Managing sericea lespedeza infestation in native warm season grass pastures utilizing goats

Progress report for GNC20-314

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,973.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipients: University of Missouri; The Curators of the University of Missouri
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Harley Naumann
University of Missouri
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Project Information


Sericea lespedeza, Lespedeza cuneata, is a non-native perennial warm-season legume that is known to be invasive and negatively impacts native plant species in pastures by reducing biomass of desirable forage crops. This project, “Managing sericea lespedeza infestation in native warm season grass pastures using goats” will evaluate the effects of utilizing goats at various stocking rates to control, minimize, or eliminate sericea lespedeza in established native warm season grass pastures. Thus, the main objective will be to determine how goat stocking rate in a rotational grazing system affects plant community composition in a native warm season grass dominated pasture infested with sericea lespedeza.


The experiment will consist of 3 replicated treatments of high, medium and low stocking rates. Each stocking rate will be imposed on a grazing unit, divided into rotational paddocks. Each replicated grazing unit will consist of a native warm season grass base (Big Bluestem, Indian grass) and sericea lespedeza. Plant community composition, forage nutritive value, and condensed tannins will be measured before and after each grazing event or rotation. Animals will be assessed for body weight and body condition score prior to, and upon completion of the grazing period. An ACUC protocol is currently under development and will be approved prior to beginning the study.


Sources of outreach and output will be available to a broad range of farmers and ranchers to ensure opportunities of engagement throughout each grazing season. These will be in the forms of field days, workshops, bulletins, video blogs, symposiums, conferences, newsletters, and publications. We will provide a multitude of opportunities to transfer knowledge and technology to our stakeholders.


There are Four main outcomes of this project that directly relate to farmers and ranchers. First, they will be able to determine the goat stocking rate that is the most effective for controlling sericea lespedeza. Second, they will become more aware of native plant species and the problems that arise from infestations of sericea lespedeza. This will encourage better management of current resources. Third, by using goats as a management strategy to reduce stands of sericea lespedeza, farmers will decrease use of herbicides. Fourth, including sericea lespedeza in the diet will control gastrointestinal parasites in goats without using anthelmintic drugs.

Project Objectives:

The goals for this project are to provide farmers and ranchers:

  • The stocking rate that is best suited to control sericea lespedeza in a managed rotational grazing system.
  • Knowledge of native plant species and the problems that arise from infestations of sericea lespedeza.
  • The option of grazing goats as a management strategy to reduce stands of sericea lespedeza without additional cost of herbicides.
  • A means of using sericea lespedeza in the goat diet to control gastrointestinal parasites without using anthelmintic drugs.



Materials and methods:

This project included three goat stocking rate treatments: High (14 head), medium (7 head), and low (4 head). Each treatment was replicated in all three pastures (A, B, and C). 

Prior to grazing plant composition of sericea lespedeza (SL), cool season grasses (CSG), warm season grasses(WSG), other forbe species (OF), grass like species (GL), shrubs(S), and trees (T) were determined. This data was collected using a line point intercept method where linear measurements of plant interception along the length of a stretched line were determined. Multiple lines of data were collected per pasture to determine the plant species composition. 

Grazing began on July 22nd and ended on October 20th. Paddocks were rotated in each pasture per treatment based on forage availability. Grazing days were calculated and were used to determined grazing days per acre and grazing days per treatment. Goats in each treatment were watered as needed and had free range to mineral blocks at all times. 

Fecal egg counts (FEC) were collected and measured prior to and post grazing for each treatment. The number of eggs were used to determine the number of eggs per gram. This was important to determine the amount of gastrointestinal parasite concentration change while grazing sericea lespedeza. 

Goats were sold at the end of the grazing season. 

Research results and discussion:

****This is all raw data and has not been statistically analyzed****

Plant composition was determined by using the line point intercept method mentioned above in the materials and methods. Plant species composition was determined by calculating the percent cover of each plant species by averaging the total intercepts along the transect line. The percent cover was then divided by the total cover for all the plant species. 

Avg Plant Composition (%)
Species  Pasture A Pasture B Pasture C
Sericea Lespedeza 41% 17% 13%
Cool Season Grasses 6% 44% 33%
Warm Season Grasses 1% 18% 14%
Grass like 29% 9% 19%
Other forbes 23% 11% 20%
Shrubs 0% 0% 0%
Trees  0% 0% 0%

Grazing days/acre per pasture were determined by dividing the total number of days grazed by the number of acres utilized. Pasture A had the greater number of grazing days/acre. Grazing days per treatment were determined by averaging the number of days grazed. The low treatment had the greater number of grazing days and the high treatment had the least number of grazing days. 

Grazing days/acre
Pasture A 241
Pasture B 68
Pasture C 63
Grazing days/treatment
High  73
Medium 148
Low 152

The average acres grazed per treatment varied due to rotations being based upon forage availability.

Average acres used per treatment 
High  1.2
Medium  0.7
Low  0.5

Fecal egg counts (FEC) were determined prior to and post grazing for each treatment. The medium stocking rate had a greater % decrease in fecal egg counts from beginning to end of the grazing season. This data shows that the medium stocking rate could be most effective at managing gastrointestinal parasites in goat populations while grazing sericea lespedeza. 

Year 1 FEC (# eggs/gram)
Treatment  FEC Begin FEC End % decrease
High Stocking 2018 1479 27
Med Stocking 2090 1014 51
Low Stocking 1608 1091 32
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Due to the pandemic, we were unable to successfully hire a member of the Osage Nation tribe, they were unable to leave their reservations. 

Additionally, field days and demonstrations were limited. We foresee the upcoming year of this project to bring better opportunities for outreach and demonstrations. 

Undergraduate and graduate students were involved in collecting research that is shown in this report. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.