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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink What are some options for controlling wildlife damage to my market garden?


Rhode Island

Answer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. I am pleased to provide you with information on wildlife damage management for market gardeners and farmers.


Motion-Activated Sprinkler Devices

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, infrared motion sensors and/or timers can be used to trigger scare devices, which can scare away deer. Flashing and strobe lights, and water sprayers or sprinklers activated by motion sensors, or set on timers, can also deter deer. Motion-activated water sprayers, triggered by infrared or motion sensors, can prevent deer from getting used to them, and can repel deer.


Wildlife Control Supplies

SmartHome USA


Squirrel Control

Control measures for squirrels include exclusion, alternative food sources, repellants, trapping, and shooting. No toxicants or fumigants are labeled for use in controlling tree squirrels.

Exclusion Methods
• 1 inch wire mesh fence with electric wire running along the top.

• 2 to 3 inch PVC pipe split lengthwise and placed over telephone and other wires to provide an unstable surface to inhibit squirrel movement.
• Wrap trees and posts with 2 foot wide metal flashing.


Box and cage traps can be baited with orange, apple, walnuts, or pecans removed from the shell, and peanut butter.  Transporting squirrels is problematic due to the stress of movement to a new habitat.


Capsaicin is the chemical in hot peppers that cause the burning sensation when eaten. The easiest and cheapest way to use this chemical is to purchase ground cayenne pepper at the grocery store and sprinkle it liberally in the vegetable beds. It is also effective at deterring other small animals as well.

Alternative Food Sources

You can provide alternative food sources such as shelled corn in feeders located at a distance away from the wire-enclosed garden.


Deer Control
For control methods and fencing design solutions I first suggest you read the ATTRA publication Deer Control Options. You can access this publication online at:

Other great resources for control options include:
DeNicola, Anthony J., Kurt C. VerCauteren, Paul D. Curtis, and Scott E. Hygnstrom. Managing White-Tailed Deer in Suburban Environments: A Technical Guide.  Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Wildlife Society–Wildlife Damage Management Working Group, and the Northeast Wildlife Damage Research and Outreach Cooperative.

This publication includes an appendix on Deer Damage Control Supplies and Materials.  I highly recommend this publication.

Craven, Scott R. and Scott E. Hygnstrom.  1994. Deer, in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.

O'Dell, Charlie. 1997.  Low-Cost Slant Fence Excludes Deer from Plantings. Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Masters, Ron, Paul Mitchell, and Steve Dobbs. Ornamental and Garden Plants: Controlling Deer Damage.  Oklahoma Cooperative Extension.


Groundhog Control
Rene M. Bollengier, Jr.  1994.  Woodchucks, in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.

The above publication (enclosed) addresses fencing for groundhog exclusion.  I have also included a paper on rabbit control.  One idea is to utilize a groundhog control fence integrated into your deer fence by placing woven wire against your deer fence and bury the lower edge 10 to 12 inches in the ground or bend the lower edge at an L-shaped angle leading outward and bury it in the ground 1 to 2 inches.


Suppliers of electric fencing materials

Use fencing system catalogs to compare prices and get an idea of the products and techniques available in fencing systems. Several companies have toll-free numbers and will send you catalogs for free. In addition, some companies offer free installation manuals you can download from their Web site. A list of major suppliers follows. If you call for a catalog, ask about dealers or company representatives in your area. These people can sometimes give you a better deal than the company itself and may provide some practical consultation.

Gallagher Power Fence

(210) 494-5211

Gallagher POWER FENCE Manual

Gallagher Wildlife Management Kencove Farm Fence

1-800-536-2683 Pasture Management Systems, Inc.

1-800-230-0024 Premier 1 Fence Supplies

1-800-282-6631 Speedrite Agri-Systems


Suppliers of poly deer fencing materials
Kencove Farm Fence

1-800-536-2683 Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply


Organic Growers Supply, Fedco Coop Garden Supplies


References and Resources
Jackson, Jeffrey J. 1994. Tree Squirrels, in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Edited by Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, and Gary E. Larson. Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Deer Damage Management Techniques.

Pierce, Robert A. II. 2007. Tree Squirrels: Managing Habitat and Controlling Damage. University of Missouri.



Permalink Can you give me some resources for crop rotations in Wisconsin?

Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information on crop rotation. The following resources should be helpful to you.

First of all, here is a good website from UW Extension on rotations prior to 1940 (pre-herbicide era). The article contrasts the historical rotation with the more typical rotation of corn and soybeans used today.

Also, we just received a new book in our office titled Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual Here is a link to the site to order. This book is most applicable to the northeast part of the US, but Wisconsin would have a similar enough climate that it would be applicable.

