Pasture Management


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Look at this stuff. It is like Reed Canarygrass on steroids. In fact you can see it surrounded by RCG, which suddenly looks like Fine Fescue by comparison! I am seeing it here and there in the pastures because it came by seed from some Eastern WA hay I bought last February. I was running out of hay, just needed a few more tons. My local hay guy was out, so he trucked me over some first cutting hay that was pretty seedy. I noticed the milo-like seeds piling up in the barn under the hay troughs; and wondered what potentially monstrous thing I had brought in, and if I would regret it.

I think this is some hybrid variant of sorghum-sudangrass, but it is hella productive and the sheep really like it. I had seen a different version when I was at a KHSI Expo in Tennessee. We had toured a farm there where an NRCS guy had seeded it into his pastures. There, it looked nearly like corn, tall with very wide leaf blades. (Which is a reminder to us that corn is actually a strange species of grass.)

This has been a good summer for Sudangrass, hot and dry. Alas, I’m not sure if it’ll stick around, since it doesn’t like cold. But I won’t mind if it does!

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I am feeling very nicely caught-up lately. On Sunday, I weighed all the lambs and also vaccinated them. Today after work, I mowed the chicken pen with the tractor. I love how neat and tidy it looks when the grass is short and the fencing is straight and taught. The chickens will enjoy the overturned goodies and new grass growth. You can see how tall the surrounding grass is already. In April, I was hand-wringing about too little forage for grazing when the ewes started lambing. Now, there is too much and it’s starting to seed out. It’s early for this, but the grass is likely somewhat stressed from a drought-ey May, so it decided to push out seed heads already. I’m not thrilled that the sheep are grazing stage III growth, but I’m also reluctant to cut any of it, lest we have more drought and this is my stockpile for the summer. So I’m working with it and the sheep are eating it, though I’m sure it’s not their favorite. It is so challenging to manage the timing of grazing just right. (more…)

EweLineFall is definitely here, with cool nights, and finally, some rain, after a long drought. In August, I weaned all the lambs, and put the ewes in drylot on hay for the short term. This saves the green grass for the lambs, giving the fields a rest until fall rains refresh them. It also gives me a good opportunity to walk the line and look at the condition of all the ewes, survey their udders, and spot any problems that need addressing before breeding season in November.

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Barf

Going through photos from the crazy days of lambing, I found this thing I wanted to post about. This is sheep vomit. Which I have never seen before. Sheep rarely barf. Walking through the pasture where the sheep were grazing, it caught my eye instantly. The only time I see this material is when rumens are emptied on the grass at the end of the butchering process, by people who plan to take the rumen lining home for tripe recipes. It is unmistakable in contents, smell and texture. It was spread out in multiple piles. I instantly knew who it belonged to.

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FirstLambs

Notwithstanding the twelve unplanned lambs born in January and February, here are the official first lambs of the officially planned lambing season! A couple of white and brown ewelambs. Lambs should really start arriving in earnest today, and this ewe was due tomorrow. So, these twin girls got a jumpstart on a sunny Thursday. I didn’t see them born, just found them clean and fed on a midday check, my favorite kind.

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MudRutsThis is a complain-ey post. Sorry. This has been the toughest winter ever. For starters, record rainfall, facilitating mud. Our sacrifice pasture had only partially recovered from the ditch dredging exercise in summer, so likely the grass plants had less water uptake ability, rendering more mud. The engine blew out in our ATV in November, and it spent two months in the shop getting repaired. The tractor had to be used to feed animals instead. It’s heavier, so tears up the ground more; and I have to drive it in a longer path to get to the sheep, tearing up more pasture still. More mud. One time, it popped a tire from struggling through mud, so I had to jack up the tractor and change the wheel, in the mud. Annoyed

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The grass is looking fantastic this spring, we’ve had a great mix of warm weather and rain. The abundant feed is a gift, but it comes with the overhead of moving fencing every few days. I was able to start grass rotation on the south property March 5th, and the sheep just returned to that area two weeks ago. It is reed canarygrass (RCG) so though they grazed it down to nubbins in March, it is already taller than me and forming seed heads! It is both a very productive, and vexing grass.

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