Putting cows, sheep and other livestock into forests to graze could prove to be a valuable tool for New York woodland management, say Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) agriculture educators and colleagues in the Cornell Forestry Program.
They are advocating for the return of silvopasturing -- managed grazing in woodlands.
With pastureland at a premium, they hope that the practice will appeal to farmers, who could benefit from the increased feed options and better shade protection for their animals. The ability to use a part of their land, long off limits to their animals, may also mean a new way for farmers to pay the land's taxes.
To give farmers a greater incentive to convert forested acreage into silvopasture, the New York State Senate recently voted to amend the state's agricultural assessment program to include silvopasturing.
Silvopasturing also benefits woodland managers -- livestock can help clear the underbrush and create a more productive stand of timber, said Brett Chedzoy, a CCE agriculture educator.
"We're being forced into a situation where we have to look at how we utilize our limited agricultural land area," he said. "Silvopasturing fits our landscape in the Northeast, where most pastureland is juxtaposed with forest. In the past we did a good job of telling people to keep animals out of the woods, but rules change."