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sheep in the apple orchard

 
David Livingston
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Seems not such a bad idea as I thought http://www.indiefarmer.com/stories/innovative-farmer-goes-against-the-grain-with-grazing-sheep-in-orchards/

David
 
patrick canidae
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You're in France? What do you think Beaucerons were bred for? Another 1,000+ year old new technology.



My family grazed sheep, geese, light weight dairy calves and pasture pigs through our orchard depending on moisture, forage height, fruit drop, pruning status and fruit weight/limb drop status of the trees. A small espalier orchard with offset high tensile hot wires is perfect for maintaining with geese or lambs.

A great way to reduce bacterial disease and fungal disease by grazing off harborages found in windfall fruit and leaf drop.

Current electric fence technology and high trellis set ups in viticulture make it a breeze to graze vineyards as well as orchards.
 
Bill Erickson
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This is an interesting one for me. I tried this a couple of times, and have to say, that without a hot wire or fencing to protect the main trunks, that the sheep I had at the time (Shetlands) thought that the bark on the trees was better than candy. Had some serious mitigation to do on all my fruit trees after that experiment and again when they escaped their corral and made it to the mini-orchard I planted in my yard. They didn't care if it was apples, pears or cherries - it was all candy to them. They did eat all the root suckers but that was as the same time they were trimming bark.

If I were to do it again, definitely protect the trees better. It is a good way to clean up the orchard and prevent some of the common orchard pests, but protection of the orchard for damage is the prime option.
 
Tyler Ludens
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My sheep have killed many trees on our place, even quite large trees, by eating the bark.

 
Katy Whitby-last
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Most breeds of sheep will bark trees however, there are are some breeds that have been developed specifically for this. The Shropshire is one that has traditionally been used in the UK for grazing orchards.
 
Alder Burns
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Yeah I guess there must be real differences in breed habits. I have Blackbellies, and they are very like a goat in eating lots of things I wouldn't think would be of interest. They will even stand up on their hind legs, like goats, to get at leafy branches overhead. Anything out there with them that I don't want munched must be stoutly fenced.....
 
patrick canidae
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With low cost poly wire, step in or poly t-posts or other self insulated posts, a really good fencer and a little bit of work it is very easy to protect trees.

For a micro level, someone with less than 20 trees, I cut the top and bottom off of a plastic 55 gallon drum, split it down the side, attach woven wire fencing around it so it extends beyond the top a foot or so and is above the bottom 12-16", with the seam at the same place as the barrel cut, place this around the tree trunk, use some self tappers to screw it together after wrapping around the tree(leaving lots of space reconnecting at almost full barrel diameter) making sure not to touch tree tissue with the metal fence material, use a poly stake to fasten it so it doesn't tip over, and run a single poly line from the fence charger and connected to the top wire of the woven wire of each tree guard. A few intermittent poly posts or t-posts with a pvc pipe insulator slid over it to guide the wire through the trees and keep it above sheep height makes it easy to protect a small orchard. I often drill a set of holes an 1" below the end of a 10' stick of pvc pipe, slide the poly wire through it, and the slip the pvc pipe over top of a 4' t post that is slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the pvc pipe making a 10' tall "power pole".

The video above highlights tending grazing. Those sheep are eating windfall apples and fall flush cool season grasses and legumes that are high quality and darned palatable. Sheep are flash grazed for 3 hours, removed to a holding pen, flash grazed for 3 hours, and then night penned elsewhere. They are not left to their own all day, or placed there when trees are more palatable than the forage around them.

If rotating through pasture during periods of heavy sap flow, heavy fruiting with low hanging limbs, or during times of poor forage quality will lead to tree damage if trees are not protected with poly wire, electronet, etc. There are orchardists and viticulturalists running sheep through very large, very expensive conventional orchards and vineyards. Proper timing, pruning, trellising and fence management are key to success.

 
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