Assessing the potential of mixed grazing goats with beef cattle to improve animal performance and increase the utilization of marginal pasturelands in the Appalachian coal region
Webb, Darryl Matthew
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Reclaimed coal-mined lands in the Appalachian region can be successful established and utilized for beef cattle production. Currently, these areas are underutilized partly due to an increase in invasive plant species, such as multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora Thunb. Ex Murr.), autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.), and sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata (Dum.-Cours.) G. Don). The steep topography and low economic returns from beef cattle make conventional control methods inhibitive. Goats are effective browsing on invasive plant species. An experiment was conducted in 2006 and 2007 at the Powell River Research and Education Center near Wise, VA (77Â° 43' 30" west longitude, 38Â° 57' 30" north latitude, elevation 155.5 m) to determine the effects of an ungrazed control, cattle alone grazing, and mixed grazing goats with cattle on forage biomass, botanical composition, relative plant abundance, and animal performance. The three treatments included an ungrazed control, cattle grazing alone, and mixed grazing goats with cattle. Experimental design was a randomized complete block design with two replicates for the control and three replicates for the grazed treatments. Three times during the grazing season the following were measured, analyzed or assessed: nutritive values of pasture, autumn olive, multiflora rose, and sericea lespedeza were assessed; forage biomass was determined by clipping four 0.25 mÂ² quadrants per control replicate and eight 0.25 mÂ² quadrants per grazed replicate; botanical composition and relative abundance of plant species was assessed by the Double DAFOR method from five fixed points in each control replicate and ten fixed points in each grazed replicate; animals were weighed; autumn olive shrub height was measured with a clinometer from a distance of 10 m from the shrub. Branch length was measured with a tape measure from the base of the branch to the end tip. Shrub survival was measured by counting shrubs in each replicate and determining visually percent leaf-out. Each year, control and cattle alone treatments had greater (P < 0.05). Generally, grass content increased in the grazed treatments from spring to fall while weed content increased in the control treatment (P < 0.05). By the end of the two experimental years, the legume components of the pasture were low. This was more evident in the ungrazed control than the grazed treatments. The relative abundance of tall fescue and orchardgrass (P < 0.05) increased in grazed treatments while sericea lespedeza became a dominant weed in the control (P < 0.05). Goats showed high preference for sericea lespedeza and maintain this plant in a leafy, vegetative stage. This leafy, vegetative growth was found to acceptable to cattle. Cattle performance was not affected by treatment (P < 0.05) but total animal output was higher for mixed grazed compared to cattle alone treatments (P < 0.05). The nutritive values of multiflora rose, autumn olive, and sericea lespedeza were higher than pasture in most instances (P < 0.05). In our experiment, autumn olive was severely impacted by goat browsing. Shrub survival was lower in mixed grazing (61%) by the end of the experiment compared to over 90% for the control and cattle grazing treatments (P < 0.05). Overall, pastures were utilized more uniformly in mixed grazing compared to other treatments. Mixed grazing goats with cattle appear to be a viable option for livestock producers in the Appalachian coal mining region.
- Masters Theses