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Grazing Hogs Rooted Out Buckthorn Problem
Thanks to six rooting hogs, Nancy Lunzer reclaimed a woodlot that had been overtaken by buckthorn. The invasive species had choked out the native plants on about 2 acres of her Ogilvie, Minn., farm. The healthy 1 to 2-in. dia. plants were too big to pull and would grow back if cut.

    Instead of opting for the costly herbicide option, Lunzer decided to try Berkshire and Berkshire/Duroc hogs known for being good foragers.

    “I fenced off a small area (about 1/4 acre) and 6 hogs took it down to the dirt; they go like gangbusters,” Lunzer says.

    Once an area was totally dug up, she moved the fence and the hogs to another area. It took one to three weeks per area. The only areas where she needed to pull buckthorn was the “bathroom” area, where the hogs wouldn’t root.

    She had been told that rooting wouldn’t work because buckthorn berries - often eaten by birds that spread the seed ‑ would reseed in the worked up ground. She speculates the hogs must have eaten the berries too, because reseeding wasn’t a big problem.

    After the hogs worked up the dirt 6 to 8 in. deep, Lunzer broadcast shade tolerant grasses including fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and orchard grass. After the grass was established she rotationally grazed it with hair sheep in the fall to keep new buckthorn in check by stripping the seedlings so they dry out and die.

    Lunzer received grants from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and used part of it to purchase 2,640 ft. of woven wire fencing for the perimeter and 600 ft. of PigQuik Electro-web for the portable fence. She highly recommends it.

    “Fencing was easy compared to pulling up buckthorn,” she says, and it also works for sheep.

    Generally, grazing woods is not recommended, she notes. But the buckthorn infested areas were useless. Now sugar maple and basswood seedlings are growing to return the land to native woods - her ultimate goal. There is a stark difference between her property and her neighbor’s buckthorn infested property, she adds.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Nancy Lunzer, Bear Street Ranch, LLC, 1373 Bear St., Ogilvie, Minn. 56358 (ph 320 556-3745; hallie@jetup.net).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1