Introduced into the Great Plains a century ago, leafy spurge has proven to be a formidable opponent. No type of land is immune from infestation, and rangelands are particularly susceptible.
If you’ve had any experience with leafy spurge, you already know it’s a pretty tough customer.
A native of Europe and Asia, leafy spurge emerges early in the spring and gets a head start on other vegetation in a race for space, sunlight, nutrients and water. Prolific seed production and an extensive root system give the plant a huge competitive advantage and make consistent, longterm control difficult. Deep tap roots which can exceed 20 feet in depth store reserves of nutrients to see the plant through hard times, while ateral roots form a network that enable it to rapidly reproduce and spread. And, perhaps worst of all, leafy spurge is highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of conditions and situations.
In short, his exotic invader is extremely competitive and quite capable of completely displacing desirable plants.
The economic and environmental impacts of leafy spurge are significant. It invades a variety of land types, reduces range productivity and species diversity, threatens sensitive species, degrades wildlife habitat and reduces land values. Infestations in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas alone are estimated to cost agricultural producers and taxpayers more than $144 million a year in production losses, control expenses and other impacts to the economy.
Producing more with less while using environmentally sustainable techniques is a goal of most agricultural operations.
Multi-species grazing can help fulfill this Multi-species grazing, simply defined, is the use of more than one type of herbivore to graze a common resource. In the northern Great Plains, the term generally refers to pairing cattle and sheep or cattle and goats.
The results can be impressive. A properly managed multi-species grazing program can contribute to improved range health, more efficient forage utilization, noxious weed control, enhanced livestock performance and production, nd increased ranch profitability.
As such, multi-species grazing is an important component of TEAM Leafy Spurge, a USDA-ARS area-wide ntegrated Pest Management program focused on leafy spurge in the orthern Great Plains.
The Root of the Problem...
An extensive root system capable of storing nutrient reserves and producing numerous shoots make leafy spurge extremely versatile and persistent. Multi-species grazing taxes the root system and will ultimately result in significant spurge reductions.
We’ll start by providing some basic information about how multi-species grazing works, potential benefits, and the kinds of results that can be expected. We’ll then move into more detail with information about economic considerations, diet selection and stocking rates, fencing, and predator control.
The key is STARTING. Multi-species grazing is not a cureall or overnight solution, and it won’t work every time in every situation. It is, however, a sustainable tool that offers many potential benefits, and it should always be considered when planning a longterm leafy spurge management program. But it won’t work unless you give it a try, and the sooner you try, the sooner it can start working for you.
Table of Contents The Basics