IWTO discuss The effects of solar panels on sheep grazingSolar panels are being promoted as one of the best methods to produce green energy. As a result, in addition to wind energy facilities, solar panels are starting to take up residence in open spaces across the world. How will this affect the grazing patterns of livestock – in particular, sheep? International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) offers a sneak peek at research conducted by Emma Kampherbeek, MSc., Dr. Zachary McFarlane, Dr. Laura Webb, and Dr. Seeta Sistla, which sets out to answer this question.

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How Sheep Respond To Solar Panels On Their Grazing Lands

The research project undertaken by Kampherbeek, McFarlane and Sistla aimed to “investigate the effects of solar panels on sheep grazing behaviour…” Two types of grazing management strategy are proposed – intensive rotational grazing or rotational grazing. The research was also intended to determine which of the two would be most suitable.

Working on the Gold Tree Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, California, the researchers observed the grazing behaviour of sheep on and around the solar facility. Four groups of sheep were selected and tagged – two solar groups and two control groups. The control groups were sent out to graze on native rangelands. While the solar group were confined to the land on which the solar facility had been set up. However, since the solar farm had little available forage, it had to be supplemented with alfalfa hay. The overall result of the study was that sheep on the solar farm preferred to graze underneath the solar panels, rather than in the alleys between them. It was also conclusively observed that sheep on the solar farm spent more time grazing than those on the rangelands.

It was also found that sheep in 4-day rotations grazed more than sheep in 1-day rotations. The conclusion is that animals that rotate less often can spend more time browsing or selecting preferred plant species. This indicates that sheep can provide excellent vegetation management on solar farms. Depending on forage conditions, a mix of rotational and continuous grazing can be employed.

The IWTO Wool Round Table 2023

Emma Kampherbeek is one of the speakers at this year’s Wool Round Table, to be held in Montréal from 3-6 December. To register for this exciting and informative event, visit https://iwto.org/wool-round-table-2023/

Learn All You Need to Know About the International Wool Industry

For more information on the wool industry around the world, take a look at our fact sheets, statistics and guidelines, or visit our website.

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