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Title: CONSIDERATIONS FOR SILVOPASTORAL GRAZING SYSTEMS

Author
item Neel, James - Jim
item Belesky, David

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2003
Publication Date: 4/27/2003
Citation: NEEL, J.P., BELESKY, D.P. CONSIDERATIONS FOR SILVOPASTORAL GRAZING SYSTEMS. AMERICAN FORAGE AND GRASSLAND COUNCIL PROCEEDINGS. 2003. v. 12. p. 308-312.

Interpretive Summary: Silvopastoral grazing systems can increase farm productivity and biological diversity. Typical relationships between grazing animals and forage plants however do not apply because of specific conditions within the microenvironment of silvopastoral sites. This paper addresses specific areas for consideration in the development of silvopastoral grazing systems, including: site preparation and planning, seeding of forages, fencing, forage responses to microenvironment and how plant responses may affect the animals grazing them. For instance, past research indicates minimal sunlight is necessary to insure acceptable forage production and chemical composition. Forage grown under a conifer tree canopy produced less forage and had toxic levels of nitrate when available light was reduced dramatically. However, animals grazing in hardwood silvopastoral systems have been shown to gain weight similarly to those grazing entirely on open pasture. Widely accepted management practices that link grazing start date and duration to forage height may not be applicable in the shaded component of silvopastoral systems. The proper number of animals per unit area of land also needs to be defined for silvopastoral systems. Long and short term farm environmental, economic and aesthetic goals also should be considered when planning silvopastoral systems. Careful planning and understanding what each component of a silvopastoral system can offer promises improved forage availability, higher forage quality and quite likely increased farm income.

Technical Abstract: Silvopastoral grazing systems can increase farm productivity and biological diversity. Certain relationships among the grazer, plants and the environment suggest variable responses arise because of specific conditions within the microenvironment of silvopastoral sites. We address specific areas for consideration in the development of silvopastoral grazing systems, including: site preparation and planning, seeding of forages, fencing, forage responses to microenvironment and how plant responses may affect the animals grazing them. For instance, past research indicates a certain minimum level of solar radiation is necessary to ensure acceptable forage dry matter production and chemical composition, which can have dramatic impacts on animal production. Forage grown under a conifer tree canopy produced 27% less dry matter and had toxic levels of nitrate when available light was reduced from 80 to 50%. However, animals grazing in hardwood silvopastoral systems have been shown to gain weight similarly to those grazing entirely on open pasture. Widely accepted management practices that link grazing initiation and duration to canopy height may not be applicable in the shaded component of silvopastoral systems. Stocking density also needs to be reconfigured for silvopastoral systems. Long and short term farm environmental, economic and aesthetic goals also should be considered when planning silvopastoral systems. Careful planning and understanding what each component of a silvopastoral system can offer promises improved forage availability, higher forage quality and quite likely increased farm income.