Our grass growing season is coming to an end.  The cattle are now grazing “stockpiled” forage.  Stockpiled forage is pasture that we have not grazed for several months.  The grass grew all summer long and left un-grazed as “stockpile”, for grazing during the non-growing season.

calves in stockpiled forage

Calves moving into “stockpiled” forage.

While setting up portable fence in the pasture today we noticed a number of gopher mounds.  We have seen a few gopher mounds over the past few years, but in just a small area today we noted three different mounds.  Gophers dig tunnels under the soil surface feeding on roots and who knows what else.  At first glance one may conclude the gophers are bad.  Feeding on grass roots and making soil piles will reduce the amount of grass available for the cattle to graze, right?  From an ecological point of view, increased gopher activity in our pasture maybe a good sign.  Aeration of the soil will increase water infiltration.  The freshly tilled soil may allow new forage species to grow.  Diversity of life is always a good sign of a healthy prairie in our opinion.

gopher activity

Gopher “soil” mounds.

So while others may see gophers as bad and consider poison to reduce their numbers, for now we will accept the increase in gopher activity as a good sign that our prairie is moving in a positive direction.  More diversity will help our pastures become more resilient in the future.

 

2 Thoughts on “Prairie Gopher Bad or Prairie Gopher Good?

  1. I believe ultimately the Gophers are good for the wildlands. They are also present in Chaparral Habitats where there are less than ideal gardening conditions. The soils there are decomposed granite and fractured rock with some clay in spots, so their presence helps keeps soils opened up for further air and water movement. They only become out of balance when predators are missing. In southern California in cities, especially on the fringes of where sub-urban areas meet rural areas they can be a pest of sorts, but that is because humans have mostly killed every type of snake or other animals or birds of prey.

    Natural mankind’s stupid asinine response to all of this is, “Let’s invent some chemical and kill what we don’t like or understand”

    • Good points Kevin.
      The gophers are filling a need in our pasture. Future rains will soak in better. If the gophers get out of balance, something else will bring the gophers back into check (disease, predators, etc). I remember helping my Grandfather trap gophers in his hay fields (soil mounds were hard on hay mowers). One particular gopher was difficult to trap. After many failed attempts Grandpa returned to the area and found a fresh badger hole. The badger was able to do what Grandpa could not do. Our cattle like the work of the badgers in our pasture, refer to October 2013 post: https://dsfamilyfarm.com/healthy-cows-eat-dirt/

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