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The Center for Agroforestry

Agroforestry Practices

Silvopasture

Silvopasture is the intentional combination of trees, forage and livestock managed as a single integrated practice. In a typical silvopasture practice, perennial grasses and/or grass-legume mixes are planted between rows of trees for livestock pasture. The trees not only provide a long-term investment for nut crops or a timber harvest, but also provide the animals shade in the summer and a windbreak in the winter. In turn, the forage base provides feed for beef cattle which ultimately provides livestock sales for short-term income. A silvopasture practice diversifies farm income; can minimize the need for chemical or mechanical vegetation control; and can reduce hay and feeding costs for livestock.

Cattle among pines
Cattle are placed in a silvopature practice with pine trees at the HARC farm, New Franklin, Mo.

Silvopastoral management creates an environment where trees, forage, and livestock can be developed to their full economic potential. Ideally, the tree species selected for a silvopastoral practice should be marketable - this includes both the wood itself and other products such as nuts or fruit, offering another source of income in addition to livestock. In a rotational grazing system, a successful silvopastoral practice requires understanding forage growth and managing the timing and duration of grazing to avoid browsing of young tree seedlings or the elongating shoots. Precautions should be taken, such as fencing, to prevent trampling or rubbing of the young trees as well as over-grazing and soil compaction.

The Center for Agroforestry is working to reduce hay costs and extend the livestock grazing season through silvopasture practices. Winter hay costs for feeding one steer can reach $91; the managed grazing practice of silvopasture can reduce this amount significantly. Well managed silvopastures can reduce winter feed costs by approximately 20%.

Aerial view
In this aerial view of the silvopasture study site at HARC, cattle are rotationally grazed among single, double and triple rows of pitch pine / loblolly pine hybrids and black walnut trees. The pines, planted on either side of the black walnut trees, help train the black walnut trees to grow straight for high-quality lumber production.

With more than 13 million acres of pasture lands dedicated almost entirely to beef production, Missouri is in a position to greatly benefit from the economic and environmental benefits of silvopasture. Read more about UMCA's silvopasture research in the 2004 Research Highlights document.

Silvopasture experiments are currently conducted at the University of Missouri Wurdack Farm, Cook Station, Mo. and the University of Missouri Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center.

Published works on silvopasture:

Silvopasture Success Stories:

Larry Harper
Larry Harper, Harper Hill Farms

Larry Harper
Silvopasture practice near Butler, Mo.

"I've often been asked, why do you put those walnut trees in your perfectly good pastures. Well I'm looking for a diversification of income here on Harper Hill Farms. I want to have as many enterprises on the same piece of land as I can, to maximize the income."


Jim Wilson
Silvopasture practice with walnut and pecan trees near Nevada, Mo.

Jim Wilson
In this well-managed silvopasture practice, cattle graze among pecan trees.

"Ever since we've been in nut production we've used cattle to control the height of the grass. We also benefit from the value of the beef that we sell in the fall in addition to the nuts that we harvest.

We chose cattle to run in here because we fertilize these trees with nitrogen

Cattle and pecans
and it causes the grass to grow. By grazing, it gives us extra profit from the beef. And it also helps where we don't have to mow as much.

Another thing that we like about the trees is that it's cooler on a hot summer day. It's at least ten degrees cooler down here, and the cattle are just scattered out everywhere grazing."

Learn more about silvopasture from the following UMCA resources, available for viewing or ordering from the Publications page:

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Revised: November 19 2010
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