The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Two visions of forest pasturing

Silvoforestry --- cows and pinesThe USDA National Agroforestry Center is experimenting with ways to combine trees and pastures.  Livestock (primarily cows) are grazed between widely spaced pine trees that are grown for timber.  The cows don't eat the trees, but they do benefit from the shade and wind shelter.  If I was a large scale farmer rather than a homesteader, I would find this idea enticing, but I'm really looking for a system in which the plants and animals are more intertwined.

While looking into the history of forest gardening, I stumbled upon Forest Farming, by J. Sholto Douglas and Robert A. de J. Hart.  The book isn't a riveting work of art and it spans too many climate zones to be a useful how to book, but I was inspired by the presence of livestock in the forest farm systems.  Douglas and Hart suggest planting pastures of trees that drop edible fruits and nuts to feed the livestock.  The multi-layered nature of the forest allows for higher productivity than a single layer pasture can produce, and the livestock add fertility back to the system with their manure.

Check out our Avian Aqua Miser website this week for innovative bucket chicken waterer designs.

This post is part of our Forest Pasturing lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The only problem with this is when the livestock doesn't get to chow-down the grass enough and you end up having to mow. What a pain in the butt that would be to go around all of those trees with a tractor and a bush hog. I guess putting the trees in rows would minimize "some" of that problem though - but it would look very unnatural and orderly.
Comment by Everett Tue Dec 1 17:36:54 2009
That's a really good point! Now, if I was able to have just the right amount of shade so that the lower level didn't need to be mowed, that would be awesome. I'll definitely have to add that problem to the thoughts boiling in my head. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Dec 1 20:42:23 2009


There was a comment regarding the grazing with cattle and having to mow the grass after. Best results would be to have sheep follow the cattle to eat the grass that cattle cannot get down to. This would reduce the mowing and should make it easier to maintain the pasture.

Best Regards

Ron Duncan

Comment by Ron Duncan Fri Jun 20 09:49:15 2014

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