Wednesday, 8 October 2008: 1:30 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 371F
Reclaimed mined-lands have been successfully used for forage production in the Appalachian region. The encroachment of undesirable invasive plant species, however, reduces the utilization of these pasturelands by cattle and conventional control methods are not cost-effective. An experiment was initiated in spring 2006 at the Powell River Project near Wise, VA to determine the effects of mixed grazing goats with cattle on forage biomass, vegetation utilization and possible shifts in botanical composition. The three treatments were a no grazing control, cattle grazing alone, and mixed grazing goats with cattle. Treatments were arranged in a randomized block design with 3 replications of each grazing treatments and 2 of the non grazing control. The treatment with cattle alone had three crossbred steers while the mixed grazing treatment utilized three crossbred steers and 15 young intact male goats. Forage biomass yield and botanical composition were determined in spring, summer and fall by clipping 8-0.25m² square quadrants per grazing treatment and 4-0.25m² in the control treatment to a 2.5 cm height. Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.) measurements included branch length, shrub height, and shrub survival. Eight shrubs were randomly identified and tagged with a letter in each treatment replication while four shrubs were used in the no grazing control treatment. On each tagged shrub, four branches were randomly tagged and numbered from ground level to 3 m. Branch length was determined by measuring from the branch base to its tip. Shrub height was determined by using a clinometer from a distance of 10 m from the shrub. Shrub survival was determined by taking a count of shrubs present within a pasture and visually estimating the percent of leaf-covered canopy. In both experimental years, total forage biomass yield was greater for the control and cattle alone treatments. In 2007, forage growth was impacted by a late season frost and an extended drought. The grass component of the grazed pastures increased and the weed content declined while the legume content was maintained at a low level. 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 no grazing control and cattle alone grazing treatments. These data indicate that mixed grazing cattle and goats is a viable practice on reclaimed coal-mined lands. Mixed grazing resulted in greater utilization of pasture resources mainly due to the different grazing habits of goats and cattle offering opportunities for complementary pasture use.