Multi-Species Grazing: Sheep and Cattle

| 7/7/2016 9:16:00 AM

Tags: farming, keeping sheep, April Freeman, Tennessee,

April FreemanWith great interest, we read the articles and blog posts about multi-species grazing. Without a doubt, this is a much more sustainable way to farm. See, when you graze different species of animals together, you’re doing things the way that Nature intended it.

Nature abhors a monoculture. If you look at naturally occurring habitats, you will see myriad species in one area. Birds, mammals, insects and plants all live together in an intricate web of life. When one piece of the puzzle is missing, the other parts get out of whack.

That’s one big problem with large monoculture systems: you’re working against nature when you just grow one crop, or just raise one type of animal on a piece of property. In keeping with these ideas, we began to adapt our farm to one that hosts several animals. We’ve had chickens, cattle, and horses for awhile. But we wanted to add sheep to the mix.

Sheep can help maximize the profitability of the small farm. Some reports say that you can add up to eight sheep to a paddock for every cow without overgrazing the land. Sheep eat different plants than cows do, so you can utilize woody, brushy, and poorer pastures to turn a cash crop.

That’s the ideal world. In the real world it’s a little more complex.

For the small farmer, adding additional animals means adding extra work. It also means that you need to learn about a whole new animal. Sheep are not cattle and you can’t treat them the same. We’ve enjoyed our sheep, but the learning curve has been quite steep. Most of our fall/winter lambs didn’t make it.

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