Lamb performance in hardwood silvopastures, I: animal gains and forage measures in summer

Transl Anim Sci. 2019 Sep 20;4(1):385-399. doi: 10.1093/tas/txz154. eCollection 2020 Jan.


The integration of trees into pasture systems can have variable effects on forage and animal growth. Some reports of these systems have indicated that animal gains are similar or better even when tree presence lowers forage yield. Forage production and animal performance were compared in black walnut (Juglans nigra L.)-based and honeylocust (Gleditisia triacanthose L.)-based silvopasture systems and open pastures in a randomized complete block design with three blocks over three summers. Cool season-based, mixed grass pastures were rotationally stocked with four to seven lambs depending on available forage. A rising plate meter was used to estimate pre- and post-graze forage mass. Forage samples of the mixed sward were collected and analyzed for nitrogen (N) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) concentrations. Species percent cover was estimated using a modified Daubenmire approach at the same 12 points within each experimental unit every 4 wk during the study. Pre-graze herbage mass was similar (P = 0.0717) in honeylocust silvopastures (5020 ± 30 kg·ha-1) and open pastures (4930 ± 30 kg·ha-1) and lowest (P < 0.0001) in the black walnut silvopastures (3560 ± 30 kg·ha-1). Forages in the black walnut and honeylocust silvopastures had similar (P = 0.4867) N concentrations (23.3 ± 0.4 and 23.9 ± 0.4 g·kg-1, respectively), which was greater (P ≤ 0.0003) than that of the forages in the open pastures (21.0 ± 0.4 g·kg-1). Forages in the honeylocust silvopasture had lower (P ≤ 0.0042) NDF concentrations (507 ± 3 g·kg-1) than forages in the black walnut silvopasture and open pastures (mean = 525 ± 3 g·kg-1). Forage species present in the black walnut silvopastures differed from those present in the open and honeylocust systems, which had similar composition. Despite differences in stocking rates, total lamb weight gains per system did not differ (P ≥ 0.7592) among black walnut, honeylocust, and open pasture systems (10 ± 2, 12 ± 2, and 10 ± 2 kg·d-1, respectively). Silvopasture practices can improve land productivity when incorporated into cool season forage pastures.

Keywords: black walnut; honeylocust; nutritive value; species composition.