There has been quite a lot of discussion lately about how we produce meat, and where our food comes from. These discussions take into account the impact of farming on the environment, as well as the treatment of livestock.
With this in mind, the term and practise of silvopasture is once again at the center of public discourse. It was once used for years if not centuries at a time, albeit under a different name. It takes center stage today as developing economies of the world search for new methods of food production.
Silvopasture is a term that stems from the Latin word for forest. Fittingly, it is the practise of using forests to pasture your cattle, paired with more traditional grazing lands. This was once a common practise throughout history, but faded out with the dwindling of forested areas.
Today, the practise should be implemented in an organized way, combined with traditional pastures.
For most farmers and governments who play an organizing role in farming practises, forests and farmable land are two separate entities. This is why deforestation is often an organized and planned act, with forests being removed specifically to create land for grazing.
The goal of silvopasture is to mix the two, making them equal parts of a common grazing policy. The holistic approach to grazing treats forests, pastures, and even the animals themselves as moving parts of the same process.
The issue of mixing forest and farming land came to public attention in an extreme way in Brazil this year. Brazil is home to the world’s largest rainforest, and recently suffered one of the biggest forest fires in known history. The fire was not an accident, but was purposefully ignited as part of government policy.
The Brazillian government elected to destroy the rainforest in order to create more land for farming and grazing. This was a grave mistake, one that will have long-lasting effects on eco-systems far beyond Brazil. One way to prevent such events in the future is to implement silvopasture practises.
At this point, it’s safe to say that implementing more silvopasture practises around the world would have beneficial results for everyone involved. This includes farmers, states and the environment as a whole.
The earth has about 2.7 billion acres suitable for silvopasture, and we currently use only 350 million of these. If would manage to add 500 million more acres to this use, it would greatly benefit the environment, by reducing 31 gigatons of CO2 by 2050.
This is not an easy question to answer. Sometimes, it is a matter of public policy, implemented by the government or other authority figures. In other cases, it’s a personal matter–an issue each farmer must decide on their own.
Firstly, farmers are older overall, and have been working in the industry for some time. This makes adaptation to new practises difficult. Secondly, farming is a business that requires consistency and long-term planning, which can make changes difficult.
There are things that can be done to increase the number of farmers that use silvopasture, and the amount of land that’s used in this way. These take time and require a planned, organized approach on many levels. Change should begin with the governments and their endorsements of the new procedures, promoting them via active policies.
Change must be educational, as well. Farmers need to learn about the importance of silvopasture, how it works and its practicalities if it is to be properly implemented.
Silvopasture is the process of grazing your cattle in forests, without jeopardizing the needs of your cattle or the surrounding ecosystem. It is an ancient practise, but has dwindled in use with the rise of pastures as the traditional method of grazing.