March/April 2022 - 7

COVER STORY
Left, worm populations
increase in soils with cover
crops. Below, the integration
of sheep to remove the cover
crop is just as good as a mower
and has many more benefits.
on the way, the fences are set until the cover crop reaches
a certain height, after which the fences are then moved and
the sheep introduced into a new section. It's a managed
graze controlled by zone. The sheep will get two passes in a
section until May, when they're required to be removed for
food safety reasons with a minimum 120-day requirement
before harvest.
Animal integration
It has taken some time to bring growers back around to
the idea of improving soil health through cover cropping,
and animal integration may see the same - if not more -
hesitation towards implementation. But at this Zonneveld
block, the flock is in full swing cleaning up the cover crop.
" This does equally as good a job as a mower, but with way
more benefits, " said Crum. " There are certain microbial
properties in a ruminant's saliva that stimulate plant growth
during the process of grazing. Also, people think the
manure is the benefit of the sheep, but it's the urine. "
The ruminant eats the cover crop at a specific location
and processes it through its body, where plant enzymes
are extracted and - with added biology - are ultimately
urinated back onto the ground, explained Crum. This urine
is a stimulant for the site-specific, local microbes, which in
turn provide what the plants need based on the plants and
microbial community present.
With over 400 sheep in this block and about 1,600 more
The harvest conundrum is another reason growers may
be hesitant about planting a cover. Maloney has experienced
outright refusal from a harvester.
" Someone threatened not to harvest almonds because
there was some residue left, " Maloney said. " He thought all
these nuts would be left behind, but there was no difference
in harvest. "
Aside from soil benefits and no changes in harvest, the
bonus is that growers with lush and nutritious cover crops
can receive a premium for animal integration. Tree nut
farmers are paid so many cents per day, per animal, and can
reach as much as $40-$55 per acre, covering the cost of the
custom-blended cover crop seed.
It's a symbiotic relationship, as the sheep experience lower
death rates, and ewes can simultaneously nurse their lambs
and still gain weight, which doesn't happen with other crops,
such as alfalfa.
" Implement this big of a change in an orchard and
everything changes, " said Crum of cover crops. The
implementation of sheep is the next big step. " It's a really neat
system, I just wish we could get more people to do it. "
NATIONALNUTGROWER.COM 7
http://www.NATIONALNUTGROWER.COM

March/April 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2022

March/April 2022 - 1
March/April 2022 - 2
March/April 2022 - 3
March/April 2022 - 4
March/April 2022 - 5
March/April 2022 - 6
March/April 2022 - 7
March/April 2022 - 8
March/April 2022 - 9
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March/April 2022 - 11
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