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What to plant for silvopasture in PNW?

 
pollinator
Posts: 395
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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We are getting close to ready to plant forage for a silvopasture for sheep.  Almost got the fence lines cleared of brush.  Got most of the dead/dying/in the way trees cut down.  A little more selective thinning to do.  Farm plan from the county said to thin to minimum 20' on center trees to allow for enough sunlight to penetrate the canopy, preferentially leaving big leaf maple and evergreens (mostly cedar and hemlocks).  Sooooo many dead/dying alders and birches to take down.  I'll be set for firewood for years and years.  

Anyway, won't plant anything until fall when we start getting meaningful rain again as I don't get enough from the well to irrigate that much.  But I want to be ready when the weather is favorable.

What's a good mix of forage to plant for my area (80mi north of Seattle, maybe 180' above sea level)?  Most of the property drains fairly well, a couple areas get swampy and can stay wet enough to be a problem with any machinery year round.  Initial thought was orchardgrass (given the name it should be shade tolerant), maybe some perennial ryegrass, some fescue to keep forage available later in the season, and a couple clover types.  Some portions will be closer to full sun than silvopasture.  Would the same blend work in those areas, or should I change the blend?  I've read that birds foot trefoil and chicory are natural anti-parasite forages.  Should I perhaps plant those more heavily in certain areas?

If it matters I'll be looking for hair sheep, not woolies. With all the Himalayan blackberries a wool sheep just seems like a bad idea.  

How strict do I need to be to eradicate the buttercups and foxgloves from the pasture area?  Is false lily of the valley toxic (seem to have a lot growing especially in shady areas)?

Thanks.

Edit to add:. Meat chickens and turkeys will also be run through these pastures, if it matters.  I do plan to plant some fruit trees like mulberry eventually, and some other beneficial things, but for now I want to focus on forage/grazing plants.
 
gardener
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Location: Western Washington
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Silvopasture trees in our region usually consist of at least some of the following:

Apple trees (branches are good forage, fruit is good too). Plant antonovka rootstock if you're planting a lot of apples. It's cheaper that way and the fruit is still usable

Willow

Mulberry (good protein, use rootstock if you don't mind the fruit being seedy)

Honey locust

Persimmon (for the fruit)

The others are escaping me for some reason. I'll add more if I remember.

I'm not sure eradicating buttercup and foxglove is possible. I would aim to reduce them but they'll find their way back.


I would consider planting alfalfa and clover. They would be great for the poultry


Storage apples used to be very important winter feed for all livestock. Cultivars like enterprise are what I would recommend.  I recommend standard rootstock like antonovka,  and semi dwarf like  M111, BUD118, and M7
 
James Landreth
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Also, you will have to water to get them through the summers for a few years. I would look into pond capture if the well isn't sufficient.  Thick mulch will help of course
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Great advice.  

Other than alfalfa and clover any advice on the grass and other grazing forage to plant?
 
gardener
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In your wet areas and even outside of them Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia) can be a great option. A bit slow growing but can be copiced and it doesn't mind growing in grassy areas. Deer also tend to leave it alone. But from what I was reading it seemed like ash in general was popular with sheep though I had trouble finding anything specific about Oregon ash. But I do know it coppices and pollards fine and it does great in wet areas--it can be flooded during the wet season and be fine.
 
James Landreth
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Great advice.  

Other than alfalfa and clover any advice on the grass and other grazing forage to plant?




Vetch would probably be great. And I know cleavers is a big hit with poultry. And definitely comfrey. Comfrey everywhere
 
pollinator
Posts: 374
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I am not a sheep guy (so far), but I am in zone 8A in north central TX., doing silvopasture.  Here is what I have determined will be my fall mix.  My priority will be to heal the soil and create enough organic matter to hold all the moisture I get.  I don't know if you are in the rain shadow or not.  If not, then water retention may not be your issue come summer; but it is certainly mine.  There are a few plants in this mix that may not like wet feet.  But only one or two.  You can easily drop them from the schedule and/or substitute a wet hardy plant. (if I have some time tonight I will look up cool wet tolerant pasture plants.)

Legumes:
Crimson Clover, Persian Clover, Sainfoin, Wolly Pod Vetch, Spring lentils, Austrian Winter Pea.  I will include Mung Bean, but am not sure your season length will give it time to mature.  I think it needs 60 days.  Winter does not kick in for me until Thanksgiving, so not an issue here.  Frost may get yours by Halloween.

