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Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

Silvopasture

cow grazing under trees

Silvopasture is an agroforestry practice that intentionally integrates trees, and pasture and forage crops into a single system for raising livestock. Research shows that pastures with trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon in biomass and in the soil as same-size operations that have no trees. They also provide multiple benefits to farmers in terms of providing shade for the animals and diverse food sources, added income through the production of nuts, fruit, timber, and forest products like mushrooms, improved soil fertility and biodiversity. The animals and land seem to be healthier with higher meat and dairy yields, and the farms are more resilient due to the diversity of income possibilities.

There are challenges in this approach, however, that require relearning how farming is done. In particular, it is important to incorporate managed grazing techniques(opens in new window) where the animals rotate through different sections of the land for true success.

Mentor Farmers who integrate managed grazing with trees 

Greg Massa nd Raquel Krach with a lambThese mentor farmers don't always call what they do "silvopasture" but they do use many of the same practices and have useful experiences to share about doing it right.

Burroughs Family Farms(opens in new window)

Massa Organics(opens in new window)

White Oak Pastures(opens in new window)

Videos

What is Silvopasture?

The USDA National Agroforestry Center, Forest Farming extension program, Virginia Tech, Cornell University and Paul Smith’s College have partnered to create a series of videos detailing silvopasture practices. In this video they take a look at three different farms to show how the practice can be adapted to best fit an individual’s goals.

Growing veneer walnut trees with mob grazing in the silvopasture.

Regenerative rancher Greg Judy shares his success with growing more forage for his livestock using these techniques.

Silvopasture Design Workshop—Live at Groundswell 2019

The session was chaired by Russ Carrington (Pasture Fed Livestock Association) and features Dr Jo Smith (Organic Research Centre), John Cherry (Weston Park Farms) and Emma Bird (Woodland Trust).

Journal Articles

Albrecht, A., and Kandji, S.T. (2003). Carbon sequestration in tropical agroforestry systems(opens in new window). Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 99, 15–27. 

Andrade, H.J., Brook, R., and Ibrahim, M. (2008). Growth, production and carbon sequestration of silvopastoral systems with native timber species in the dry lowlands of Costa Rica(opens in new window). Plant Soil 308, 11–22.

Benavides, R., Douglas, G.B., and Osoro, K. (2009). Silvopastoralism in New Zealand: review of effects of evergreen and deciduous trees on pasture dynamics.(opens in new window) Agrofor. Syst. 76, 327–350.

Cubbage, F., Balmelli, G., Bussoni, A., Noellemeyer, E., Pachas, A.N., Fassola, H., Colcombet, L., Rossner, B., Frey, G., Dube, F., et al. (2012). Comparing silvopastoral systems and prospects in eight regions of the world.(opens in new window) Agrofor. Syst. 86, 303–314. 

Feliciano et al (2018). Which agroforestry options give the greatest soil and above ground carbon benefits in different world regions?(opens in new window) Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 254, 117–129

Nair (2012). Climate Change Mitigation: A Low-Hanging Fruit of Agroforestry. In Agroforestry - The Future of Global Land Use(opens in new window), Nair, and D. Garrity, eds. (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands), pp. 31–67.

Nair, Kumar, and Nair (2009). Agroforestry as a strategy for carbon sequestration. (PDF) J. Plant Nutr. Soil Sci. 172, 10–23. Orefice, J., Carroll, J., Conroy, D., and Ketner, L. (2017). Silvopasture practices and perspectives in the Northeastern United States. Agrofor. Syst. 91, 149–160.

Paciullo, D.S.C., de Castro, C.R.T., Gomide, C.A. de M., Maurício, R.M., Pires, M. de F.Á., Müller, M.D., and Xavier, D.F. (2011). Performance of dairy heifers in a silvopastoral system.(opens in new window) Livest. Sci. 141, 166–172.

Schoeneberger, M.M. (2009). Agroforestry: working trees for sequestering carbon on agricultural lands.(opens in new window) Agrofor. Syst. 75, 27–37.

Shibu, Jose, and Dollinger, Jeanne (2019). Silvopasture: a sustainable livestock production system.(opens in new window) Agroforestry Systems volume 93, pages 1–9.

Toensmeier, E. (2017). Perennial Staple Crops and Agroforestry for Climate Change Mitigation.(opens in new window) In Integrating Landscapes: Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation and Food Sovereignty, F. Montagnini, ed. (Cham: Springer International Publishing), pp. 439–451.