If it’s so great, why don’t we see silvopasture everywhere?

I was at a pasture walk some time ago, when the farmer pointed to the few scraggly trees strewn throughout his paddocks. They were close to death, and the grass around them had long been trampled into nothing over the course of a long, hot summer. These trees were the sole relief from the sun, and the herd would always huddle in underneath the one or two trees in their paddock. When the farmer asked what to do, he was told there were two options: Either plant a lot more trees or chop the ones you have down. I don’t know what that farmer ended up doing with the trees, but I do know that it would’ve been far easier to turn those trees into firewood than plant the rest of his pasture with new trees. I can’t tell you how many graziers I’ve talked with who share how they’ve always dreamt of trees spread throughout their farm, casting nice dappled shade wherever their livestock wanted it. The story usually goes that they moved onto the farm 10 or 20 or 50 years ago with beautiful dreams of establishing rows and rows of shade trees. But here they are, 10 or 20 or 50 years later, and save for the weeping cherry their wife planted in the front yard, that dream is still no more than a dream. Barriers to Silvopasture As committed as a grazier might be to their herd’s comfort or restoring the ecology, there are two real barriers standing in the way of establishing trees at any scale on your grass-fed operation. Those barriers are: protecting the trees, and funding the

All the grazing management tips you need

Subscribe to read this article and over 2,500 more!

Subscribe today!

If you're already a subscriber, log in here.

3 thoughts on “If it’s so great, why don’t we see silvopasture everywhere?

  1. thank you. Trees belong in a pasture. for every one foot of height, they protect 10 feet of ground. We always planted black walnuts in and around permanent pasture. Grass does well, walnut kills fungal diseases, and insects hate it.

    Even here, in Arizona, black walnuts grow fast and well and provide vital shade. A plus, hogs run with cattle will grow fast on the nuts but, they’re like $16.00 a hundredweight right now wholesale. Great article!

    1. I have noticed that it does not matter if there are just a few or many trees in a paddock; the sheep will choose one favorite tree to lie under all together whenever they are resting and ruminating. They will trample and denude the area around that favorite tree if allowed, even though there are a dozen other trees they could be using. Have other people noticed this?
      The only solution I have found is to move the sheep to another paddock before they have a chance to do damage.
      Still, sheep need shade and shelter, and trees provide many other benefits as well. So I find the extra management efforts worthwhile.

      As for haying planted silvopasture for 10 years while waiting for trees to mature enough to resist animal pressure, do you know if there are any successful examples of this system in the northeast or great lakes regions?

      What about planting trees/ shrubs around the perimeter of paddocks (hedgerows) where they could be protected by the fences but still provide shade and shelter?

      1. I have found that switching up the grazing patten encourages my flock to chose different lounging areas. They generally chose the highest point in the paddock. I also have noticed that when I let the grass grow tall after a couple spring grazings the flock is content to lie on the cool earth in partial shade from the grass, and they put less manure by the shade trees. Even in the heat of summer. Once I found them using wheel ruts to cool down in a spot where the log trucks drive through a field. They were all facing up hill chewing happily in full sun.

Comments are closed.

Translate »