- Agronomic: potatoes, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: goats
- Animal Production: pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, housing, feed/forage
- Education and Training: workshop
- Energy: solar energy
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Pest Management: eradication
Sericea lespedeza, is an introduced perennial legume. Recognized for its tolerance of drought, acidity, and shallow soils of low fertility. It tolerates variety of soil,with few insect and disease problems. Sericea’s ability to thrive under a variety of conditions and tendency to crowd out more palatable forages are among the reasons it has been declared a noxious weed in Kansas. Sericea was planted in the past to control soil erosion, provide forage for livestock, and provide cover and food for wildlife. It has spread by animals and movement of hay contaminated with sericea seed to native prairies, shrublands, forests, and introduced pastures. Normal management practices such as grazing, burning, and applying herbicides do not adequately control sericea. The plant has high concentrations of chemical compounds called tannins. Tannins bind with proteins, leaving them unavailable for digestion. They also reduce the palatability and digestibility of forages. The level of tannins in Sericea lespedeza appears to increase with maturity of the plant, high air temperature and low rainfall. Sericea and brush are encroaching our rented pastures. We are currently trying to control this with herbicides. We cannot convince the landowners to fence for companion grazing of goats, so that we can control the brush and Sericea naturally. Companion grazing is a viable control for these brush species as well as Sericea. Goats and sheep are able to digest the tannins and they act as a natural dewormer. The major obstacles in companion grazing is “goat proof” fencing, water and predator control. If we can train the goats to respect the wireless fence, with the “training collars” then goats could be used in a portable fashion. If this is viable, then we could “rent” out the goats with the portable system to other ranchers.
This project is a novel approach to an old problem, by using goats we can eliminate the need for herbicides. This system will overcome the obstacles of grazing animals, the fencing, water and predator control. Use of goats to “control” Sericea Lespedeza is not new, control has been shown. A wireless fencing system would be used, along with the “training collars” on the goats. A portable shelter, equipped with a watering system, mineral and salt would house the fencing unit, to provide protection from predators of the goats. A burro will also be used for predator control. Because of the remote locations of these pastures, a solar powered generator would be used to “power” the wireless fence. The first year of the project, supplies would be gathered. The portable generator would be attached to the solar panel and attached to the roof of the shelter. The shelter would be built with the watering system in place. We would procure some mature meat type nannies for the project. They would be subject to training for 10 days at a time. Once the animals were trained to the wireless fence, we would move them out to a close pasture for the first week. Once we were convinced the plan was working the entire unit could be moved to more remote locations. The District Agronomist will evaluate the stands of Sericea lespedeza prior to the goats grazing and then again when the goats are done grazing. We will follow this protocol for the second year. The number of goats used, is only limited, by the number of collars purchased. If all is working we could try to add more goats in future years and possibly “rent out” the goat system to other ranchers.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Develop a companion grazing system using goats to control the weed Sericea Lespedeza, which degrades cattle grazing land, in a sustainable way.
- Positively impact the environment by using companion grazing system to enhance productivity of pastures, make better use of precipitation that falls, avoid using chemical herbicides and provide nutrients back to the soil from the goat feces and urine.
- Enable farmers to increase profitability by eliminating the need to buy chemical herbicide every year to get rid of Sericea lespedeza and invasive brush, and saving in the cost of permanent fencing or temporary electric fencing.
- Improve farmers' quality of life by creating a companion grazing system that increases ease of moving goats and rotating through pasture and controlling weeds.