Researchers eye benefits of sheep grazing in vegetable farming

Farmers and ranchers have long been in search of ways to limit the need for tillage and chemical herbicides on farmland, and two researchers in Montana State University’s College of Agriculture are working on a project that may provide a solution.

With help from the Western Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education program, which is being hosted by MSU until 2023, Devon Ragen, a research associate in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences, and graduate student Trestin Benson have conducted two years of tests on local farms to see if grazing sheep on vegetable or cover crop plots can help improve soil health while reducing artificial inputs to the soil.

“We’re looking at differences in microbial communities in the soil and nutrient profiles,” said Ragen. “We use sheep for a pre-graze before seeding to clean up all the weeds instead of having to spray or till it up.”

Tillage, she


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