Maximize Returns on Marginal Ground Using Silvopastoral Management Practices with Chestnut Trees, Rare Breed Sheep and Guard Llamas
Deanna Perera of Boonville, MO operates an 85 acre farm that consists of 90 rare breed Karakul sheep and 24 llamas. She exhibits for the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory (ALBC) and shows her sheep all over the United States educating the public on the benefits of conserving a rare breed animal. Deanna’s 2001 SARE grant was to convert an 18 acre field of fescue which contained an endophytic fungus to a pasture of all season grasses, legume forages and a chestnut tree orchard.
The renovation of the 18 acres would meet all of their grazing and haying needs by extending the grazing period and also to provide extra revenue from the nuts while providing additional shade for the animals. Since the climate in central Missouri is suitable for chestnut trees, Deanna thought she would give them a try.
With help from her University Extension and Dr. William Reid from Kansas State University, was able to purchase trees from the Empire Chestnut Company in Ohio. They planted the trees in rows of 25 spacing them apart by 50 feet. They also placed a wire cage around each tree for additional protection from the animals located in the pasture. They planted trees in both the spring and the fall, and found more success with the trees that were planted in the fall.
While they seemed to be prepared for the task, they still encountered a few problems with rabbits and cattle that were in the area. The drought that they were experiencing that year also caused some additional strain to the crop. Even with a little bad luck they were able to produce 75-80 pounds of nuts in their first year. The project also provided them with a more successful hay crop and allowed for a more intensive grazing system.
Deanna has been sharing the success of her SARE project at many conferences and symposiums throughout the state of Missouri and is open to give tours of their farm. She plans to continue to work with Dr. Reid and students from the University of Missouri Agro Forestry School to stay up to date on the best way to maintain and manage the new orchard.