Silvopasture is a system where livestock animals, trees and pasture are integrated in a mutually beneficial way. This distinctive form of agroforestry is fast becoming one of the most exciting developments at the cutting edge of the industry.
By harnessing the mutual relationships that are so often observed in the natural world, silvopasture is a great example of how it can help to work with nature rather than against it.
If silvopastoral systems are managed properly, they can increase long-term income and productivity significantly, through the continuous production of trees, crops, livestock, and forage. The system absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through carbon sequestration so provides additional income streams through obtaining carbon credits, whilst ensuring that a healthy ecosystem produces the best possible forage for your livestock. Although it sounds quite cutting edge, silvopasture is one of the most traditional forms of agriculture and has gone on for thousands of years in one form or another.
Silvopasture is a modern form of a traditional practice where feed crops, livestock animals, and trees are integrated together in a symbiotic system. For those practicing silvopasture, there are numerous benefits. Some of them are as follows:
Financial Benefits of Silvopasture
Investing in silvopasture has a number of benefits. Firstly, by diversifying the income stream, you are stabilising the cash throw and mitigating the risks that come with monoculture farming. Livestock animals need quality feed and forage (provided for within the system), and additional income from carbon credits or sustainable timber production are created through the planting of the trees. All in all, this is an excellent way to increase and stabilise revenue in comparison with other forms of lower-intensity agriculture.
Furthermore, a carbon neutral, organically produced and more natural product will sell at a higher price. Just imagine the improvement in quality and flavour of livestock that is raised in this natural, healthy environment.
Benefits for nature of Silvopasture
In addition to benefits for the consumer and producer, the silvopasture system has a wide variety of benefits for the natural world. By creating a forest layer above the agricultural activity below, we are adding a layer of habitat where there would be none, providing a home for a variety of life. And the favour will be repaid - your soil will be healthier as a result and the long term productivity of agricultural operations will increase.
The success of silvopasture depends upon certain elements. The trees must be selected carefully and managed properly - it is not simply a case of planting some saplings and leaving them to it. Managing your trees properly will improve the quality of wood that they produce, the quality of forage below and ultimately the success of the whole system. All three elements must be carefully managed and, whilst it is less labour intensive than most systems, Silvopasture is not always easy in the initial stages. The second element, forage, should be carefully considered with regards to seasonal availability, suitability in the chosen soil and weather conditions and ability to grow in shade. And lastly, the livestock component (whether sheep, goats or cows) must be in balance with the other elements in terms of density and growth, so this must be monitored in order to ensure that everything is at its absolute premium.
Harnessing the power of nature for the benefit of all
Silvopasture is a great example of how, by working with nature rather than against it, we can produce more sustainable, better quality produce which is better for humans, nature and the environment as a whole.