Silvopasture is a form of agroforestry where trees are deliberately planted to be part of a farms livestock system. Three tree planting designs are being trialled as part of a field lab investigating the benefits of agroforestry.
Each design has been chosen to suit the grazing requirements of the farmers as well as fitting into the natural environment surrounding the chosen fields. Seven farms across Devon are testing these designs as part of 12 years of farmer led research into agroforestry. The results aim to provide the first ever set of long term data which is practically grounded in the reality of commercial farms. This will give more farmers the confidence to plant trees into their grazing systems.
The designs have been chosen to suit a range of needs so if you are a livestock farmer there is a good chance the principles of one of these designs will suit your needs.
But what do the designs looks like? Why were they chosen? And what benefits are they hoped to bring? Three farmers below have volunteered to share the designs they worked on with the help of The Woodland Trust and FWAG Southwest.
This field lab is also partnered with Rothamsted Research and Organic Research Centre.
Henry Andrews is trialling regular spaced agroforestry strips on his farm.
Henry is part of a 12 year farmer-led research project into silvopasture. Click here to follow how it's progressing.
Henry is a conventional beef farmer located in north west Devon. The land he wanted to convert to silvopasture is exposed heavy land. The chosen field is a 4.5 ha field on the edge of a moor with high wind speeds often blowing from the west. The design is chosen to provide dappled shade and scattered shelter for the animals. Henry wanted to introduce trees in regular spaced strips onto the field without restricting access to machinery in case he needs access for cutting silage. The strips are fenced off so Henry can create a paddock system in the five years while the trees establish themselves meaning very little land is taken out of productive use in this time. After the trees are established the fences will be changed from north to south to east to west so the paddock system runs through the tree strips. This will allow the cattle to browse across the tree strips and have access to fodder and nutrition while maintaining the mob grazing system.
Nine rows of trees were planted on the field, each 20 metres apart from the other. In the rows the trees are spaced 2.2m apart. The rows are planted with trees alternating with shrubs as seen in the diagram below. Three hawthorn shrubs are planted around each tree to ensure they are protected from rubbing when the cattle are let back in. Hawthorn is chosen as it is spikey but unlike blackthorn it doesn’t sucker into the field which would create unwanted spread into pasture. Trees will be protected with 1.8m guards and the shrubs are planted in spiral protectors at 0.75cm tall.
|Standard Trees (% total)||No.||Shrubs (% total)||No.|
|Downy birch (10%)||86||Elder (5%)||43|
|Field maple (5%)||43||Holly (5%)||43|
|Oak (20%)||183||Elm (10%)||86|
|Scots Pine (5%)||43||Spindle (5%)||43|
|Sycamore (5%)||43||Willow (15%)||140|
|Alder (5%)||43||Hazel (10%)||86|
|Total area of field (ha.)||4.51|
|Length of strips||2196m|
|Number of trees||900|
|Number of thorns||1350|
|Spacing between trees||2.4m|
|Cost of trees||£1381.50|
|Cost of thorns||£810|
|Cost of fence||£5270|
Follow how the 12 year silvopasture field lab progresses. Or get in touch to discuss your own ideas.