Example of fencing to help prevent wildlife damage to fruit trees.

Example of fencing that can help prevent large game or livestock damage to fruit trees.  Additional measures are needed to prevent vole or rodent damage and to keep bear away.

Many heritage trees have limbs that are now out of the reach of deer, but larger game and bear can still cause significant damage. If deer, moose, or elk are a problem in your orchard, a proper fence should be installed to limit wildlife access to your trees. If bears are known to be present near your orchard, your fence should be electrified, as they can climb fences just as well as they can climb trees. While they can break limbs and do major damage to your fence, bears themselves will also suffer from becoming naturalized to feeding in your orchard.  For more on fencing visit Growing Apples in Montana: Fencing and Trellises.

Grazing livestock can also be integrated into orchards, assuming this is done with great care. Livestock can provide a wide array of nutrients through their manure and droppings, and they provide the beneficial service of cleaning up unharvested or otherwise dropped fruit in the orchard.  The success of livestock integration will depend on the species of livestock selected and the attentiveness of the orchard owner.  Precautions should be taken to ensure proper food safety, prevent damage to trees, and reduce compaction of soil throughout your orchard. This can be accomplished through implementing rotational grazing, which will help prevent the over-grazing of trees or vegetation and can reduce soil compaction. No livestock should be grazed in orchards within 90 days prior to fruit harvest, as this will help to prevent contamination of harvested fruits. It is especially important to follow these guidelines if you are hoping to sell any of your harvest commercially.

Pocket gophers and meadow voles can also cause considerable damage to trees both young and old.  Keeping vegetation mowed in orchards will help reduce rodent habitat and feeding on tree bark and roots.  For more information on identifying and managing these pests visit Voles and Pocket Gophers in Montana Orchards.

Horses enjoying the shade of an apple tree in their pasture.

Horses enjoying the shade of an apple tree in their pasture.  If not properly fenced and protected trees may decline due to soil compaction, girdling and browsing by livestock.