The first (but not last) Northeastern Silvopasture Conference occurred November 7-8, 2011 in Watkins Glen, NY; it was hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County. The conference was fully successful in its intent of bringing together the types of people who would be important in the silvopasture discussion and forming some ideas for how to share the opportunities of silvopasture with those who would benefit from what it offers. The types of people attending the conference included livestock producers, forester owners, foresters, Cooperative Extension educators and specialists, NRCS county, state, and national specialists, Cornell University students and academic researchers.
The conference started with two case studies that describe using livestock in the woods, and the interactions of livestock and forest vegetation. The afternoon of the first day focused on the experiences of a stellar team of research and extension specialists from the University of Missouri's Center for Agroforestry Research. The team of Drs. Garrett, Walter, and Godsey addressed silvopasture establishment, economic benefits of silvopasture operations, and the ecosystem benefits of agroforestry practices and silvopasture. The second day the conference looked at the grazing awareness that tree people would need and the tree awareness that the grazing people would need. The morning concluded with an overview of land use suitabilities and available resources. The key and recurring message was that silvopasture necessarily assumes that the animals are managed intensively and deliberately through a rotational grazing configuration of paddocks. The (unfortunate) tradition of continuous grazing is inconsistent with silvopasture and may degrade pasture conditions. The afternoon session moved to Angus Glen Farm just west of Watkins Glen for a walk and talk about livestock and trees. One highlight of the walk (for me at least) was the chance to see a nimble skidsteer sized machine with a Fecon rotary cutter head creating new silvopasture in an established conifer plantation. (see pictures and video links below)
The potential for silvopasture for some livestock operations in the Northeast seems significant and compelling based on the experiences documented in Missouri and the experiences of some producers who are using silvopasture systems in NY and the Northeast. There are plenty of questions (e.g., how to best regenerate the forest during silvopasture; how to balance the forage and invasive characteristics of some plants; what financial models describe different applications of silvopasture; and others). That not withstanding, the cost:benefit ratio for especially meat production operations seems sufficiently favorable to warrant more attention.
The presenters all agreed to share pdf files of their presentations. Those will be posted (or linked) in the agroforestry section of the publications at the ForestConnect home page. Stay tuned here (and maybe a new silvopasture site) for more details and connectivity.
Here is a link to the Northeastern Silvopasture Guide
Here is a link to the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri
Sponsors of the conference included:
National Agroforestry Center
Natural Resources Conservation Service
NY Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
US Forest Service
Cornell University ForestConnect / Renewable Resources Extension
Penn State Cooperative Extension
Finger Lakes Sustainable Farming Center
Cornell Small Farms Program
Finger Lakes RC & D Council
Upper Susquehanna Coalition
Picture. Group talking trees and livestock.
Picture 1. Some of the Angus on Angus Glen Farm.
Picture 3. The Fecon in action.
Picture 4. Pigs from Forks Farm in Bloomsburg, PA (owner John Hopkins hosted a workshop in June 2011 and spoke at the November conference in Watkins Glen. These are, as I recall, breeding sows and boars in a resting area.