Forage Establishment and Management in Arkansas’ Silvopasture for Small Beef Producers

Project Overview

LS19-316
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $251,321.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Dirk Philipp
University of Arkansas

Commodities

  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, clovers, grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), medics/alfalfa
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management
  • Crop Production: silvopasture

    Proposal abstract:

    There has been an increased interest in silvopasture in Arkansas due to incentives related to diversified production resulting in short term profits from beef production and long term profits from timber production, as well as, creating wildlife habitat and additional hunting land. Many small beef producers have attempted to adopt silvopasture, but have failed to establish grazing forage, discouraging further pursuit.

    In Arkansas, there are typically two types of silvopastures, one in established loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations and the second, in natural forests that have regenerated from a previous timber harvest or long-term fallow pasture. This project aims at evaluating forage species and establishment method for both silvopasture types.

    In established plantations, this project will test eight different high quality perennial and annual grasses including novel-endophyte tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum), Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata); and also annual and perennial legumes including crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum), white clover (Trifolium repens), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) in single 40-foot alleys. Forages will be measured for seasonal biomass distribution persistence, yield, and nutritive parameters including crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, in-vitro true digestibility, and neutral detergent fiber digestibility.

    The second project aims to test the influence of decreasing levels of timber basal area in un-managed forests on growth and persistence of orchardgrass and crimson clover and arrowleaf and novel endophyte tall fescue. The main research will be completed at USDA-ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville, AR, which has both loblolly pine plantation and un-managed forests with mixes of hard and soft woods. Demonstration plots will be created on three cooperator farms in Arkansas to show variety in silvopasture types and create diverse environments for testing forage establishment. The success or failures on the on-farm demonstrations will allow researchers the opportunity to understand common forage establishment issues on farm, and will help to strengthen the researchers’ applied knowledge, as well as the supporting educational materials.

    Three field days will be held, one in every year, with each focusing on a different topic. All field days will involve farmer cooperation and local foresters. A step-by-step video database will be created to share knowledge from farmer cooperators, scientists, and forester consultants. The videos will cover six topics: an overview of silvopasture; timber management in existing plantations and natural forest; planning and starting silvopasture with new plantings; forage establishment, production, distribution; matching cattle requirements; and an economic model for silvopastures in Arkansas.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Determine the suitability (seasonal forage distribution, production, quality, and persistence) of annual and perennial legumes and cool season grasses in single row 40-foot alleys in Arkansas loblolly pine silvopastures;
    • Determine the suitability (seasonal forage distribution, production, quality and persistence) of orchardgrass/crimson clover mix and arrowleaf/novel endophyte tall fescue species in naturally regenerated hard and soft wood forests thinned to three different basal areas, a control no thinning (or minor thinning to approximately 60 sq. ft.), 40 sq. ft., and 20 sq. ft. per acre;
    • Develop an extensive video library that outlines and describes common methods for silvopasture establishment and management around the state;
    • Create a working group of farmers, NRCS, ARS, and University of Arkansas experts to support ongoing silvopasture management with current and perspective farmers involved in the project;
    • Evaluate the most economically viable system based considering both timber and forage growth, and estimates of cattle performance.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.