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Beef cattle operation (Charolais, Brangus and Black Angus) in Salinas, PR.

Caribbean Grazing lands

Pasture lands are diverse types of land where the primary vegetation produced is herbaceous plants and shrubs. In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, these lands provide forage for beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses and other types of domestic livestock.

Primary economic outputs include livestock production, but wildlife values are also a major economic consideration for these lands.

Puerto Rico Grazing Lands Production

Puerto Rico's top commodity is milk – with $172.2 million in sales – followed by grains and other field crops ($74.4 million), and plantains ($42.3 million). Pasture grasses harvested in the field are categorized as cropland.

Over 33,390 acres of pasture are harvested in Puerto Rico. The principal pasture grass harvested for forage is Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), followed by digit grass (digitaria eriantha), Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximum), and corn and sorghum silage. The 2018 Puerto Rico Census of Agriculture listed a total livestock inventory of 234,250 cattle and calves; 53,562 horses; 30,963 rabbits; 11,185 sheep and lambs; 3,641 goats and kids; 3,270 bee hives; 45,710 hogs and pigs; 8,969,808 chickens and 3,639 guineas; and 4,946 other poultry products (turkeys, ducks, geese and others).

Hayfield operation in Guánica, PR, 23 April 2021.
Hayfield operation in Guánica, PR, 23 April 2021.

US Virgin Islands Grazing Lands Production

The U.S. Virgin Islands includes St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. The 2018 USVI Census of Agriculture found 448 USVI farms in pasture or grazing lands. These farms accounted for 11,077 acres of farmland, representing about 60% of the total agricultural production for the territory. The Ag Census listed a total livestock inventory of 2,664 cattle and calves; 10,482 sheep and lambs; 7,328 goats and kids; 3,310 hogs and pigs; 20,734 chickens and 3,592 other poultry products (turkeys, ducks, geese and others).

Goat and sheep operation grazing lands in St. Croix, USVI.
Goats and sheep grazing a pasture in St. Croix, USVI.

Common conservation practices used on Caribbean grazing lands include:

  • Brush Management (314)
  • Fence (382)
  • Pasture and Hay Planting (512)
  • Forage Harvest Management (511)
  • Grazing Land Mechanical Treatment (548)
  • Herbaceous Weed Treatment (315)
  • Prescribed Grazing (528)
  • Prescribed Burning (338)
  • Watering Facilities (614)

More Information

  • National Plant Materials Program Publications Relating to Pasture and hayland
  • Tropical Forages – International Center for Tropical Agriculture website that provides information about tropical forages (grasses and legumes) morphological descriptions, common names, distributions, uses and applications, establishment and nutritive value.
  • Establishing Gliricidia Trees - The USDA-NRCS Hoolehua Plant Materials Center is evaluating factors that impact the establishment of Gliricidia trees, a highly adaptable tree species for natural resource conservation practices.

Francisco Rivera

Agroforestry and Grasslands Specialist