Silvopasture: Adding Trees to Pastures to Improve Lands and Waters

Silvopasture is the integration of trees and grazing livestock that enhances herd health and farm productivity. Trees for Graziers' Austin Unruh and Pennsylvania farmer Tim Sauder show us on-the-ground silvopasture progress in Lancaster County.


AUSTIN UNRUH: There's not a secret about the silvopasture but it's not something that, it's not something that we do here in the United States, not much at least yet.

We're hoping to show, and so far our results are pretty good, that you can get a tree established in the middle of an active pasture. You don't have to take that land out of production. In an actively grazed pasture, you can get a tree established for relatively low cost. It doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. And we can get that tree established that can grow faster using say a tree tube and it can be very practical, a very profitable way for farmers to get that established.

TIM SAUDER: The bigger the trees get, the more exciting it is. Like the more shade there is, the happier the cows are.

You know, like there's the excitement when they first start popping out of the tubes. And it's like, then it's just kind of there for a while and then at some point it's like, oh, like they're doing something now.

AUSTIN UNRUH: You want to keep your livestock cool during the summer, so that's with shade. You want to keep your livestock warm in the winter, and that's with windbreak. You want to keep them well fed during the summer, when we tend to have our summer slump, and our cool season forage production. And we want to keep our livestock well fed in the winter when obviously we're not growing a whole lot of forages during the winter. So in the winter we're looking at what we call stockpiled feed. So honey locust and persimmon fruits that are dropping on the ground and your livestock can self-harvest and make that feed available.

Silvopasture is the number one means that we have of taking carbon from the atmosphere and sinking that into our agricultural soils. Now what that does is it creates this big soil sponge that soaks up any kind of rain that we throw at it. So that the rain stays in the soil rather than rushing off into the nearest creek and bringing with it pollution and flooding.

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