Pasture Productivity

I still have the rams in with the ewes so I have the flock split into two main groups. Ranger and his ewes are in the main pasture and Houdini and his ewes are in what I call the horse pasture. That’s because that pasture is where we have had horses and a cow or two in the past. This year was the first time I had sheep in that pasture. If you want to grow healthy pasture there is more to it than just opening a gate and letting the animals in to graze. This pasture has been severely overgrazed in the past, but I was amazed at the amount of clover and trefoil that grew in parts of the pasture after several months of rest. The problem with this pasture is the amount of dallas grass, a summer-growing perennial in the west half. It grows fast in mid to late summer and then dries out in the winter. It was so thick in half the pasture that nothing could grow under it. There was just a thick dried matt of it–that is cutting the productivity of the pasture. The photo below shows this summer’s growth of dallas grass. The sheep will eat it when it’s young and palatable, but when it gets larger they can’t keep up with it and it is not as desirable. The grass in the photo below was  at my shoulder height before the last north winds. Some of it has been blown over. If you look closely on the right wide you see the top of a black plastic post sticking up. There is also a post on the left side but the grass is built up against it. The sheep don’t even venture into this thick thatch.
West view of sample plot in pasture
West view of sample plot in pasture

So what to do about it? I could try to get some cows in here. If they didn’t eat it at least they’d trample it. But I’m trying to make something work with the sheep. I have started feeding hay out here. I break the flakes of hay into smaller pieces and place it in strategic places in the tall grass. The photo below shows those same posts after 2 feedings in that area.  (Note the wooden post in the background of each picture.) The sheep  didn’t eat all that grass, but a good part of it is trampled down and hopefully broken up enough that something will grow through it after the winter rains.

West view 24 hours later
West view 24 hours later

The next two photos show the same plot looking north.  You can barely see the black plastic posts in the first photo, but they’re obvious in the second.

Pasture plot, north view before grazing

Pasture plot, north view before grazing

North view after 24 hours

North view after 24 hours

Look at how much grass there is behind this plot. I’m working my way north with the hay feeding. The goal is to get all that dallas grass eaten or trampled. Then when it rains i’ll get more palatable feed in there.

One thought on “Pasture Productivity

  1. Goats? Goats can clear an amazing amount of land in a ridiculous amount of time. I think Rose Kim Knits had a great little series this summer where she rented a few goats for something like a week or 10 days to clear the blackberry bramble that had become her backyard. It. Was. Amazing. how fast they got that down to where you could see the ground again. Absolutely astonishing. Might be worth looking into? Also, DOGGIE!!! 😀 What a cutie.

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