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No Till Systems

 

Beyond the novelty of grazing, there are a multitude of reasons to enlist the services of grazers for projects that might otherwise be accomplished by machinery or through other more obvious and traditional methods. The impact and result of mechanical treatments for fire prevention, weed control and general vegetation management is very different from that of the grazing animal. Exploring these differences allows for greater effective application of grazing and or a combination of grazing and mechanical treatments.

Minimizing soil disturbance  is an integral component of habitat restoration and fire prevention. Gradual shifts in vegetation type, that is towards native and fire resistant vegetation are accomplished through various natural and man assisted mechanisms. One of the primary factors affecting the type of vegetation be it native/fire resistant or invasive and fire prone, is the degree to which the soil has been disturbed. Many native plants require very specific if not ideal conditions to thrive and out-compete the more aggressive and opportunistic non-native (fire prone) vegetation. Invasive plants are more likely to succeed, and establish resilient monocultures in areas where soil disturbance has occurred. Conversely, native vegetation (fire resistant) requires minimal soil disturbance.

Unlike tractors, disking devices and other mechanical applications, animals tread lightly on the soil. This is true even on the steepest of inclines. A goat is unlikely to disturb the soil under normal grazing conditions, whereas the tractor and mechanical treatments such as disking and mowing can not avoid displacing soil and turning up dormant invasive seed banks.

Non selectivity is indiscriminant management action. An example of non selective management is mowing: all vegetation is removed regardless of type and function. Selective management is most beneficial, cost effective and ecological. Sheep and Goats have natural tendencies and grazing/browsing habits that allow a land manager a certain level and quality of control over the amount and type of fuel reduction and vegetation management, i.e. selectivity. Sheep and Goats are hierarchical grazers whereby grazing occurs from most palatable to least palatable vegetation. This natural trait is beneficial to the land manager in that it allows the manager to target fire prone vegetation while maintaining habitat and essential vegetation. (vegetation that promotes a healthy and stable ecosystem and fire environment).

             

It is important to understand the dynamics of these different management choices-- to understand what effects these choices have in the short term and long term ecology and fire environment. Generally non selective management promotes a less stable more fire prone ecosystem, more opportunistic invasive plants coupled with high density brush species—equals higher fire danger, reduced diversity of plant and animal ecosystem, decrease in ecotone function. Mechanical non selective treatment inhibits balance and increases the viability of fire prone vegetation which thrives under the conditions created through non selective management practice. Grazing, alternatively has the tendency to promote stability and reduce the amount, density and distribution of invasive and fire prone vegetation. Selectivity mimics the natural ecological processes that keep fuel load in check and allow native flora and fauna to thrive.