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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-SOUND PEST, WATER AND SOIL MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS CROPPING SYSTEMS

Location: Agricultural Systems Research Unit

Title: Sheep grazing to manage crop residues, insects and weeds in Northern Plains grain and alfalfa systems

Authors
item Hatrield, Patrick - MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY
item Goosey, Hayes - MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY
item Lenssen, Andrew
item Blodgett, Sue - SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIV.

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: September 22, 2008
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Citation: P. Hatfield, H. Goosey, A. Lenssen, and S. Blodgett. 2011. Sheep grazing to manage crop residues, insects and weeds in northern plains grain and alfalfa systems. National SARE Fact Sheet. www.sare.org.publications/factsheet/pdf/ 11AGI2011.pdf. 1AG12011.

Interpretive Summary: Sheep are traditionally produced on rangelands or pasture forages and supplemented during winter with harvested feeds. In recent years, sheep producers have made great strides using commercial-scale grazing on native rangelands to control noxious weeds and excess fire fuels. Incorporating grazing into hay and dryland grain production systems to control weeds and insects has received far less attention. However, such practices can potentially reduce cost, offer new business opportunities, and improve public perception of production agriculture. Incorporating livestock grazing into cropping systems may help increase soil organic carbon levels, reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, reduce costs for equipment, and fossil fuel use; and minimize the amount of burning to remove crop residues. All of these purchased inputs and management practices are increasingly less sustainable, both economically and environmentally. This manuscript highlights several techniques for integrating livestock grazing into grain and forage production systems. These techniques have the potential to reduce grain production costs while creating a profitable opportunity for livestock producers, and at the same time fill increasing consumer demand for food and fiber produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Techniques to use livestock to manage fallow, weeds, and insect pests by grazing grain and forage residue are presented. These practices can help farmers reduce tillage and pesticide use, allow livestock producers to tap into valuable feed sources, and enable rural communities to embrace new economic opportunities. We present three examples of livestock integration into cropping systems: 1) Grazing summer fallowed ground to control weeds and conserve soil moisture and nutrients in dryland grain systems that rotate each year between fallow and crop production; 2) Grazing grain crop residues after harvest to facilitate tillage, control unwanted plants, and reduce insect pest populations; and 3) Grazing alfalfa before hay harvest with a major emphasis on insect pest control.

Technical Abstract: Sheep are traditionally produced on rangelands or pasture forages and supplemented during winter with harvested feeds. In recent years, sheep producers have made great strides using commercial-scale grazing on native rangelands to control noxious weeds and excess fire fuels. Incorporating grazing into hay and dryland grain production systems to control weeds and insects has received far less attention. However, such practices can potentially reduce cost, offer new business opportunities, and improve public perception of production agriculture. Incorporating livestock grazing into cropping systems may help increase soil organic carbon levels, reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, reduce costs for equipment, and fossil fuel use; and minimize the amount of burning to remove crop residues. All of these purchased inputs and management practices are increasingly less sustainable, both economically and environmentally. This manuscript highlights several techniques for integrating livestock grazing into grain and forage production systems. These techniques have the potential to reduce grain production costs while creating a profitable opportunity for livestock producers, and at the same time fill increasing consumer demand for food and fiber produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Techniques to use livestock to manage fallow, weeds, and insect pests by grazing grain and forage residue are presented. These practices can help farmers reduce tillage and pesticide use, allow livestock producers to tap into valuable feed sources, and enable rural communities to embrace new economic opportunities. We present three examples of livestock integration into cropping systems: 1) Grazing summer fallowed ground to control weeds and conserve soil moisture and nutrients in dryland grain systems that rotate each year between fallow and crop production; 2) Grazing grain crop residues after harvest to facilitate tillage, control unwanted plants, and reduce insect pest populations; and 3) Grazing alfalfa before hay harvest with a major emphasis on insect pest control.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014