Approximately one-third of the land area in Missouri is forests and/or woodlands, much of which is on privately-owned farms. Despite these farms predominately characterized as pastureland, livestock producers and landowners utilize wooded areas due to the demand for additional acreage, environmental benefits of animals, and vegetation management. Unmanaged woodland grazing has shown to be detrimental to the agro-ecosystem due to damage to tree stands, decrease in forage diversity, and reduced animal productivity. The negative impacts have resulted in agricultural and forestry professionals’ general opposition to woodland grazing, and subsequent lack of support for producers and landowners to access knowledge and skills in sustainable management of woodlands. Woodland silvopasture, the intentional and integrated management of livestock in wooded areas, has the potential to become a component within rotational grazing practices through the management of pre-existing wooded paddocks to diversify forage production and provide a microclimate beneficial to livestock performance. Establishment of an integrated woodland silvopasture system has the potential tocreate a microclimate to maximize forage production and increase livestock performance compared to an open grazing system. The proposed research project aims to develop an applied approach to convert unmanaged wooded paddocks into woodland silvopasture for integration into a rotational grazing system. The project aims to enhance producers and landowners’ knowledge of integration for improved natural resource management and optimized production, support applied development of woodland silvopasture systems, and provide the management techniques and skills to increase sustainability and resilience with adaptive grazing practices.
The project will be executed at the University of Missouri Thompson Farm Research Center over two consecutive grazing seasons. Cow/calf pairs (n = 72) will be assigned to either grazing treatment: (1) open-pasture rotational grazing or (2) integrated woodland silvopasture rotational grazing, April - September. Ambient climate measurements and soil samples will be collected to provide descriptive characteristics of the two systems. Forage samples will be collected to assess forage production and nutritive value between the two treatments. Livestock performance measurements will be measured to evaluate the impact of the grazing systems on the animals. Additionally, a participatory cohort, made up of five producers and landowners, will be created to serve as the project advisory group to inform the development and progression of the research project. An exchange of knowledge will be reinforced through project collaboration with extension agents and professionals that will increase participant knowledge in the areas of forestry, forage management, and livestock and grazing management.
Project objectives from proposal:
Learning outcome (1): livestock producers and forested landowners will gain increased awareness and understanding of animal performance, forage productivity, and woodland management within the woodland silvopasture system. Learning outcome (2): livestock producers and forested landowners in the project advisory group will increase knowledge and application of sustainable practices through the independent design of a woodland silvopasture system. The plan will engage producers and landowners in the integration of sustainable practices. Learning outcome (3): livestock producers and forested landowners will comprehend the integration of woodland silvopasture as a component to rotational grazing systems for natural resource management and system resilience.
Action outcome (1): producers and landowners (n = 50) will gain the capacity to identify woodland silvopasture and establish goals in integration of the system during the University of Missouri Thompson Farm Field Day. Action outcome (2): livestock producers and forested landowners (n = 5) involved in the advisory group will participate in development of a producer-focused extension woodland silvopasture field guide. The production of the management field guide aims to promote strategic planning and action for integration of sustainable management practice. Action outcome (3): producers and landowners (n = 50) will have access to the management field guide as a resource in the integration of alternative agroforestry techniques for sustainable forest, forest, and grazing management.