Demonstrate the Impact of Multi-Species Grazing with Virtual Fencing as Ecologically Beneficial Vegetation Management in Critical Watersheds

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Glorious Goat Ranch, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Stephanie Bowers
Glorious Goat Ranch, LLC


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal summary:

Ecologically minded land-owners,
including dairy farmers, struggle to manage vast arrays of
vegetation in varying landscapes. These landscapes are typically
land that is not effectively crop-able, such as hilly areas,
ravines, and riparian habitats. 

Dairy farmers with these
landscapes seek ways to utilize the land, and are implementing
managed grazing systems for their dairy cattle. As part of this
implementation process, farmers have done tremendous work to
ready the land. This work includes, but isn't limited to,
invasive plant removal, forage plantings, and high-tensile

As cattle graze these lands and
work to establish perennial pastures, they eat their preferred
plants, mainly grass. Cattle prefer not to eat broadleaves,
shrubs and trees, and over time these plants, especially invasive
species like buckthorn, begin to regrow and overtake the pasture.
Farmers then struggle with ways to manage the undesired regrowth.
Given the challenging terrain, mechanical mowing may not be
feasible. Other tools become very labor intensive (weed wackers,
chainsaws, etc) and are a safety risk. Chemical use is not a
preferred option given the critical watersheds these lands are

Project objectives from proposal:


This project demonstrates the
impact of multi-species grazing as a chemical-free way to manage
vegetation on varying landscapes. Pre and post vegetation
inventory, leader-follower grazing, commingled grazing, and
virtual fence containment across species (cattle, goat, sheep)
are evaluated.

To demonstrate the impact of
multi-species grazing as a chemical-free way to manage vegetation
on varying landscapes, three unique project sites of 10 acres or
more will be evaluated. 

At each project site, 3 species
of livestock (cattle, goats, sheep) will be used, and containment
will be via Nofence virtual fence. 

Livestock used in this
demonstration will be represented by equal animal units by
species. The breakdown is approximately 6 cattle, 48 goats and 48
sheep. Based upon prior grazing experience, this number of
livestock should effectively graze about 1 ½ to 2 acres per day,
depending upon the type and density of vegetation. In managed
grazing, the goal is to eat a third, leave a third, and trample a
third for maximum soil health. Regarding management of undesired
forages, the goal is 90% defoliation. The majority of undesired
forages on these sites is buckthorn and other shrubs, which are
eaten preferentially by goats. 

Each animal will be outfitted
with a Nofence collar, the only commercially available brand of
virtual fencing with species specific collars for cattle and
sheep or goats. Prior SARE research, performed by a different
farm, showed that Nofence collars are an effective method of
containing goats. 

This demonstration project builds
upon that research, by testing again the effectiveness of Nofence
with goats, and adding on additional species. Containment of
species will be monitored, including in two multi-species managed
grazing styles: mob grazing (all species together), and grazing
via leader-follower (cattle, sheep, goats). 

Each project site will be divided
into two equal sections, and grazed in subsections. One section
will be grazed in a leader-follower pattern, and the other
section mob-grazed with all species simultaneously. Please see
attached map for a rough visual.

Each subsection will be
approximately 1.5-2 acres in size, to provide enough forage to
feed the livestock for 1 day using principles of sustainable
agriculture. The leader-follower sections will be grazed first by
cattle, then by sheep, then by goats. Once the cattle have grazed
a subsection for 1 day, the cattle will be given access to the
next subsection, with the sheep then grazing the section the
cattle just left, and the goats last. Livestock may have access
to up to 5 days of prior pasture due to the variability in each
site’s water access. 


  1. Inventory vegetation types with
    both pre and post grazing measurements
  2. Compare vegetation utilization
    using leader-follower grazing with 3 species compared to
    mob-grazing with 3 species; across 3 unique project
  3. Analyze containment by virtual
    fence across species and project sites
  4. Invite farmers and other key
    stakeholders for private project site visits
  5. Share findings to wider
    audiences through field days, website, social media, conference
    presentations, invited talks, and articles for print


PDF Map of Grazing Sites


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.