Submitted by: Stacey Gulka, Saskatchewan Watershed
Multispecies grazing can be used as a tool to accomplish
specific grazing management goals. Using two species of
animals to graze a pasture can diversify the type of forage
utilized, the topographic location of preferred grazing areas,
and can also diversify income sources on the operation.
The most commonly used species in multispecies grazing systems
are cattle and sheep or goats. These species are
commonly used because of their forage preferences. Cattle
prefer to graze grasses while sheep prefer forbs and goats
prefer brush and shrubs. Depending on a producer's
grazing management goals, these species can be used to utilize
more of a pastures' forage production and can be used to
control undesirable species within the area.
A common use for multispecies grazing systems is to
control the infestation of leafy spurge within a pasture by
grazing with sheep. Cattle do not consume leafy spurge,
so without intervention, a pasture grazed only by cattle can
be taken over by leafy spurge. Sheep will graze leafy
spurge, which in turn can increase the carrying capacity of
the pasture for cattle grazing. Grazing leafy spurge
allows for the growth of grass species, which are preferred by
Another benefit of multispecies grazing systems is
the different tolerances of species to graze different areas
of the pasture. Sheep and goats will graze at higher
elevations than cattle, utilizing more of the forage
available. If the system involves large variances in the
topographic landscape, a multispecies system can be beneficial
in utilizing some of the underused areas of the pasture.
Often brush covered or woody areas of the pasture are
also underutilized. Goats may be useful in fighting
encroachment of woody species into a grassland, as this is
their preferred food.
Diversifying the operation's income is another
benefit of these grazing systems. The production of beef plus
the production of mutton or lamb can be profitable for the
producer. Other markets involving goats could also be
tapped, possibly the production of goat's milk. The
point of diversifying is to create more stability in income by
marketing different species or their products.
The benefits of a multispecies grazing system can be very
useful to a producer, but management is very important to
ensure that overgrazing does not occur. The risk of
overgrazing the pasture can be greater in these systems as
more of the species of forage are being consumed. Cattle tend
to overgraze localized areas of pasture, grazing their
preferential forage. With the introduction of another
species, overgrazing can occur throughout the pasture as more
species of forage are preferred and grazed. Management
to ensure that the pasture receives adequate rest for
re-growth is essential.
Predation of stock can also be an issue when introducing
sheep and lambs to an operation. Methods to control
predators must be put in place on the operation to ensure that
large losses of livestock do not occur.
Overall, multispecies grazing can be useful tool when
managed properly on an operation. It is an option for
producers looking to diversify their operation, control
infestation of leafy spurge, or to optimize the grazing
potential of their pastures.
For more information regarding multispecies grazing
systems you can contact:
Range Management Specialist