It's part of a 120 acre farm. I have 30 herefords and am expecting 14 babies in the spring. Currently 27 acres are being rotationally grazed and the rest was in a Wisconsin DNR forest program, managed forest law.
I would like to expand to a larger herd and utilize more of the acreage. There is a small patch of pines next to my house that I seeded and fenced in last year which seems to be doing well and it gives the animals some shade in the summer so I thought why not try to expand. The acreage I'm currently looking at is about 22 acres of previously conventionally farmed land that was planted into 75% spruce and 25% white pine 25 years ago and put in MFL.
These trees were planted in rows about 8 feet apart both ways, and will come out of MFL on January 1, 2017. Lime was already applied at a rate of 3-1/2 tons per acre in the fall of 2016. Two rows will be cut down and every third row will remain standing all across the plantation. The bad or weakest trees will be cut from the remaining
rows ultimately leaving about 30% of the trees standing. Any more than minimal brush left behind will be removed.
As the owner and operator of this farm, I have worked closely with the NRCS in implementing a good rotational grazing plan and controlling weeds and invasives as well as maintaining water quality and quantity all while producing top quality grass fed beef that I direct market.
I would like to convert 22 acres of spruce and white pine into silvopasture. I can find very little information on doing so in my climate or soil type. I know from talking with other grazers in the area that there is interest in doing this but this poses several problems. First of all what can I get to grow in the mat of pine and spruce needles?
Secondly, how do I incorporate the seed into the ground with tree stumps every eight feet and other woody debris on the ground? In looking at other funded SARE grants on Silvopasture, none are of much help for what I’m trying to accomplish.
The following are the grants that I was able to find information on but they don’t address my situation.
1. ONE-13-189 Advancing on farm understanding and applications of silvopasture technologies in Pennsylvania
2. ONC16-017 Evaluating and showing techniques in silvopasture establishment.
3. FS05-191 Silvopastures for forage, cattle and trees
I would like to determine if a spruce/white pine plantation located in my climate can be a viable option for anyone looking to expand their grazing operation. Furthermore, I would like to show that seeding can be effectively done by broadcasting on top of the ground and then allowing cows to trample the seed into the ground by feeding baled hay on top of a relatively small area at a time. I am choosing this method because the tree stumps are not going to be removed to avoid any unnecessary soil disturbance and no fertilizer will be added.
The trees will be cut and removed early in 2017.
Four test plots will be made.
Plot 1 will be seeded with Meadow Fescue, Festulolium, Cyclone Red Clover, Kentaur Perennial Ryegrass,
Vigilant White clover and oats as a nurse crop. Cows will be allowed on to trample the seed.
Plot 2 will be seeded the same as plot 1 but without oats for a nurse crop and cows will be allowed on to trample
the seed. Cows will be rotated through a small section at a time 1-2 days after seeding and allowed on for 24
hours and will be fed hay.
Plot 3 will be seeded the same as plot 1 but cows will not be allowed on.
Plot 4 – Nothing will be seeded to this plot and cows will not be allowed on. This will be the control plot just to see
what will come up on it’s own through the pine/spruce needles.
As the Project Coordinator, I will check the pasture density or dry matter per acre and photograph in the spring, summer and fall of 2017 and 2018 as well as the spring of 2019. This test will be conducted 5 times in each test plot and then averaged. With the assistance of the NRCS, we will be doing a species composition test at the same time to determine what percent of each species that was planted is actually growing within a given area.
This test will also be conducted several times in each test plot and then averaged out. If all goes as planned, the value of the crops produced will far outweigh the cost of the seed, lime, etc. In addition to these, the Haney soil test will also be conducted in late May of 2017 and again in May of 2019. By doing this test we should be able to assess how much the soil health improves.
The cows will benefit greatly from having a diverse forage to eat as well as shade in the heat of summer and shelter during adverse weather conditions. Surely there will be a wildlife benefit because of green forage on the ground instead of pine needles which will also assure that erosion and any water run off will be controlled.
Other farmers will also benefit from what I am able to learn from this project as the data and photos collected will be shared at the pasture walks to be conducted. The information will also be shared with my beef customers.
With the added shade during the grazing season it will be a very pleasant working environment for moving cows daily as opposed to out in an open field.
- Determine if a spruce/white pine plantation located in my climate (Central Wisconsin) can be a viable option for anyone looking to expand their grazing operation.
- Enable farmers to maximize income by gaining grazing acres on former MFL land and saving money on large, expensive equipment by using the seeding method of broadcasting on top of the ground and then allowing cows to trample the seed into the ground by feeding baled hay on top of a relatively small area at a time.
- Protect natural resources and wildlife by producing a tree crop and eliminating soil disturbance from tillage and fertilizers.
- Gain and share with the grazing community valuable knowledge about what species of plants will grow and how well they will do on the cutting edge of transforming a spruce/white pine plantation into a silvopasture.
Since the cold weather ended in early February 2017, the logging did not get completed as planned which then pushed the whole project back one year. In May of 2017, I marked out 4 test plots and took soil samples and sent them in for analysis. I then started building fence and installing waterline. Logging was started in September of 2017 and was completed in October 2017. I then contacted the business that had planned to come in and remove all the brush, tree tops and debris and was told that there is now no market for bio mass. I had no choice but to leave it in piles and work around it.
Educational & Outreach Activities
It is very important to find a good logger !