Silvopasture case studies in North Carolina and Virginia
Silvopasture, the intentional combination and integrated management of trees, forage, and livestock on the same area of land, has drawn interest in the Southeastern United States because of potential environmental, economic, and animal welfare benefits. However, it is as yet not widely adopted in the region. Therefore, aspiring adopters do not have peer models to observe, and technical service providers and researchers do not have a firm grasp of practical issues adopters may face or their views of challenges, benefits, and adaptations for implementation. In particular, very little is known about how the scale of operation may affect establishment and management. The goal of this research was to observe and document four case studies of early adopters of silvopasture in the States of North Carolina and Virginia to help potential future adopters, technical service providers, and researchers understand practical issues related to establishment and management of the practice. Each of the four case study producers was a cow-calf farmer who had established silvopasture by thinning trees and then planting forages in the understory. There were many similarities in how the producers managed their silvopasture and whole farm, yet there were differences in how they viewed and ultimately addressed the practical implementation (such as stump removal, grazing rotation, etc.) and system outputs (marketing of beef products, production of sawtimber versus pulpwood, etc.) of silvopasture. Three of the four producers were generally satisfied and had a positive view of the system, and the fourth indicated he likely would not continue silvopasture in the future. Among this limited sample, scale did not seem to affect establishment and management of silvopasture specifically to a great degree, because small-scale silvopasture could be managed concurrently with operations on nearby conventional forest stands and pastures. Still, scale issues seemed to come into play at the whole-farm level.