Class combines raising cows, trees

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Local farmers know cattle are good income producers, and landowners know the same about timber. Now, local representatives with the National Resource Conservation Service are looking to educate both on how to combine both cattle and timber to maximize their land’s earning potential.

How? A process called silvopasture.

“Silvopasture is an old concept we’re trying to bring back,” said NRCS district conservationist Steve Yelverton. “People used to do it on the National Forest land years ago. Silvopasture combines trees with forage and livestock production, which basically means one can grow both cows and trees in the same place.”

Yelverton said the trees are managed for high residue saw logs and, at the same time, provide shelter and shade for livestock.

“Then, a perennial grass is planted beneath the trees to provide forage for the cattle,” he said. “This helps the landowner meet multiple objectives in managing their grazing lands. It gives them two crops. Generally, trees are a planted for a 30-year rotation. If you’re raising cows and then selling them, you can get income each year while you are growing these trees.”

Yelverton said the NCRS felt the need to sponsor the program since “there are several thousand acres of trees in the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) and as those come out of production, we don’t want to see people just clear cut.

“If they want to go into the cows, this event will show how someone can thin the crop down to 60-70 trees per acre, plant grass and do both together,” he said. “And in this day and time, farmers need to do what they can to maximize their earning potential.”

The event, which will be held on Thurs., Sept. 24, begins at 10 a.m. with guest consultants from the National Agroforestry Center, Forestry Consultants, and Auburn University and NRCS agronomists.

The day will conclude with a hamburger lunch sponsored by the Covington County Cattlemen’s Association and the Covington County Forestry Planning Committee.

Those planning to attend should RSVP by Mon., Sept. 21 at 334-222-3519, ext. 3. There is no charge to attend.