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Silvopasturing getting more from farm

“With this practice, we're finding we can do more with less land,” said Terry Clason, a researcher at the LSU AgCenter's Hill Farm Research Station in Homer, La. “This will help producers get more use out of their land by allowing them to produce more than one crop on the same plot.”

Silvopasturing combines trees with forage and livestock production. The trees are managed for high-value sawlogs and at the same time provide shade and shelter for livestock and forage — reducing stress on the animals and sometimes increasing forage production.

Participants in a silvopasture workshop held at the Hill Farm Research Station learned how they may benefit from silvopasturing. Clason said the silvopasture system produces high-value timber and provides short-term cash flow from the livestock.

While Clason spoke about how cows are being raised among tree plots at Hill Farm, Steve Hotard, LSU AgCenter forester, spoke about how goats are being raised on tree plots at the LSU AgCenter's Calhoun Research Station.

“We are trying to find ways to maximize profits for every piece of land,” Hotard said. “In Calhoun, we're raising goats on our tree plots. The goats prefer weeds over grass and, therefore, are eating the weeds and leaving the grass. By using the goats, we're saving money because we don't have to buy chemicals to get rid of the weeds, and we're adding red meat production.”

Workshop participants also visited Reggie Skains' operation in Downsville, La., where he is raising horses and mules in the trees on his property.

“I have raised cattle on the property,” he said. “This (silvopasturing) is proving to be a valuable tool for me to use to maximize my profits while using the same amount of land.”

Skains is using a conservation plan to make the most of his operation. He has shooting ranges on his property that he opens to the public, as well as raising livestock and trees on the same plots. And he plans to develop the rest of his property at a later date for even more revenue.

“What I wanted to do was make this land profitable,” he said. “This is a new idea, and programs such as this have helped me learn new ways to work with my land.”

In addition to learning how the silvopasture concept can help maximize profits, participants in the workshop also learned about how important it is to know the condition of their soils.

“Crop yields often are limited by low pH and nutrients in the soil,” said J Cheston Stevens, LSU AgCenter agronomist. “It's important to know everything that's in your soil before you plant.”

Stevens said it's also important for producers to plan before they plant, and part of the planning should be having the soil tested. To have soil tests done, Stevens said producers can take soil samples to a parish LSU AgCenter office. Routine tests are $4 each and include tests for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and pH levels. Special tests also are available for salts, metals and organic matter, he said.

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