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Animal Science and Forages > ASF Blog > Posts > Researchers Explore Silvopasture System with Black Belt Farmers

Co-authors: Dr. Ermson Z. Nyakatawa and Dr. Karnita Garner

Rural communities that are predominantly characterized by limited-resource farmers and forest landowners on small- and medium-sized farms, play a significant role in supplying safe food and raw materials like fiber, shelter, and energy to the nation. However, small farmers are facing many challenges such as maintaining production systems that are environmentally sustainable, resisting global competition, and remaining profitable. Another big challenge for rural communities is urbanization that threatens the existence and sustainability of forestry and agricultural enterprises. But some researchers are helping farmers to explore other options by using silvopasture.

What is silvopasture? Silvopasture is an agroforestry practice that integrates livestock, forage production, and forestry management practices in ways that are mutually beneficial. Silvopasture systems are designed and managed so that farmers combine a long-term forestry product of high-value with short-term foraging livestock or an annual crop component to increase farm revenue.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Extension) is participating in an integrated silvopasture research project aimed to promote sustainable loblolly-pine trees and meat goat production that benefits limited-resource farmers in Alabama’s Black Belt region. The project is being led by Research Scientist and Professor Ermson Z. Nyakatawa in Alabama A&M University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, along with Extension Animal Scientist Maria Lenira Leite-Browning.

The first phase of the project has been completed. This summer, landowners planted loblolly pine trees and received ten Spanish yearlings and a New Zealand Kiko buck. The breeding season began in early October with expectations that the kidding season will occur in early spring 2014.

The researchers plan to hold a field day in the summer of 2014 to give the farmers an opportunity to share their experiences of using the silvopasture system. The goal is to motivate other farmers to adopt meat goat and timber production.

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