Silvopasture forage

Asked March 30, 2016, 11:50 PM EDT

Beginning to selectively clear/thin 3 acres of hardwood forest in western Maine with the idea of instituting a Silvopasture system. This will be used as grazing area for horses, goats, free range chickens, a couple of feeder pigs and possible hunting. Primary purpose is for increased pasture area for the livestock and not for financial returns. The timber on the property will be used for home heating. Can you recommend a specific forage species (or blend) that would work for our system? Thanks

Oxford County Maine pastures and forages silvopasture

1 Response

Hi,

There is some research showing that typical cool-season grasses can be successful in silvopastures. However, some of the references I reviewed suggested that more studies were needed to determine forage species survival success. Suggested species that would also be suitable for horses include bluegrass, orchardgrass and perennial ryegrass. Thinning the stand of trees so that there's no more than 50% shade may improve your chance of success.

Points to consider - some plants including trees are poisonous to horses. When forages are limited, horses may browse/graze plants they would not normally eat. Make sure you're aware of plants that are poisonous to horses.

Another point to consider - if you've raised pigs on pasture before, you know the potential of their rooting to tear up pasture. I suggest monitoring their grazing/rooting closely to ensure they don't tear up everything you plant. You may want to limit their access to the area. Also, goats may strip the bark off of smaller trees and kill them.

I've included several references for you below. You may also want to follow up with your Extension Office for more information.
https://extension.umaine.edu/oxford/contact-us/

Cornell University Poisonous Plants Database -
http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/

Silvopasture planting and management references, including species recommended for silvopasturing:
http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/index.htm

Recommended Forages for Horses - cross-reference with forages recommended for silvopasturing:
https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/1006e/

Selecting Forage Crops for your Farm - Maine:
https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2272e/

Good luck.