Silvopasture

Silvopasture involves the intentional integration of forages, trees, and livestock. These systems are designed and managed in ways that increase productivity on a unit of land by producing both livestock and timber products. Because this takes a high level of management across several disciplines, our team is working to develop and provide knowledge about suitable practices in order to support appropriate adoption and utilization.

Horses graze in Catawba, Virginia.
Horses graze among walnut trees in Catawba, Virginia.

Silvopasture, one of five agroforestry practices, is of growing interest in Virginia. While trees have benefited Virginia livestock for eons by the shelter they offer, the purposeful integration of trees and forage, whereby both are managed to optimize system outputs, is rarely practiced.

Sheep graze among honeylocust trees.
Sheep graze among honeylocust trees.

Silvopasture systems offer opportunities to address several production and environmental issues at once. These systems can:

  • Increase productivity and resource use efficiencies in pasture systems
  • Improve the value of timber stands in degraded/unmanaged woodlots
  • Mitigate stress to livestock, buffering animals and forages alike from climatic extremes
  • Address environmental concerns, because trees can capture additional nutrients lost from cool-season forages and sequester carbon.
  • Reduce livestock use of streams and surface waters for cooling purposes

Adoption of these systems has been slow in the past, partly because producers lack information regarding design, management, productivity, and economic impact – and they have few places to view its implementation.  Our team is working to develop research and demonstration sites around the state and to partner with innovative first-adopters to show producers and land owners how these systems might be assembled and managed for greater economic and environmental outcomes.

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Virginia Silvopasture Research & Demonstration Team
Name Title Affiliation
Miller Adams Area Forester Virginia Department of Forestry, Dan River Work Area
J. B. Daniel Forage & Grassland Agronomist Natural Resources Conservation Service
Adam Downing Extension Agent, Forestry & Natural Resources Virginia Cooperative Extension, Northern District
John Fike Associate Professor and Extension Specialist – Forages Virginia Tech, Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences
Jason Fisher Senior Extension Agent, Forestry & Natural Resources Virginia Cooperative Extension, Central District
Tim Mize Extension Agent, Ag & Natural Resources Virginia Cooperative Extension, Fauquier County
John Munsell Associate Professor and Extension Specialist – Forestry Virginia Tech, Department of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
Gabriel Pent Ruminant Livestock Systems Extension Specialist Virginia Tech’s Southern Piedmont Agriculture and Research Extension Center