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Impact of managed woodland grazing on forage quantity, quality and livestock performance: the potential for silvopasture in Central Minnesota, USA

Ford, Madeline M., Zamora, Diomy S., Current, Dean, Magner, Joe, Wyatt, Gary, Walter, W. D., Vaughan, Sophia
Agroforestry systems 2019 v.93 no.1 pp. 67-79
cattle, farmers, forage production, forage quality, forage yield, grazing, grazing systems, guidelines, pastures, production technology, silvopastoral systems, sowing, woodlands, woodlots, Minnesota
Over 177,000 ha of woodlands in Minnesota, USA are grazed. In general, these woodlands are not managed specifically for timber or cattle benefits. This lack of management often leads to decreased timber value and reduced forage yields. Silvopasture is a potential alternative to overcome this lack of land management on Minnesota woodlots. However, very limited information are available about silvopasture use in Minnesota. This three-year study evaluated the potential for silvopasture in Minnesota by comparing the production of unmanaged woodland grazing, silvopastoral, and open pasture systems. Three farmers from Central Minnesota collaborated in this study to assess these grazing systems. Silvopasture paddocks were established when thinning and seeding were performed on woodland areas. We assessed forage production, forage quality, and livestock performance. Forage production was generally greater in silvopastoral systems compared with unmanaged woodland grazing systems, while forage quality was lower in open pasture systems, at least during the first year. Livestock performance was similar between the grazing systems. Results indicate that silvopasture has potential in Minnesota, but more research is required to develop specific management guidelines as well as to monitor silvopasture production systems for longer periods of time.