Submitted to: Proceedings of the Annual Appalachian Opportunities Symposium
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/10/2007
Publication Date: 12/31/2007
Citation: Neel, J.P. 2007. Silvopasture. In: Morales, M. R. and Foster, J. G. (editors). Proceedings of the Fifth Appalachian Opportunities Symposium, March 10, 2007, Beckley, West Virginia. p. 41-44.
Technical Abstract: The Appalachian region has many small-scale, pasture-based livestock farms. The farms are a mosaic of open pasture and woodland, with approximately 40% wooded and often not utilized for livestock production nor contributing to farm income. Silvopastoral systems in Appalachia would depend on planting forages in wooded environments rather than planting trees in open pasture and result in increased land area devoted to forage production. Woodlot management should improve the growth and health of the remaining timber. Creation of a transition zone between open pasture and woodlot should improve biodiversity. A transition zone also improves the farms aesthetic value as silvopasture is very pleasing to the eye. On farms where there is potential for silvopasture components in the production system, the producer should consider the type of trees, the desired end-use for the tree, and the type of shade and micorsite conditions likely to occur in the understory. Selecting a location for silvopasture depends on soil conditions, accessibility for thinning the existing tree stand and aspect. If shade is provided by evenly distributed trees, it is less likely to impact animal grazing behavior than isolated trees or patches and rows of trees. Once trees are thinned, sheep and goats can be successfully utilized to reduce competition from existing forest understory plants. During this process, grazing livestock disrupt the litter layer on the forest floor and create improved microsites for forage seed establishment. Care should be taken to minimize potential for livestock damage to remaining trees. Before seeding, sample soils and amend accordingly in autumn before a spring planting. Soil pH and nutrient levels should facilitate seedling establishment. About 1.5 to 2.0 times the land area is needed to produce the same amount of forage in woodlots versus open pasture. Herbage plants adapt to lower light levels by increased leaf area, reduced tiller numbers, and decreased root dry matter. Shaded plants have reduced shoot nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC), increased nitrogen and increased NO3 levels. Plant NO3 can exceed toxic levels for animals in forages grown under low light conditions. Research indicates available light should not be reduced by more than 30% to ensure nutritional integrity. Increased nitrogen content of silvopasture may allow it to be utilized as a supplement to open pasture during the summer when herbage quality is known to decrease.