BYH Project Manager
True BYH Addict
- Jul 9, 2012
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Trees are wonderful monuments to the natural world. Each tree represents its own miniature ecosystem. If you have fields or a pasture on your farm that seems a bit bare, you may have thought about planting trees.
In fact, the term "silvopasture" refers to an integrated system of tree and pasture management. Silvopasture can have a positive impact on the environment, your animals, and even your bottom line. Are you thinking about planting trees in your pasture?
Let us look at some aspects to consider when planting trees in your pasture.
- Shade: If you keep livestock, a large mature tree or two is a handy source of shade for them in the summer heat.
- Wind protection: a large tree or row of trees planted in a strategic location in your pasture can help reduce the effects of wind. This can be especially beneficial to livestock in the winter.
- Erosion preventer: Established root systems help soak up water and act as a water filtration system. The canopy can also help disperse rain.
- Maintenance required: young trees need a lot of water to grow well and usually need to be protected from deer and sometimes grazing livestock. Cattle, sheep, and goats in particular can kill a young tree by nibbling on it. Either fence in the new growth with a portable electric fence or erect a physical barrier around the tree to give it a chance.
- Clutter: Fallen branches and seeds such as acorns and black walnuts can cause debris in the pasture that kills the grass and must be removed.
- Damage: Wind and heavy snowfall can cause branches to fall. If planted near fences or buildings, this can cause property damage. Depending on how large and flat your area is, a single tree can also act as a lightning rod. Consider the location carefully when planting anything new.
What Kind of Tree To Plant?Generally, it is recommended to choose a tree that is native to your geographic area, as it is most likely to thrive with minimal care. Other considerations include the size of the tree and its rate of growth. A final consideration that can narrow the list considerably is the potential toxicity of a tree to livestock.
It is usually easier to ask what is not potentially toxic and go from there.
Many poisonous trees are a problem when a branch falls and livestock nibble on wilted leaves. This is the case with red maple, whose withered leaves are deadly to horses. Peach trees and wild cherry trees contain cyanide. Ruminants appear to be more sensitive to these toxins than horses.
Oaks are also often classified as toxic to livestock, but the hazard depends on how much other forage is available. Pastures with adequate grass or grazing (for goats) are sufficient to deter curious ruminants from nibbling on branches or acorns that have fallen from the trees.
Acorns contain high levels of tannins, which can be toxic in large quantities. These are bitter substances, and most animals do not develop a taste for them unless they have nothing else to choose from. (One notable exception is pigs, which are very fond of acorns and do well with them.)
What Can You Plant?So what can you plant? Ash, cedar, hickory, and beech are some of the most common North American trees suitable for livestock. Talk to the knowledgeable staff at your local nursery for more specific information about native trees in your area, growth rate, size, and durability.
Do you have any trees in your pasture? Share your experiences in the comments below.