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While a mixture of corn and sorghum is seeded in the pheasant rearing pens, lambsquarter is a favored protective cover crop.
The game bird managers at Mac Farlane Pheasant Farm say cover management in the pens is a key to raising quality pheasants. Yet too much cover can be just as bad as too little cover when it comes to protecting 130,000 birds placed in 65 acres of net-covered pens.
After the corn and sorghum mixture is planted, the growth is sprayed with herbicide to knock back the weeds, but not enough is used to kill the weed plants. These weeds offer more cover, block the line of sight for the birds outside the pens and result in a higher quality bird.
“It was difficult to adjust to raising weeds, especially lambsquarter, when I came here 15 years ago,” says crop manager Dale Earleywine. “But lambsquarter makes a good cover crop that holds up well for the birds, offers excellent cover and stands up well into the winter months.”
While lambsquarter germinates in cooler soil temperatures, it doesn’t compete well with other weeds such as giant ragweed. So the farm uses a mower to trim the tops off the weeds, allowing the lambsquarter to flourish underneath while producing an optimum pheasant cover. By fall, the lambsquarter cover may reach 6 feet in height when the seeds fall to the ground where they are turned into the soil with a rotovator the following spring to germinate.
“We’ve actually bought lambsquarter seed…
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