Hackerson - Huntington, MA silvopasture update

Some of you may recall that last year we started a silvopasture project at Ross's Gray Dog Farm in Huntington.  It was being done utilizing a mechanized - valmet cut to length harvester & valmet forwarder.  The goal was to focus the slash in 'roads' or rows spaced about 100' apart.  We don't have a chip market in this part of Massachusetts so slash needs to stay in the woods somewhere.  Well, our logger moved on to a different logging job.  

Fortunately I found another logger who was looking for work.  He has a Timberjack grapple skidder.  So we are using the same concept but different machine.  Drag the brush to slash roads/wind rows.  I am happy to say that we are very pleased with the outcome.  Seems like less slash is being left between the slash roads/wind rows and we are getting better site disturbance.  However some of that is as much related to summer logging versus winter/frozen ground logging.  

We are optimistic that we will get good results.  Ross is planning on seeding much of the area soon.  He is also planning on getting more livestock for the spring to utilize some of the areas that were cut last year.  The silvopasture practice has got much larger than originally planned.  We are hoping to avoid the train wreck that Brett referenced at the Silvopasture conference in 2013.

The following photos show some of the end results.  I took a video of the skidder in action, I just need to figure out how to get it from the phone to this site.  

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Is Ross seeding anything on the bare ground, or just letting nature take its course?  We spread about a ton of winter wheat in late-August on the sites that were logged on our farm in June and July.  It looks like it took pretty well on the areas where the soil was still "fluffy" enough, despite not much rain until late September.  We're hoping that it'll provide enough green and edible "stuff" for the cows to eat next spring to draw them into the slash and help prime the understory transition process. 

Seeding the intended silvopasture area is an issue for us.  I'd be interested to hear how Ross does his seeding. 

Recently, NRCS piloted an Aerial Cover Crop practice.  This news made me wonder whether aerial seeding could be an option for silvopasture projects (forest to silvopasture)???  It is probably cost prohibitive for my farm on its own, but might it be a viable option if multiple farms in proximity joined forces???  Just a thought.   

After the logging we did this summer, I realized that it would be too difficult to get much beyond the main skid trails (which were left graded and relatively free of logging debris) with our ATV and broadcast seeder.  So I dropped ~ 100 lb sacks of winter wheat off along the skid roads, then sent our three teenagers to the woods with 5-gallon pails to sling seed wherever they could by hand. They eventually got it done with minimal griping.  But to do it over again, I would try to spread the seed just ahead of the logging when there's less slash to deal with on the ground and so that the logging disturbance can help to incorporate the seed.

Last spring Ross did seed [with the help of my teenage son] most of the area harvested the previous winter/fall.  They walked around with a over the shoulder broadcast seeder.  Results were variable but that had as much to do with weather - dry when it went down and then heavy storms moved a lot of seed.  I know this year there was talk of doing some frost seeding earlier - now that it looks like the weather has already turned, I'm not sure if that will happen.  

I think seeding in many places is needed if the goal is to get grass particularly in areas not adjacent to existing pastures.   I'm not sure what the most efficient way to get that done given stumps and slash after logging and at least around here the ubiquitous rocks.  In most areas ATV or even farm tractors just aren't going to be able to get the job done.  Hand spreading seed on 20 acres is a project.  That's what Ross is looking at now.  I know bale grazing and busting bales is planned in some areas.  

Skidders/forwarders/logging equipment aren't set up for a 'passenger' to ride safely especially one trying to spread seed.  I wonder if there is an economical way to fit and run a tractor sized broadcast spreader to a skidder.  After all these are the machines designed to go where we want the seed to go.  I'm going to talk to a couple of my 'fabrication wizard' friends and see if they have any ideas.  If not Jake will be home from college around seeding time and Ross will have hundreds of pounds of seed waiting for him.  

I am very new to this discussion group, but we live in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Warren County.  We have tackled this very same project beginning two years ago.  We will be finished cutting this summer and seeding has been interesting.  I had great luck with a mix of 20% annual rye and 80% non-endophyte fescue last year.  I simply took our old Massey Ferguson 35 tractor with a broadcaster and weaved in an out of stumps.  It was tough, but there was no incorporation other than rain.  The grass exploded on the seeded areas.  We did two test strips last fall and have seeded about 10 acres this spring.  That is just beginning to come on, but the weather has been good for germination.  My intention for this area is to create stockpiling grasses for fall/winter cattle feed. 

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