Grazing Sheep and Cattle Together or Separately: Effect on Soils and Plants
- Azenegashe O. Abaye ,
- Vivien G. Allen and
- Joseph P. Fontenot
- D ep. of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA 24061-0404
D ep. of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech Univ., Lubbock, TX 79409-2122.
D ep. of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA 24061-0404
Differences in grazing behavior suggest opportunities to improve forage use when cattle and sheep graze in the same pasture, but a better understanding of their effect on soils and plants is needed. Angus cows (Bos taurus) with calves and ewes (Ovis aries) (1/2 Dorset, 1/4 Finn, 1/4 Rambouillet crossbred) with lambs grazed Kentucky bluegrass-white clover (Poa pratensis L.-Trifolium repens L.) pastures from spring until autumn in a study of the effects on soils and plants of grazing cattle and sheep together and separately. The experiment was a randomized block design with three replications conducted during 3 yr. There were 6 cow-calf pairs per replication of cattle alone and 6 ewes with 11 lambs per replication of sheep alone. For the mixed-grazed pastures, there were 6 cows plus 6 ewes, each with their respective offspring, per replication. Grazing sheep alone increased soil bulk density (1.47 vs. 1.38 g cm−3), extractable soil P (140 vs. 80 kg ha−1), and percentage bluegrass (36 vs. 25%), but decreased percentage white clover (3 vs. 10%) compared with grazing cattle alone. Grazing sheep and cattle together resulted in soil bulk density and extractable soil P of 1.45 g cm−3 and 115 kg ha−1, respectively. Grazing sheep and cattle together resulted in a higher B horizon soil pH (6.7 vs. 6.4 and 6.5) and percentage organic mater (1.9 vs. 1.5 and 1.7) than where cattle or sheep grazed alone, respectively. Percentage bluegrass and white clover present in the sward where both animal species grazed was 37 and 5%, and there were fewer forbs (12%; P < 0.08) than when cattle or sheep grazed alone (18 and 15%, respectively). Grazing both animal species together appeared to have beneficial effects on several botanical composition and soil characteristics over grazing cattle and sheep in separate pastures.
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