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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

City of Davis partners with Perennial Grazing to use sheep to restore habitats

Davis to use sheep to control plant growth in Open Space Program habitats


By ALMA CULVERWELL city@theaggie.org 

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The city of Davis recently began using sheep from Perennial Grazing to combat weeds and other unwanted plant growth in their 60-acre Oak Savannah habitat at the South Fork Preserve, which is part of their Open Space Program.

The Open Space Program was created in 1990 to address the need for more adequate policies to protect local farmland and habitat areas around Davis. The program has since evolved to both acquire and preserve open space around Davis. 

The program was made possible due to funding from Measure O, a parcel tax dedicated to open space preservation that was passed in 2000. Measure O, which expires in 2030, has allowed the city of Davis to protect over 2,800 acres of land and secure millions in state and federal open space acquisition grants.  

Tracie Reynolds, the open space manager for the city, explained the decision to work with Perennial Grazing and its sheep to help with the Open Space Program. 

 “We’ve had some issues in the past with just how the sheep were grazing and that it wasn’t really benefiting the habitat the way we wanted because we primarily manage that property for habitat reasons,” Reynolds said. “And then secondarily it’s for the recreational value of it, for people that take hikes and things like that.” 

Reynolds explained how Perennial Grazing’s sheep are helping the habitats. 

“Perennial Grazing … has more of an emphasis on doing the grazing in a way that also helps the habitat,” Reynolds said. “What we’re trying to do there is really stimulate the growth of the native grasses as opposed to the weeds.”

Perennial Grazing is a group of ranchers and custom grazers based in the Capay Valley. The company has been in business for the past five years and works to salvage native plants by using grazing as opposed to using herbicides, tilling or irrigation to keep open spaces clean.

Shannon Waldron, a shepherd for Perennial Grazing, shared how sheep grazing works.

We bring the sheep in once a year and we do what we call ‘mob grazing’ where we build temporary pens — these ones are about two acres — and we bring the sheep in there,” Waldron said. “What the sheep are doing is they’re eating and pooping and trampling on grass and then that leaves […] a fresh layer.”

The city is currently working on several projects as part of the Open Space Program, including the wetlands habitat restoration with UC Davis as well as other habitat restoration projects along the South Fork of Putah Creek. Measure O will be up for renewal in 2030, which Reynolds encouraged community members to vote in favor of.


Written By: Alma Culverwell — city@theaggie.org