Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Healthy range, sheep and John Peavey

      This letter is in response to your article on the Flat Top Sheep Co. I am worried that so many of your readers come from urban backgrounds and they will not understand the significance of what John Peavey is trying to do. In order to highlight his efforts, I need to quote from a recent issue of the Colorado State University Extension Bulletin:
    “A plant that is grazed intensely during early spring and given deferment during the remainder of the growing season may produce additional growth and be more vigorous than a plant that receives less intense defoliation throughout the growing season.”
    Grasses are plants that reproduce by two methods. One is by producing seeds; the other is by vegetative propagation. This latter method is far more productive. Underground shoots (rhizomes) and above-ground shoots (stolens) plus various kinds of leaf propagation can greatly increase grass vegetation compared to the seed method. Think of grazing by Peavey's sheep and compare it to the cutting of a golf green. The cutting of the bent grass leaves stimulates vegetative growth and no greenskeeper would think of letting a reserve patch of his bent grass mature and produce seeds. In a recent greenskeeper’s bulletin, two researchers noted that “[with] creeping bent we discovered that a single plant, under favorable conditions, would make a mass of turf six feet in diameter in a single year.”
    My point is that I have heard people from an urban background say that when they see a band of sheep on the side of a mountain, “There goes another bunch of range maggots.” My hope is that this letter will encourage them to rethink their prejudice and say, “Wow, look what that sheepman is doing to invigorate that mountain grassland.”
Bill Smallwood
Sun Valley

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