Friday, September 6, 2013

Zero Waste Golf - the next page

The sheep as they munched the grass and weeds along the left side of #10
Perhaps you have read a golf article preaching the use of goats or sheep to clear areas of brush or out of play areas.  Maybe you have even played golf on a course where this tactic is used occasionally. We hope to take this step a bit further than most in the name of research and sustainability.  Yes sheep are being used to maintain our Dairy Creek golf course.  No, we are not going back the the original practices of golf where these animals were the sole way that turfs were managed, but we will use these amazing creatures to maintain and enhance our "native areas" surrounding the holes and golf course.

Our goal with our sheep is to assist with land and resource management as part of our Zero Waste initiative.  Before the land was developed into a golf course this area looked like the surrouning hillsides including whispy grasses as a food source for grazing cattle.  As the earth was churned and tilled to create Dairy Creek various weed seed and undesireable plant species were able to germinate and compete with the new landscape.  Although the golf course was created with minimal disturbance to the topography and soils the disturbance was just enough to allow these undesireable species to flourish in unirrigated areas of the course.

The Animal Science professors at nearby Cal Poly University have worked with us to develop a plan to return the plant species back to what it once was through the use of grazing.  Many people envision grazing as a negative practice.  Performed correctly it can be an amazing tool for land management.  Grazing has gotten a bad repuptation as animals are often left in areas too long and over-grazing occurs.  Our animals are left in a certain area for no more than 2-4 days dependent upon the amount of feed and litter for ground cover and habitat.  We don't want bare or nearly bare soil.  Actually when the sheep are ready to be moved there is actually quite a bit of plant material left for other wildlife to use for cover.

The sheep in this photo are ready to be moved.

Before we added the sheep to our maintenance team we had some grad students come to the course and perform a plant population study to determine what species currently exist in our native areas and in what densities.  These students utilized our Environmental Impact Report taht was developed before the land became a golf course to determine what waws here before the course exhisted.  The goal is to bring the species diversity back into what nature had intended and at the same time alleviate our need for chemical and mechanical means to maintain these areas of our course.  Our hillsides do provide food and shelter for some large predators in the form of Mountain Lions, so we were are not able to let the sheep run free.  Instead they are moved around the property in approximately 1/8 acre sections enclosed by electrified fencing.  This has proven to work well as we still have all 20 ewes and their 20 lambs.  We will keep you up to date as this project progresses.

No comments:

Post a Comment