Grasses:  (because they are cheap and good feed for cattle, poultry, and the soil in winter.)
Rye Grass, Winter Wheat, Elbon Rye, Black Oats, and Winter Barley.

Broadleafs:
Buckwheat, Chicory, Plaintain, Phacelia, (The last may not like the wet, and is technically a warm season plant, so may not work for you.)

Brassicas:
Bayou Kale, Forage Collards, Essex Rape.  (for your sheep I would add as a substitute for anything you drop Radish, Turnips.)

This gives me a 20 way blend that will feed the biome.  What I found when I planted my first run of trees was the soil was in such poor shape, it would not hold water for seedlings to thrive and the soil was compacted and poor; making the seedlings root bound when they grew past the disturbed soil of the hole they were planted.  I need to condition the soil before my trees will thrive.  Your soil may not be in as bad a shape since you have trees on it already.  But keep in mind Alders are a pioneer species.  The first to colonize disturbed soil.  If your soil has issues you may want to cover crop for a season or two to renew the soil before killing a lot of expensive trees.  (been there done that.)

I think you may find Dr. Christine Jones' talk interesting.  The whole talk is worth a listen if you get the time, but this is the crux of it.  


I have a spread sheet with the bulk prices of seeds, my ratios, etc...  it is on a different computer, but can post it later if you are interested.  Good luck with your project.  I lived up that way for many years and loved it. It sounds like you are in the Burlington/Mt Vernon area.  Beautiful country.

 
Andrew Mayflower
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Jack Edmondson wrote:I am not a sheep guy (so far), but I am in zone 8A in north central TX., doing silvopasture.  Here is what I have determined will be my fall mix.  My priority will be to heal the soil and create enough organic matter to hold all the moisture I get.  I don't know if you are in the rain shadow or not.  If not, then water retention may not be your issue come summer; but it is certainly mine.  There are a few plants in this mix that may not like wet feet.  But only one or two.  You can easily drop them from the schedule and/or substitute a wet hardy plant. (if I have some time tonight I will look up cool wet tolerant pasture plants.)

Legumes:
Crimson Clover, Persian Clover, Sainfoin, Wolly Pod Vetch, Spring lentils, Austrian Winter Pea.  I will include Mung Bean, but am not sure your season length will give it time to mature.  I think it needs 60 days.  Winter does not kick in for me until Thanksgiving, so not an issue here.  Frost may get yours by Halloween.

Grasses:  (because they are cheap and good feed for cattle, poultry, and the soil in winter.)
Rye Grass, Winter Wheat, Elbon Rye, Black Oats, and Winter Barley.

Broadleafs:
Buckwheat, Chicory, Plaintain, Phacelia, (The last may not like the wet, and is technically a warm season plant, so may not work for you.)

Brassicas:
Bayou Kale, Forage Collards, Essex Rape.  (for your sheep I would add as a substitute for anything you drop Radish, Turnips.)

This gives me a 20 way blend that will feed the biome.  What I found when I planted my first run of trees was the soil was in such poor shape, it would not hold water for seedlings to thrive and the soil was compacted and poor; making the seedlings root bound when they grew past the disturbed soil of the hole they were planted.  I need to condition the soil before my trees will thrive.  Your soil may not be in as bad a shape since you have trees on it already.  But keep in mind Alders are a pioneer species.  The first to colonize disturbed soil.  If your soil has issues you may want to cover crop for a season or two to renew the soil before killing a lot of expensive trees.  (been there done that.)

I think you may find Dr. Christine Jones' talk interesting.  The whole talk is worth a listen if you get the time, but this is the crux of it.  



I have a spread sheet with the bulk prices of seeds, my ratios, etc...  it is on a different computer, but can post it later if you are interested.  Good luck with your project.  I lived up that way for many years and loved it. It sounds like you are in the Burlington/Mt Vernon area.  Beautiful country.



Thanks!  Video was very interesting.  I would really like to see that spreadsheet.  Yes, I'm close to Mt Vernon/Burlington.  
 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Spreadsheet

I could not find a way to upload the file onto the forum here, so I linked it to a Google Drive address.  If you can't see it; or manipulate it PM an email address and I will send it to you.  

Notes on the data.  50# bags are the best value so pricing and ratios are based on bag quantity.  The second column, are prices based off my local cover crop seed provider for 50# bags.  The mix ratio is driven off the number of bags in the fourth column.  Cost is simply number of bags x price per bag.  Finally the seeding rate at the top is based on 40 acres (all I have cleared at the moment) but the formula in I1 can be changed based on the size of your pasture.

