Silvopasture Economics

Integrating food production with other land uses provides a key opportunity to diversify local economies while enhancing food supply resiliency and producing other key products.  In British Columbia, landscapes in the drier interior have traditionally been managed for both timber production and extensive grazing of native grass species.  By using silvopasture techniques such as seeding of agronomic grass and legume species in parallel with reforestation after harvest, production of forage can potentially be significantly increased in these landscapes, resulting in increased livestock production and/or reduced costs for hay feeding.

Working with the Ministry of Agriculture in British Columbia, Brinkman Earth Systems undertook a multipart project focussed on assessing the potential benefits of silvopasture treatments.  Work undertaken included

  • Development of an integrated ecological and economic model of silvopasture treatements.  The model included dynamic estimation of the impacts of variables such as tree density and planting pattern, shade and root competition effects, longevity of agronomic forage species, timber growth and yield, and a wide range of economic variables.
  • Landscape scale assessment of silvopasture treatment outcomes and impacts on forage and timber value over multiple timber rotations, using timber supply and GIS modelling, remote sensing data, and local knowledge.
  • Rancher level assessments of silvopasture treatment costs and benefits.

At the landscape scale, the project found that silvopasture implementation, combined with moderate reductions in reforestation planting densities, could enhance forage production, without having significant impacts on the volume or value of timber production over multiple rotations.  Economic cost/benefit analysis found that silvopasture treatments could provide significant net economic benefits, but that this outcome was strongly dependent on specific site characteristics.