The use of goat herding techniques to reduce the effects of predation while improving rangeland health in the high plains of New Mexico

Project Overview

FW19-357
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $20,000.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G230-19-W7501
Grant Recipient: Sol Ranch LLC
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Emily Cornell
Spear J Ranch

Commodities

  • Animals: goats

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, range improvement
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer

    Proposal summary:

    The use of goat herding techniques to reduce the effects of predation while improving rangeland health in the high plains of New Mexico

    This study will explore the use of herding techniques on goat predation problems and the associated landscape impacts while exploring improvements needed to make multi-species grazing sustainable. In April 2014, K&C Boer goats moved from Central Texas to the Turner Ranch in Mora County, NM to establish multi-species grazing for land restoration and as an additional revenue source. Methods were modified but net fencing for predator control was not financially feasible. K&C experienced 24% kid loss due to predation between 2016-2017 and was able to reduce kid losses to 14% in 2018, but fewer losses are required to be sustainable.

    Additional methods tried by K&C included livestock guardian dogs (LGDs), night penning, pasture selection, and in-shed kidding. While increasing numbers of LGDs reduced predation, when goat herds split into smaller groups it is difficult for LGDs to protect them. The use of herders will reduce the splintering of herds and allow LGDs to do their job and reduce predation. To explore herding techniques, part of K&C’s goats will be herded on a neighbor’s property, the Spear J Ranch, in a 5,000-acre pasture of mixed open and rough terrain during the fall/winter, the time of worst predation.

    Fall/winter also coincides with the time of year brush and other non-desirable species naturally increase in a goat’s diet. This research will assess goat foraging impacts on soil health and species composition. The Spear J is also collaborating with area researchers presently working to establish long-term rangeland health monitoring in the study area. There are many ecological benefits to herded grazing of multiple species, and this could be a key component to sustainable agriculture and proper range use.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The specific objectives of the study will be to: 

    1. Utilize daily herding techniques to reduce predation of goats.
    2. Compare current methods of the producer’s goat operation imported from the central Texas area to those methods we are developing in response to drastic predation losses in New Mexico.
    3. Quantify the effects of animal impact on the landscape.
    4. Identify ways in which ranchers can adopt the use of goats to improve their landscape while creating an additional source of revenue and disseminate this information through educational
    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.