 
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As a fellow PNWer and silvopasture manager, I would consider walking around to grab foxglove flowers and stuff them into a trash bag.  I ferment noxious weeds in barrels then pour the resulting slurry on gardens for fertilizer--but the crux is that I can't have seeds in there, so get the flowers young if you choose to go this route.  My neighbors have severely overgrazed pasture (constant sheep presence for all the 17 years I've lived next door) and it's basically mud and foxglove.  So even though foxglove isn't killing those sheep, it's not doing them any good either.  Check out Fred Provenza's book Nourishment for great info about how animals learn to forage.  Animals new to foxglove might overindulge.  Honestly, walking around gathering foxglove flowers is also an excuse to get to know your pasture.  More footsteps is more awareness is more productivity.

Orchardgrass is delicious and productive but does not love shade.  The best way I have established it is by using horse trampling in the winter.  15 years after housing the ponies in one section of pasture over the winter, it still grows the best orchardgrass which we mow for rabbits and goats before running chickens over it.  We get several cutting in a good moist year like this one.  I have never bought seed for it, feeding the ponies orchardgrass hay is enough.  Word to the wise--several other seeds have come in on loads of hay.  Wild amaranth seeds survive a trip through a horse gut just fine!

Buttercup has been a decreasing issue as I have added significant calcium carbonate to the soil over the years.  Adding wood chips, for whatever reason, has served to INCREASE buttercup significantly.  This is Ranunculus repens, Creeping Buttercup.  It tells me about low-drianage low-calcium spots in my land.  I have had success in my boggy areas with Korean nut pines from Burnt Ridge nursery.  Also some hazelnuts cultivars (ones recommended for heavy soils--get blight resistant or -immune ones!), and raspberries grown on chinampa-style berms created by piling up twigs left by our goats and piling dirt on top.  The dirt comes from pondlets dug between the berms, which get used in winter by our ducks.  We get phenomenal crops of comfrey and willow by these ponds, which cycle back into the goat pen as browse when the willows aren't getting used for basketry projects.  

While I have used sheep and goats and horses between trees, my current favorite is our rabbit tractors.  They might be my favorite because another farmmate takes care of them, so all I see is tasty rabbits leaving perfectly mowed and fertilized grass in their wake as they scoot around under the pear, apple, and nut trees.  

Are you getting Katahdins?  If so, I recommend Michelle Canfield in Monroe.  I once heard a sheep in distress in my pasture and found one of my East Friesian ewes firmly lodged in Himalayan blackberry, stuck there by her fleece!
 
pollinator
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Some say hazelnuts may not produce in heavy soils. Don’t know how accurate this is. I planted four varieties in a wet area but moved so don’t know if they are producing now. But they were growing very well.
 
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Here in the South poplar or pecan are good trees, apples,plum, pear & Persimmon for feed. Pasture rasied pigs can get 40% of their feed from the wild, if the correct trees are used.
Domestic fowl is easier, I know nothing about sheep, a little about goats & nothing about cattle in a wooded lot or silvopasture, I understand they are using this in the Rainforest.
 
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Great advice here so far! I'm also in the middle of clearing brush for sheep fence with pigs and chickens doing the advance scouting and clearing. It's interesting that you've been advised to keep evergreens. It's great to have some for biodiversity and wind shelter, but less so for sheep fodder. As you're probably aware, sheep are fine with forbs predominating over grasses. You may want to consider adding a few C4 plants (e.g. switchgrass) for climate resiliency even in the PNW. If you're jamming in willow stakes, the tannins in them will alleviate the parasites that you seek to control with trefoil and chicory although I personally have still included those. One factor is whether or not you'll be overwintering the sheep. If so, you may want to include some classic coppice and pollard trees for nutritional and medicinal winter tree hay like elm (if any are native) and the afore-mentioned Oregon ash or another that likes wet. Hopefully you're able to reference Steve Gabriel's Silvopasture book. Amongst his top 8 recommended species (apart from the willow, poplars, honey locust, mulberry that others have mentioned) are black locust, mimosa and the alder that you already have. Advice so far that I love: Jack's seed mix info, adding calcium carbonate; and anything Fred Provenza says. Mix your nitrogen fixer forbs and trees with your non-fixers, plan how to both include and exclude livestock from any immature or mature rows/planting beds. You may also want to check out Sarah Flack's The Art & Science of Grazing, and William Bryant Logan's Sproutlands.
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