Silvopasture is a sustainable land management system that consists of trees, forages, and grazing animals grown together in a single land unit. This system offers multiple advantages over its components practiced alone. Although the impact of silvopasture may have a complementary, competitive, or independent relationship as illustrated by Chizmar et al. (2018), it offers the highest returns at all discount rates (4% = $1,807.08/acre) with complementary components. This finding is consistent with the experience and perception of the small-scale forestland owners and ranchers, who advocate silvopasture as a complementary component in their farm operations.
Silvopasture Benefits as Perceived by a Farmer
A Before vs. After impact assessment approach was used to measure the accrued benefits of silvopasture adoption on a farm. The findings reveal that the farmer (an early adopter of silvopasture), who never had any prior experience with silvopasture systems, benefitted largely. The farmer illustrated his experience after adopting silvopasture as follows.
- Economic benefits: The sources of income diversified (300%) and increased cash flow (>100%), lowered animal treatment cost (≈40%), reduced labor involvement (≈60%), and reduced animal feeding costs (50%-90% depending on seasons).
- Capacity building: The knowledge and skills on silvopasture development and management strengthened enormously (100%) and positively influenced the attitude and aspirations.
- Outreach and demonstration: The farm has been serving as a demonstration site for various educational events targeted for local farmers and landowners. Hundreds of farmers have toured to see the silvopasture operations.
- Grazing facilities improved: Forty acres of bushy woodland were converted into silvopastures (Figure 1). The condition, management practice of grazing land, and quality of the pasture greatly improved after introducing legume and non-legume forages. The carrying capacity of the grazing lands increased many folds compared to the requirement of the existing animal population (35 goats and 9 sheep). Rotational grazing has been practiced to manage silvopastures.
- Ecological benefits: The farmer feels strongly about the appreciated aesthetic and land value of silvopastures compared to adjacent woodlands or open fields (no trees present).
- Social benefits: Silvopasture increased working opportunities with other farmers and landowners, educators and specialists, and students. In addition to hosting silvopasture field days, the owner claimed to have shared silvopasture knowledge to more than 100 people in the community (hosting various farm visits and personal communications during the pre-and post-implementation process). The farmer proudly says silvopasture operations keep him strong and healthy, as he remains physically active for a good amount of time daily taking care of his animals, plants, and soils.
Before adopting silvopasture, the farmer was raising a fewer number of goats for several years. However, after thinning down his pine plantation and cultivating both cool- and warm-season legumes and grasses in the available alley (wide area between tree rows) with the cooperation and support of Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension (TUCE), forage production has been increased tremendously (Figure 2) allowing the farmer to increase the herd size without additional feed costs. He enthusiastically shared his success story at the field day held at his facility. He has gained full utility of the developed silvopasture and is willing to educate his peers so that they too can benefit from the potential advantages of silvopastures.
Educational Efforts and Silvopasture Adoption
The TUCE is making continuous efforts for educating farmers, landowners, professionals, and students by conducting training events and field days. Plantersville silvopasture site, owned by the participant farmer, is serving as an ideal venue for demonstration, hands-on activities, site tours, and farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities for field-day participants (Figure 3). Hundreds of farmers and landowners have participated in these events in the past nine years. An impact evaluation study conducted with the event participants revealed that silvopasture field days served as an excellent educational tool to disseminate information to farmers and landowners on reducing financial risk, and enhancing environmental conditions and community benefits through the adoption of silvopasture practices. Sixty percent of the respondents (N=50) applied the acquired silvopasture knowledge, 50% adopted silvopasture practice, and 70% diversified their sources of income through silvopasture operations (Karki et al. 2018).
Karki LB, Karki U, Mentreddy SR, Christian CS, and Bambo SK (2018) Impact of agroforestry educational program: A case of Alabama. International Journal of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Studies, (IJAERDS), Vol. 5, Issue 4, October, pages 37-50. Available at http://www.eajournals.org/journals/international-journal-agricultural-extension-rural-development-studies-ijaerds/vol-5-issue-4-october-2018/
Chizmar S, Cubbage F, Sills E, Abt R, Parajuli P, Castillo M (2018) Evaluating complementarity in silvopasture systems. AFTA newsletter. Vol. 24 No. 2, August 2018. http://www.aftaweb.org/latest-newsletter/current-newsletter.html. Accessed 29 September 2018