestock in a silvopasture system should be based on objectives. While some people prefer cattle, others have successful systems with sheep or goats.

“Consider the timing of livestock introduction carefully,” Barlow said. “Be sure that trees are at least six feet tall so that they are not trampled.”

Ensuring that fencing and watering systems are in place is crucial to the introduction of livestock. Configure these in a way that allows for the easy rotational grazing of livestock.

More Information

For more information on the configuration and benefits of silvopasture systems, visit www.aces.edu.

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