Grass-Fed Beef and Black Locust: 30 Years of Silvopasture

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Published: January 18, 2017

In Watkins Glen, New York, 45 minutes from Ithaca, is Angus Glen Farm. Here, the Chedzoy Family runs 100 head of cattle over 310 acres of pasture and silvopasture. Silvopasture is defined as the integration of grazing animals into an existing forest, and/or the establishment of tree rows on grazing land. Brett Chedzoy, in addition to working with Cornell Extension, manages the land’s beef herd and forestry enterprises. Brett’s background is in forestry, but he is both a forester and a grazier. Brett met his wife, Maria, in Argentina, while working with the Peace Corps. He returned to the U.S. with silvopasture techniques from down south. We’d like to extend our thanks to Brett for walking us around his farm, and being incredibly open with his successes and failures over the past 30 years. Brett also manages a silvopasture forum, linked here for those that would like to read more and continue the conversation.

Well-managed silvopasture does not consist of running pigs in the woods, but should be thought of as holistic planned grazing under an established canopy or in between rows of trees in a plantation. Animals must be quickly rotated through partially-shaded paddocks, such that their impact does not disturb the trees’ root systems. If pigs or cattle are left in the woods for too long, they will compact the trees roots and slowly kill the canopy. At that, the trees will not show signs of stress until they are already on their deathbeds, and it is very difficult to bring them back to health once they have been damaged. Brett runs 100,000 lbs. of cattle (100 animals or so), through 110 permanent paddocks. His paddocks are fenced with high-tensile wire. He grazes the animals for eight months of the year, and bale-grazes them for another four. Bale grazing consists of feeding animals hay on dormant paddocks in the winter. Living barns of thick conifer trees protect the cattle from cold winds in the winter. The 2016 summer drought was not an issue for Brett, because the trees in his pastures held onto the winter’s moisture.

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