Peter and I recently had the opportunity to present a day-long workshop on silvopasturing at the Stone Barns Center in the lower Hudson Valley. The Stone Barns Center (www.stonebarnscenter.org) is located on the former Rockefeller dairy farm, and today serves as a showcase of "sustainable food systems".
The main entrance to the Stone Barns Center. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area!
The "livestock team" of the Center practice innovative multi-species grazing with meat chickens, laying hens, turkeys, pigs, cattle, and sheep.
The Center has about 60 acres of woods - mostly mature, mixed hardwoods dominated by heavy understories of shade-tolerant shrubs and vines that pose a challenge to establishing desirable natural regeneration. Storms like Sandy have caused significant damage in the aging forest and further stimulated the growth of interfering vegetation.
For the past several years, the staff at the Center has effectively used pigs to reduce noxious plants in the farm's woods. In this picture, a Berkshire sow can be seen rooting up a oriental bittersweet vine.
According to "livestock team" member Dan Carr, the pigs thrive while foraging in the cooler, partly-shaded silvopasture areas. This practice has allowed them to not only begin rehabilitating their woods in an organic and cost-effective manner, but also results in happier, healthier (and less expensive to maintain) pigs. A sugar maple sapling can be seen in the foreground that is being protected from livestock and deer with a chicken wire cage supported by bamboo stakes. Numerous young trees were observed being successfully protected this way throughout the forest
Pigs are rotated in small paddocks every few weeks (+/-, depending on ground disturbance and other factors) Hot, single-strand polytwine fences are used to create paddocks for the larger pigs. Each paddock is broadcast seeded with a grass mix immediately after the pigs are removed. The picture above shows a sequence of two paddocks that were seeded about 1 month apart.
The seeded areas eventually look like the photo above. Areas may be grazed with the pigs 1 or 2 times (after recovery and revegetation), depending on residual undesirable plants and other factors. Once the silvopasture understory has shifted to mostly grass and herbaceous plants, it can be rotationally grazed with cattle, sheep and even poultry.
Dan Carr shows widely-spaced black walnut trees in an open pasture area that are being protected by wire cages wrapped in barbed-wire. The wire prevents cattle from rubbing on and damaging the cages and trees. Many other useful fruit and nut trees, like Paw Paws have been planted around the center - some in current and future pasture areas.