Intensive Grazing with Water Fowl around Raspberries (Rubus idaeus L.) to Reduce Weeds

Project Overview

YNC09-043
Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2009: $400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Commodities

  • Fruits: berries (brambles)

Practices

  • Animal Production: grazing management

    Abstract:

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    The issue of sustainable agriculture that I explored was weed control, because I have weeded my family’s row of raspberries and thought of less labor intensive weed control. Also I wanted to investigate a more sustainable way to weed raspberries because presently the accepted practice is herbicides and/or hand weeding to reduce weeds.

    The project’s goal was to use waterfowl to reduce weeds in a planting of domestic raspberries.

    During this project I learned about alternative weed control methods that are easier on the environment, the temperaments of geese, and the possibilities for using them as vegetarian guard dogs.

    A pair of adult male Roman Tufted geese were donated to my project and I realized that it would be easier to use all adult birds because during my spring research I found out that goslings would need further equipment, better shelter, and would take several weeks before they could be weaned off of grain and put out to pasture. I bought a pair of adult Toulouse geese and one adult female Roman Tufted. All of the geese were around one year old. The ducks were brown mixed breeds mostly Kaki Cambel of mixed ages.

    Because of the location of the raspberry planting I realized it would be impractical to run a wire out to an electric fence charger so instead of the on grid fence charger I bought a solar powered one. After getting the adult geese I realized that I would need a sturdier and deeper water container so I bought a small rubber stock tank.

    Due to the hard ground I had to have my dad help me put the woven wire fencing up.

    Unfortunately I put the waterfowl out to pasture after the weeds were already up which made it hard for the waterfowl to eat them. Then there was a drought during the summer which made the weeds get really hard and the grass die – because of this I decided it was inhumane to keep the waterfowl out there any longer. I decided to let them free range. While free ranging they preferred staying near the chickens and during this time there was no noticeable weeding done by them in the raspberry planting.

    See below for further results.

    BACKGROUND
    Before receiving the grant the sustainable agriculture activities I was involved in were farmers markets and using ducks to reduce Japanese beetle populations.

    GOAL
    The project’s goal was to use domestic waterfowl to reduce weeds in a planting of domestic raspberries.

    PROCESS
    Preparation – buy waterfowl, materials, and build shelter
    • Step one: place portable electric mesh fencing around the existing raspberry planting
    • Step two: place water container and shelter within the fenced area
    • Step three: place ducks and geese within the fenced area
    • Step four: provide adequate feed and water
    • Step five: observe waterfowl
    • Step six: move birds, fencing, shelter, and swimming pool when the weeds and grasses in that area are reduced but before the waterfowl begin to eat the raspberries
    • Step seven: Let waterfowl free range – the grass dried up and they started losing weight so I decided to let them free range. While free ranging they preferred staying near the chickens and during this time there was no noticeable weeding done by them in the raspberry planting.

    PEOPLE
    Thank you to:
    (Parent) Peggy Painter, she helped me move the fencing, build the shelter, and drove me to the National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference; (parent) Alfred Painter, he helped me put up and move the fencing; (grandmother and local gardener) Marie Mckee, she told me about geese being used to weed cotton in the south and let me use her computer; (Local Extension Service) Lesa King, she was the one who told me about the grant; (NCR-SARE employee) Joan Benjamin, for answering my many questions.

    RESULTS
    Because of starting late and the drought the result was not what I expected because the waterfowl failed to do even as well as hand weeding. However my parents and I want to continue our experiment next year with the materials we got from the grant. We mean to put the waterfowl out earlier.

    DISCUSSION
    I learned about alternative/historical weed control methods that are easier on the environment. Due to this research my parents and I want to continue the project.

    I also learned about the temperament of geese because of this project. For instance I learned that they can get very angry if you hurry them, they dislike dogs, they will, if provoked, take on animals much larger than themselves such as horses, they like to stare at their reflections in chrome, and are very attracted to shiny objects. I learned that the best thing to do when attacked by a goose is to grab it by its neck and using your other arm, reach around to secure its wings to its body. This will prevent it from biting you or flogging you with its wings, however this does not prevent it from scratching you with its feet.

    OUTREACH
    I spoke at numerous meetings of the Bit by Bit 4-H club about my grant, at the Stone County achievement day, the regional 4-H achievement day, and at the Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference in Columbia, Missouri (November 6, 2010).

    I attempted to get a blog up about my grant as well however my computer died and made the maintaining of a blog impractical.

    PROGRAM EVALUATION
    I would like the money to be distributed earlier in the year but other than that everything was great.

    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.