Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 40, Number 6 (November 1987) by Authors
Seasonal diets of herded sheep grazing Douglas-fir plantationsLeininger, W. C.; Sharrow, S. H. (Society for Range Management, 1987-11-01)Use of livestock for biological weed control in timber plantations is gaining popularity in the United States and elsewhere. Efficient use of livestock to control unwanted brush relies upon knowledge of livestock feeding habits. A study was conducted during 1981 and 1982 to determine seasonal diets of herded sheep grazing cutover Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests in the Coast Range of Oregon. Study sites included both 4- to 6-year-old non-grass-seeded and 2-year-old grass-seeded plantations. Sheep grazing was monitored in spring, summer, and late summer. Forage on offer ranged from 764 to 2,459 kg/ha. Vegetational composition of sheep diets varied by year, season, and plantation age class. Averaged over the 2 years of grazing, graminoids and forbs were nearly equal, at approximately 40% each, in sheep diets in older plantations. In contrast, diets of sheep in young grass-seeded plantations averaged 70% graminoids and only 16% forbs. Ferns were a minor component (<2%) of sheep diets in both plantation age classes. Browse averaged 15 and 12% of sheep diets in old and young plantations, respectively. Douglas-fir was most palatable to sheep in spring soon after bud break. It was generally avoided, however, and never comprised more than 3% of sheep diets. Our data suggest that sheep can be most effectively used for biological control of unwanted brush species during summer and late summer when differences in relative preference indices for target brush species and Douglas-fir are greatest.