North Dakota State has a good link on designing rotation in North Dakota. The far eastern part of the state would be the region most similar to yours and would probably work as well. Another one from NDSU is located here:

Also, here is a link on rotations from an excerpt of Managing Soils for Better Crops



Permalink Can you give me some resources on using biochar for soil fertility and carbon sequestration?

Thank you for your request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service regarding the use of biochar for soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Please see the following links and contacts for further information.

International Biochar Initiative
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is a non-profit organization that supports biochar research and development. Their website has a large amount of resources including publications and newsletters, as well as a biochar extension service which enables users to submit inquiries about biochar using an online form. You will find information about using biochar for soil fertility and carbon sequestration on this site.

Biochar: An Unknown Quantity, Agroforestry News, May 2009
This article has general information about biochar as a soil conditioner as well as carbon sequestration potential.

Pacific Northwest Biochar Initiative
The Pacific Northwest Biochar Initiative has developed a Google group site that has over 100 members discussing and posting articles about biochar. You can either view what the group has posted as a guest or join the group and participate in the discussion. This group held a biochar conference in May and there are several good presentations from the conference posted on this site.

North American Regional Biochar Initiative
, August 9-12, 2009, University of Colorado at Boulder
The first major biochar conference in the US was held in Boulder, CO on August 9-12. Visit the link for information and presentations from the conference.



Permalink What are some resources for barn designs to house multiple species of livestock?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with barn designs to house multiple species of livestock.

Cattle require shelter from extreme heat and cold, but the shelter need not be extravagant. For cattle, the lower critical temperature at which an animal becomes stressed and requires increased feed for maintenance of body heat is around -4° F, and the upper threshold temperature 86° F. The factors that affect these thresholds include humidity, thermal radiation, and wind speed.

In the summer, a shade such as a shade cloth erected over a frame allows for ventilation as well as shade from the hot sun. In the winter, the primary idea is to keep the animals dry and out of the wind. Cattle can handle very cold temperatures, but wind and wet reduce the animal’s ability to maintain body heat and thus can cause stress and illness. In cold climates, a 3 sided lean-to shelter is ideal for beef cattle. Place the entrance to the shed facing the south so the north wind is blocked during the winter, and ensure the shed is on high ground with adequate drainage to prevent mud and water accumulation. The same shed is a decent sun-shade in the summer.

Sheep and goats require much the same in the way of shelter as cattle do. Sheep can handle cold just fine, as long as they have warm, dry bedding and are out of the wind. Resist the temptation to completely enclose animals during winter, as ventilation is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer, especially for the removal of moisture and ammonia. Goats need to be kept dry during the cold weather, so provide good shelter from wind, rain, and snow. Several housing alternatives include hoop houses made from PVC or rebar covered with a tarp, a three-sided lean-to shed (as mentioned above). The lean-to can be constructed with a sliding door to allow the summer winds to ventilate the shed, and allow closure during extreme cold winter months.

The ATTRA publication Hooped Shelters for Hogs, available online at, describes design and construction of hoophouses. Many farmers have used these designs not only for pigs but for small ruminants as well.

Barn Design and Plan Sources

Building and Facility Plans, Extension Ag & Biosystems Engineering North Dakota State University

Building Plans, Louisiana State University

Canada Plan Service

Midwest Plan Service, Iowa State University
122 Davidson Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
A university-based publishing cooperative dedicated to publishing and disseminating research-based, peer-reviewed, practical, and affordable engineering publications. Publications for sale include plans for beef, dairy, horse, sheep, and swine barns. There are also several free plans on the website for download.

The Agricultural Building and Equipment Plan List, The University of Tennessee

McKenzie-Jakes, A. 2007. Getting started in the meat goat business: Establishing the meat goat facility, Bulletin I, Vol. IV. Florida A&M University.

Housing for a Small Scale Pig Unit, FAO Corporate Document Repository

Livestock Handling Systems

Borg, Robert. 1993. Corrals for Handling Beef Cattle. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Agdex 420/723-1. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 91 p.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex27?opendocument
Copies of this book may be purchased for $10.00 by calling 800-292-5697 (tollfree in Canada) or 780-427-0391.

Boyles, Stephen, Jeff Fisher, and Gary Fike. Cattle Handling and Working Facilities. The Ohio State University.

Grandin, Temple. Livestock Behaviour, Design of Facilities and Humane Slaughter.
The nation’s premier authority on livestock handling system design. Website includes plans, how-to advice, specifications, and research papers.

O'Brien, Anita. 2002. Planning Your Sheep Handling Facility. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Squire-Wilson, Tim and Jim Browne. 2000. Yard Designs for Goats. Australian Cashmere Growers Association Ltd.



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