Browse on, Grazers

aThis is one of my blocks after the electric fence was finished but before sheep were introduced.

This is one of my blocks after the electric fence was finished but before sheep were introduced.

As we approach the end of the June, I thought it appropriate to share with everyone a brief insight into my grazing treatments from the beginning of this month. But first, some background.

We began building electric fences in May at the four sites selected for my grazing treatments. Each had seven cells (four for grazing treatments, two for herbicides, and one non-treated “check”), and we collected cover and weed density data in each before applying any treatment. After the sheep had been in each cell for the designated time (40 sheep for 6 hours, or 20 sheep for 12, 6, or 4 hours), we moved them to the next cell and collected follow-up data. We ended up with 2 full days of clipping biomass, and the following creation was a product of one of those days.

For those of you interested, this is a parody of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” (for those readers only familiar with the Darius Rucker cover, I beg you to listen to the OCMS version before reading any further). So without further ado, I present, “Browse on, Grazers.” I hope you enjoy it! I will likely be posting more serious updates on subsequent grazing events before the summer is out.

 

Heading due east too early in the mornin’

For the research station just this side of Cheyenne

Staring down the road,

Praying for no construction.

Keep my foot on the gas for just about an hour

’Til we make it to the prairie where the toadflax flower

But if my project works out right,

We may see weed destruction.

 

Sheep

One of my 20-sheep treatments

So browse on, grazers, eat those tasty weeds,

Browse on, grazers, don’t you dare stop (please),

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

Browse on, grazers, despite sun and rain,

Browse on so I can take you home again.

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

[insert fiddle solo here]

 

Those forty hungry ewes went to work on the grass

And the purty yellow toadflax, it was left until last

But at least they liked the larkspur,

Poisonous to cattle.

After six hours in that two hundred square-yard cell

They were picking up the targeted grazing thing well;

With every bite I hoped we were

Winning a weed battle.

 

So browse on, grazers, eat those tasty weeds,

Browse on, grazers, don’t you dare stop (please),

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

Browse on, grazers, despite sun and rain,

Browse on so I can take you home again.

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

[more fiddle]

 

grazed toadflax

I was tickled when, by the end of my study, many of my toadflax plants looked like this one. The sheep preferred the plant tops and prostrate stems at the plant base from day 1, but by the end of the week they had also begun to strip some of the leaves from the stems

One week we spent there, watching the sheep eat

And with my four blocks of treatments, it was no mean feat

But with every day passing, the toadflax disappeared

Just a bit more than the day before!

Day six, the fog rolled in and hung like a shroud

While the seventh threatened dark and ominous clouds

And as we pulled out the last time, the rain began to pour.

 

So browse on, grazers, eat those tasty weeds,

Browse on, grazers, don’t you dare stop (please),

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

Browse on, grazers, despite sun and rain,

Browse on so I can take you home again.

Heyyyyyy, browse on, grazers.

 

Sheep eating toadflax

Sheep eating toadflax

Comments

  1. I appreciate your effort to quantify the impact of grazing on Dalmatian toadflax. We tried grazing toadflax with goats in Fremont County on a two acre field that was a solid stand. We had about 20 head of goats on that field all summer. It never turned yellow, and most of the leaves were striped from the stems. We took the goats off the 1st of September. The field was really brown and the goats were hungry. Everything around the area was dormant and it looked like the growing season was over. I was amazed a week later when I drove by the field. The toadflax was in full bloom. The next spring the grazed field greened up and flowered at t he same time as the toadflax in adjacent fields. Grazing goats on Leafy spurge usually results in a retardation of regrowth and flowering the following year. But in the case of the toadflax there did not appear to be any long term impact from a summer of grazing by goats. However, we did not take any data, so it would be impossible measure. I look back now and see so many opportunities where we could have learned something if we had just taken a few hours to run some transects, set up photo points, and recorded exactly what the treatment was.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience! One of the reasons we’re tackling this project is because there is so very little data out there on Dalmatian toadflax’s response to grazing. We do know that these weeds have an impressive root system; do you think you might have had a different response had you repeated the treatment over a number of years?

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