Tips For Choosing Trees for your Livestock Pasture

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Tips For Choosing Trees for your Livestock Pasture

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.

Benefits​

  • 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.

Disadvantages​

  • 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.
 

Baymule

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Good topic. Here in east Texas, we have plenty of trees. Logging pine trees is big business.

I’m buying 25 acres, practically empty of trees. I won’t go hog wild, but I want to plant some for shade. I’ll put a cow panel square around them.

Watering tip; get 5 gallon buckets and drill a 3/16” hole in the bottom. Weight it down with a brick. Fill with water. Water will slowly drip out, giving time to soak in and not run off. You KNOW how much water the tree got. If it needs more, add another bucket.

Research the trees you plant! Chinese Tallow Trees are considered an invasive WEED and much hated along the Gulf Coast and inland. The stumps seem to never die, more sprout up from the roots and they make tons of seeds and each one comes up TWICE! Can you tell how much I don’t like them? LOL
Chinese Tallow trees require strong poison to eradicate them.

I want to plant some pecan trees and some fruit trees. For shade, I’m thinking Catalpa. They have beautiful flowers in spring and big heart shaped leaves.

Think about all the trees you have enjoyed in your lifetime. Did you plant them? Do you even know who planted them? Keep in mind the following generations that will enjoy the trees you plant today.
 

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For Texas, plant redbuds!!! You can eat them! (Flowers and the fruit, and they are gorgeous.

I know most people don't like mulberry trees and mimosa trees... both drop a bunch of stuff, are short lived, and a little weedy. But, mulberries are great eating, and mimosa Flowers are great hummingbird food. I love both.

For longevity (in Texas), nothing beats an oak! Live oaks of coarse... but I am quite partial to water oaks.. they are a bit taller, great shade, and since the leaves drop on the fall, you get the winter sun.

There are some areas in Texas where you can grow Maples, gorgeous trees.

Here in Alaska I like the birch best since you can harvest the sap.

Nothing better than a dual purpose tree!
 

AgnesGray

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For Texas, plant redbuds!!! You can eat them! (Flowers and the fruit, and they are gorgeous.
Wow, had no idea you could eat redbuds! How do you use them? That's amazing!
 

AgnesGray

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Our lot has tons and tons of mulberries. I don't know that I'd ever plant them because new ones pop up nonstop everywhere. But, they produce tons of fruit, grow really fast, and create nice shade. We also have maples and have yet to tap them, but would love to one day.

We have planted a lot of trees over the last few years. Lots of fruit and nut trees. The chestnuts are from chestnuts we bought at the grocery store and are doing surprisingly well. Hazelnuts, plum, pear, cherry, apple, peach, and so on. This spring our local county water and soil office had trees for sale and we bought oak which I planted in the pig pastures. Acorns can turn egg yolks green so we didn't put any oak where the poultry range, but I've wanted them for the pigs for a while.

We also planted some willow trees to help us dry out an area that floods all the time and thuja green giants for a windbreak on one side.

One other benefit to having trees is the option to make tree hay which is always nice to have as a backup.
 

Alaskan

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Wow, had no idea you could eat redbuds! How do you use them? That's amazing!
You don't have to cook them.

So toss the buds on salads, etc.

Some people do gather huge amounts of the flowers and make them into jelly!

Here is a link.


If you don't eat all the flowers... you can also eat the peas/fruit that they make.
 

AgnesGray

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You don't have to cook them.

So toss the buds on salads, etc.

Some people do gather huge amounts of the flowers and make them into jelly!

Here is a link.


If you don't eat all the flowers... you can also eat the peas/fruit that they make.
That's pretty sweet! Thanks!!
 

donkeylady

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hi guys i don't have goats yet not until the fall . what about walnut trees black walnuts. the donkeys don't bother with it but goats i don't no. here in south west Kentucky they are all over. thanks
 

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