South Dakota State University (SDSU) extension specialists and cattle producers are teaming up to apply research to a generations-old idea that for every cow grazing on rangeland, a ewe can be added and not have a negative impact on forage quality or availability.
This new research, which began in 2012, will study stocking rates and range health when cattle and sheep are grazed together. It will determine the impacts on range quality and quantity and determine the ideal stocking rate for multi-species grazing.
"The idea of grazing sheep and cattle together - at a one-to-one stocking rate - isn't a new concept," said Ken Olson, SDSU extension beef specialist. "It's an age-old piece of rancher wisdom that has floated around for a long time. In fact, I can find references to it in range management texts from the 1930s."
The issue, Olson points out, is the fact that there isn't any research to back the idea. "Or at least, I and all the researchers involved have not seen any research looking at a one-to-one stocking rate."
The research that has been done in the United States and throughout the world has looked at range health when 50 percent of a cattle herd is replaced with its animal unit equivalent of sheep and both species graze together. For example, if the stocking rate for a particular pasture is 100 cows, then 50 cows would be removed and replaced with 250 sheep because five sheep is the animal unit equivalent to one cow.
SDSU extension's research isn't looking to replace cattle with sheep; it's researching the impacts on range health and livestock production when an equal number of sheep are added to the equation.
The full story is available at http://igrow.org/news/ranch-wisdom-put-to-the-test.
Reprinted in part from iGrow.org