Sheep, goats and cattle are all ruminants,
"Most ruminants have four-chambered stomachs and a two-toed foot. The upper incisors are reduced or sometimes absent. Ruminants eat quickly, storing masses of grass or foliage in the first chamber of the stomach, the rumen, where it softens. They later regurgitate this material, called cud, and chew it again to further break down its cellulose content, which is difficult to digest. The chewed cud goes directly to the other chambers of the stomach (the reticulum, omasum, and abomasum), where it is further digested with the aid of various essential microorganisms that live in the stomach. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020)"
Their four chambered stomachs allow them to further break down plant matter by a process of fermentation and re-chewing their food which makes them the perfect candidates to help up reduce overgrowth of hillsides, pastures, farm fields, vineyards and creek beds! We use a combination of sheep and goats for our grazing projects because of their two unique styles of grazing.
Sheep are "grazers" meaning they prefer to eat low to the ground; grasses and low lying weeds.
Goats are "browsers" meaning they prefer to eat up high; trees and shrubs tap more minerals below the soil which the goats require for proper health.
By using these small ruminants to graze instead of using tractor or mowers we help reduce fire hazard, we are able to target invasive species, and we are able to reach steep or hard to reach areas, another added benefit is that our animals reintroduce nutrients back into the soil through natural fertilization. We use electric netting and solar powered batteries to contain our animals and prevent predator losses, this works quite well for rotational grazing where we move the animals often in order to prevent over grazing. By grazing down the grass and weeds to "just the right height" we allow the plants to grow deeper root systems which in turn allows the soil to retain more moisture, absorb more carbon and increases soil microbe activity and diversity.
For more information on regenerative and rotational grazing/farming practices check out some of the sites below:
Because sheep, goats and cattle have four chambered stomachs that allow them to process cellulose in plants by regurgitating "cud" they also produce a lot of gas. With methane emissions from grazing animals coming more into focus as a main pollutant and contributor to greenhouse gasses, more and more research is now being conducted into ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by those ruminants.
UC Davis recently conducted a study showing that the introduction of small amounts of kelp in dairy cow feed could reduce their methane production by as much as 99%! We already offer dried organic kelp free choice to all our ruminants, it provides a source of essential trace minerals, aids in their digestion, helps their coats stay shiny and generally keeps their immune systems strong, little did we know it could also help to reduce their gas production.
Though more research needs to be done and ways of cultivating kelp sustainably still needs to be addressed, the idea of a feed additive that is not only good for the animals but also can drastically reduce their emissions is pretty exciting. To read more check out the links below: