Silvopasture in the Northeast

2003 Annual Report for FNE03-484

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2003: $6,243.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
John O'Meara
O'Meara Family Farm

Silvopasture in the Northeast


2)Restate the goals of your project.

This project aims to develop a piece of land as silvopasture. This project is designed to get maximum production and profitability out of wooded land while raising grazing animals in a sustainable manner.

3) Update the information on your farm.

O’Meara Family Farm is still farming seventeen acres in the hills of Phillipston. We have added pigs to our operation and are considering selling milk from our small herd of Dexter cattle in the Spring. Although we are unable to purchase a large piece of land immediately behind our farm as planned, we are looking into other additional land in town to rent or buy. The silvopasture project has added significantly to our profitability as a farm raising grazing animals. We remain a highly diversified farm specializing in honey, eggs, vegetables and heritage breeds of poultry, sheep and cattle.

4)Describe your cooperators and their roles in the project.

I have been in contact with Jim Fownes, a silvopasture expert connected with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in regards to this project. He is serving as the technical adviser for this project, giving expert advice regarding thinning of trees and the cultivation of silvopasture in general.

5)Tell us what you actually did on your project and what remains to be done.

So far, I have cleared our approximately 90% of the tops left over from the previous owner logged this land. This work was performed with oxen and resulted in approximately eight cords of firewood and approximately thirty small saw-logs for use by the farm. In the Spring of 2003, I planted thirty timber and nut seedlings on the land. The black walnut seems to grow particularly well on this property. Two of the shagbark hickories did not survive the first seson. I also identified the more valuable existing trees on the land, including hickory, maple, hemlock and oak and selected some trees for thinning. Thinning is still in progress. In the Spring of 2003, our small flock of sheep went out onto a section of the land. Eight sheep and a guard llama got approximately 50% of their feed from browsing for three weeks, before being sent off to a summer pasture in a nearby town. Although the flock gleaned a relatively small amount of feed, their presence on that piece of land helped clear out some of the brush and allowed other pastures to grow. In July of 2003, our small herd of Dexter cattle went out on the land. The five animals (a cow, two heifers and two oxen) got approximately 50% of their feed from the land for two weeks. They also cleared out brush and small undesirable trees while other pastures rested. Portable electric fencing was used for the animals during 2003. The forest canopy on the land being converted to silvopasture currently allows approximately 30% sunlight to reach the ground. This season the portable electric fencing will also be used initially, though more permanent fencing will be erected. Thinning will continue and the trees taken out with the use of the team of oxen. Flocks of ducks, geese and chickens will also be rotated on the land to help develop the pasture.

6) Describe your results and accomplishments to date.

The land is slowly beginning to evolve as pasture. When the Dexters went out on the land in the Summer of 2003, they did quite well, if only for a short period of time. Because they are a hardy, thrifty breed, they seem perfectly suited to helping this land become more productive. The harvest of firewood and sawlogs incidental to the progress of this project helped the farm substantially. This long term silvopasture project shows great promise for our small farm for the upcoming season.

7) Describe any site conditions or conditions specific to your farm and this growing season that might be affecting your results.

The season was very rainy but all worked progressed as planned. The land is very rocky which will make permanent fencing time consuming to erect.

8) Describe your economic findings, if any.

The oxen proved to be useful on this project, paying for themselves and then some. Being able to show people what I have done with the oxen on this project has allowed me to line up some other work logging.

9) Say whether the results from your project generated new ideas.

This project has convinced me in particular that small-scale, animal powered logging can be profitable when combined with silvopasture. I’m planning on hiring myself and my own oxen out to other farmers to develop similar projects on small woodlots in New England.


James Fownes
Techincal Advisor
University of Massachusetts
Holdsworth Natural Resource Center
Amherst, MA 01002
Office Phone: 4135770205