Written by Jordan Haymes, OFN ContributorMulti-species grazing is a method of production that allows several different species of livestock to graze on the same pasture simultaneously. Jack Boles, the County Extension Agent for the Arkansas Newton County Extension office said, "Because they are browsers, goats work well with grazers such as horses or cows. But you need to be careful grazing goats with sheep, because they are affected by many of the same internal parasites." Multi-species grazing is a method of production that allows several different species of livestock to graze on the same pasture simultaneously. Jack Boles, the County Extension Agent for the Arkansas Newton County Extension office said, "Because they are browsers, goats work well with grazers such as horses or cows. But you need to be careful grazing goats with sheep, because they are affected by many of the same internal parasites."
Beth Walker is a Missouri State University professor of animal science. She said, "with multi-species grazing you can achieve better overall use of your land, increased brush control, parasite management, protection (cattle and sheep/goats raised together will form a bond and the cattle will help ward off predators) and you can have animals that are in demand at different times of the year." Boles added, "One of the main advantages of multi-species grazing is more pounds of production per acre. One to three goats can be grazed per cow in an established pasture setting and not affect cow performance. Since goats are intermediate type browsers, they prefer broad leaf plants or forbs over grass. Therefore goats will eat primarily the weeds in a pasture and leave the grass for cattle."
Multi-species grazing is also beneficial to ward off parasites. Most livestock are not affected by the same internal parasites. Cattle, for example, may consume goat parasites and stop the life cycle of the parasite and vice versa. Also, you could allow your goats to graze a field first and eat off only the tops of the forage (thus reducing their direct contact with the soil—where many worm parasites live) and then rotate the animals and let the cattle graze and this pattern reduces the parasite population for both species.
Another item to consider is fencing requirements. Boles said, "In a cow/goat situation, you would definitely have to fence for the goats. This can be done with several strands of electric fence applied to an existing barbed wire fence designed for cattle. If the fence is a perimeter fence, take extra care and consider putting up something more secure. I would recommend having a good perimeter fence and then rotate your cattle and let your small ruminants rotate themselves. From there, start observing your animals and work on your own type of internal fencing. Also, during kidding/lambing, I would probably remove your small ruminants from your cattle pasture. Sometimes calves can be a bit too playful for newborn goats or sheep (depending on the breed) and might kill the smaller animals."
Start small to determine if multi-species grazing works for your production program. Walker suggested visiting other farms that are grazing more than one species and see if you can manage a similar setup. Walker concluded, "Remember that goats/sheep are not just small cows. They need a different type of management style. People who recognize this and accept the fact that sheep/goats are different and behave differently, will have less stress when managing their livestock."
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