March 2014
Outdoor Life

Exploring Silvopasture

  Black Belt landowners, participants of the silvopasture demonstration project, received 10 Spanish yearlings and a Kiko buck. Yearlings were bred in the fall for kidding early spring.

Researchers are working with Black Belt farmers to meet the challenges they face in beneficial ways.

Rural communities 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 threatening 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 integrating livestock, forage production and forestry management practices in mutually beneficial ways. Silvopasture systems are designed and managed so farmers can 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 is participating in an integrated silvopasture research project aimed to promote sustainable loblolly pine trees and meat goat production benefiting limited-resource farmers in Alabama’s Black Belt region. The project is being led by Research Scientist and Professor Dr. Ermson Z. Nyakatawa in Alabama A&M University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Andy Scott, David Mays, Eddie Davis, James Bukenya and Kozma Naka, along with Extension Animal Scientist Dr. Maria Lenira Leite-Browning.

The first phase of the project has been completed. Last summer, landowners planted loblolly pine trees and received 10 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. If you have questions about the silvopasture field day, you may contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 256-372-4954.

Maria Leite-Browning, D.V.M., is an animal scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.