Silvopasture: why we want it

Hello friends! I seem to be on a roll with posting, which is probably because I am avoiding all sorts of schoolwork (kidding, I'm well on my way and this is how I take my breaks). I wanted to chat a little bit about a concept that we will be employing a modified version of on the farm starting this summer. It will be a long-term endeavor but we believe that it will be ideal and incredibly important for our pastures and the animals we raise. 

If you remember from my prior blog posts, we are always trying to rehab our pastures. We had our soil tested late last year, and then had all the appropriate nutrients/fertilizers/minerals spread on the pasture. It has been tough though, keeping all the grass staying lush as there is no reprieve for it since there is only shade along the back fence line.

The pasture this morning at 8am, already exposed to blazing heat and direct sun.

The pasture this morning at 8am, already exposed to blazing heat and direct sun.

A few weeks ago Jeri and I were approached by a preservation farm to be the sheep resource for them as they start to implement a concept called Silvopasture onto some of their unused pastures. They want the full benefits: shade, forage, and meat. The goal is that this ecosystem will be able to support itself and others, and it would also be possible to rotationally graze which would be best for the land. While we were researching it, a lot of the trees that are recommended are ones that are already heavily growing on our land. 

Since Pippa is full-time at the farm, Jeri and I have been going out for chores early in the day and quite late (to give her a bottle), and so we can see the pasture in its entirety at times when we had not been paying close attention before. We have noticed that the grass responds best to the high canopy shade along the fence line, which would make the most sense because it is sheltered from the blistering sun that hits the rest of our land.

Photo examples of effective silvopasture

Therefore we decided to start implementing a modified silvopasture concept onto our land. We think that it will be ideal for our animals, it will help the grass grow, and it will also lower the temperature at the farm during the day. Mutually advantageous across the board. We will mainly be planting Locust and Poplar trees, which already run rampant in the wooded side of our property, they will provide the lovely high canopy that provides the shade. We are kicking around the idea of also planting some forage trees, which we could harvest or the sheep could nibble on. 

The silvopasture works with the contours of the land it is put on. The large number of roots from the trees will help retain water, thus growing deep-rooted grass and strengthening the ground for when massive rain storms come through. It will also allow us to let our chickens free range for longer amounts of time as they will be sheltered from any immediate predator.

You can see what a difference this process can make on a plot of land.

We are excited to put this idea to work, and hope to start buying trees later this summer and get the first row in for the season! 

Thanks so much for following along!