Author: Bob Clyde, Land Specialist
There are many ways to offset the cost of purchasing hunting land by generating income from it. Obviously, you want to make sure such profitable uses of the acreage sync up well with hunting, and there are more than a few examples of activities that can actually improve the quality and productivity of your habitat.
One of those is pasturing livestock on part of your land, whether doing so yourself or leasing out to a neighboring landowner who may want access additional or alternative grazing land without the expense of actually buying it.
Pasturing your woods means you’ll be participating in a very ancient form of agroforestry: “silvopasture,” the practice of cultivating both timber (and timber products) and livestock on the same ground, which historically has been called “wood pasture” or “bushpasture.” Cattle, sheep, goats, and other livestock gain from being able to browse on and shelter under trees, and meanwhile can cut down on weeds and undergrowth. Properly done, it can improve soil health and increase habitat diversity.
Silvopasture might take place at the woodland edge of a denser timber stand you harvest for lumber, or within a fruit orchard (which, of course, tends to be a popular place for deer as well).
Integrating Grazing Into Sustainable Habitat Management
Poorly managed pasturing can be detrimental to your hunting land through overgrazing, fouling of waterways, erosion, and loss of plant and habitat diversity. As with converting part of your acreage to cropland or cutting timber, carefully plan out where, how, and when you or your lessee will graze animals so you’re maintaining the property’s quality as wildlife habitat and hunting ground.
If you decide to lease part of your land to a livestock owner for grazing, you definitely want to come to a clear, legally binding agreement that establishes such fundamentals as the stocking level, pasturing timetables, and the ways and means by which the lessee can access and use your property. Don’t forget to establish who’s responsible for the installation, inspection, and upkeep of fences and gates.
Consider Pasturing Your Woods for Added Income & Habitat Management
Whether you’re making money directly off the animals or from a lease with a livestock owner, pasturing part of your hunting land can be a great way to generate some additional income. Furthermore, some form of silvopasture can help maintain part of your timberland in an open woodland or orchard, which adds complexity to your habitat mosaic and can attract wildlife to boot. Definitely, something to consider with the requisite planning and oversight!