"Silvopasture" Movement Reaches WI Farms
Monday, February 8, 2021
MADISON, Wis. -- As brutal cold grips the upper Midwest, some farm animals are getting protection from the wind in forested settings.
They're being raised through a form of sustainable agriculture that's gaining attention in Wisconsin.
Ag researchers say "silvopasture" has long been popular in Europe, and is catching on in the U.S.
It integrates trees, forage and grazing livestock. Producers can either strategically plant trees in a pasture, or have their animals rotate through existing woodlands.
Diane Mayerfeld, senior outreach specialist for the University of Wisconsin Extension, said it benefits livestock by helping protect them from extreme cold or the summer heat, and it can improve a farmer's bottom line.
"Having those three different systems means you have an additional source of income," Mayerfeld explained. "Either income from the trees in addition to the livestock, or income from the livestock in addition to the trees."
There's also an environmental benefit: Planting more trees means they can sequester carbon from the air.
But Mayerfeld said silvopasture requires some detailed management to avoid drawbacks that could hurt the movement. Her office and the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute shared information with livestock producers in a panel discussion this winter.
Other partners included the Conservation Professional Training Program, the Iowa County Farmer-Led Uplands Watershed Group, and the Savanna Institute.
Keefe Keeley, co-executive director of the Institute, which advocates for more Midwestern farmers to adopt agroforestry, said there's a lot of trial and error, including keeping livestock from stomping over growing trees.
But he emphasized it isn't a reason for farmers to stop trying.
"When you're talking about climate change and how do we get more atmospheric carbon in our landscapes, planting trees in open pastures is where that possibility is really strong," Keeley contended.
According to the most recent Ag-Census Survey, nearly 1,100 Wisconsin farms said they practiced some form of agroforestry, and while researchers say it's hard to determine how much of that is silvopasture, they estimate it accounts for a significant portion.
Disclosure: Michael Fields Agricultural Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Rural/Farming, and Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
get more stories like this via email
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Climate activists are praising Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing a $15 billion climate action package Thursday, but argued he …
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Some New Yorkers are voicing concerns about the creation of not one, but two draft maps for congressional, State Senate and …
LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan advocates for children and families are praising many of the investments in the 2022 state budget passed this week…
DES MOINES, Iowa -- There is strong public support in Iowa to enact a state law that criminalizes elder abuse, a topic also being discussed by law …
SALT LAKE CITY -- A researcher at the University of Utah said plans for generating renewable energy should include a power source right under our feet…
CHICAGO -- Advocates for immigrants and refugees in Illinois traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to push for a pathway to citizenship for up to …
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota lawmakers in charge of redistricting have approved a preliminary draft of new legislative boundaries, but voters' …
SANTA FE, N.M. -- A New Mexico legislator is optimistic a bill will pass in the 2022 session to prohibit life sentences for juveniles convicted of …