Question re: pasture management versus rain slow downs

Alaskan

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Thank you so much for this reply--it is VERY helpful!!!
You are welcome. Range management/Rangeland Ecology and Management was my major as an undergrad and as a grad student.
I've also been thinking a lot about what I want to have growing. Since we don't want to till anything up or poison what's already there (in the name of preserving the soil life), how do we encourage the "good" plants?
Well... first figure out your goals.

What do you want growing? Or, which animals do you want to encourage?

Once you figure out the plants that you want to encourage, you can better determine when the sheep should be moved into or out of a pasture.

Big blue stem is a bunch grass. It starts out as a clump, and as it increases in age the plant keeps growing bigger. Once it reaches a certain size the middle dies and the plant looks like a donut. This creates the ideal nesting location for ground nesting birds.

Big bluestem is a bit delicate in the sense that it shouldn't be grazed below 6 inches in height. If you watch the big bluestem, you want to put the sheep into graze when it is at boot stage(seeds are mostly developed but haven't yet emerged).

Big bluestem is a royal pain to get to grow from seed. You need a month of soft gentle sprinkles and cloud cover :rolleyes: So, no reason to let it go to seed. Also, if you wait until after it has gone to seed then the grass isn't as palatable.

Fescue is a pain to get rid of, and is terrible for wildlife. If you have a section of it, till it up, let it start to green up (from all the rhizomes/plant parts) disc it, let it start to green up again, disk it again.... and maybe that is good enough and you can toss out seed.
 

Baymule

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I bought my first 4 bred ewes in 2015. Since then I have learned a lot about parasites. If I had chronically wormy sheep, they got slaughtered or taken to auction. Then I learned how to take a fecal sample and count worm eggs under a microscope, thanks to a visit with @Mike CHS and his wife Teresa, who taught me how. We went there to get Ringo, their Katahdin ram, who was bred by Virginia Tech University in their parasite resistance program. Ringo gets checked too, he has never been wormed.

I have had ewes with worm counts so high that I wondered how they were still alive. I only have 8 acres, a lot of it is wooded and I did have horses, so grass was scarce here. I'll be moving next spring or summer to a smaller place and will have to dry lot the sheep in order to utilize the grass there and not let them eat it to the roots.

In any flock, there are the ones that do not thrive, have parasites or other problems. Cull these. With a small flock, that gets hard. I raised them, I named them, I hand fed them. But for the overall health of the flock, the ones with problems have to go.

Sometimes Universities will have small ruminant classes where they teach how to do your own fecal checks. That's how Teresa learned how, then she taught me. Check with your county extension agent to see if any classes are scheduled near you. Running fecal checks is a valuable tool to monitor the health of your flock.
 

Bruce

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I think some people add lyme to the soil when the animals are moved off to help kill parasites
Since lime increases pH I think it would be good to know if adding it would detrimental to or an improver for the soil at hand.
 

Cotton*wood

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I bought my first 4 bred ewes in 2015. Since then I have learned a lot about parasites. If I had chronically wormy sheep, they got slaughtered or taken to auction. Then I learned how to take a fecal sample and count worm eggs under a microscope, thanks to a visit with @Mike CHS and his wife Teresa, who taught me how. We went there to get Ringo, their Katahdin ram, who was bred by Virginia Tech University in their parasite resistance program. Ringo gets checked too, he has never been wormed.

I have had ewes with worm counts so high that I wondered how they were still alive. I only have 8 acres, a lot of it is wooded and I did have horses, so grass was scarce here. I'll be moving next spring or summer to a smaller place and will have to dry lot the sheep in order to utilize the grass there and not let them eat it to the roots.

In any flock, there are the ones that do not thrive, have parasites or other problems. Cull these. With a small flock, that gets hard. I raised them, I named them, I hand fed them. But for the overall health of the flock, the ones with problems have to go.

Sometimes Universities will have small ruminant classes where they teach how to do your own fecal checks. That's how Teresa learned how, then she taught me. Check with your county extension agent to see if any classes are scheduled near you. Running fecal checks is a valuable tool to monitor the health of your flock.
Thanks, Baymule,

I've tried to do the fecal egg count from instructions on the internet, following all the directions, but I really need someone to actually show me, as I'm not sure I'm doing the focusing right. The samples I've looked at (with the McAllister slides) appeared to have either zero of the bad worm eggs or hundreds (neither of which seemed particularly likely to me, though the person I bought the sheep from had a huge farm, and moved the whole flock daily, going back to the same piece of pasture only after a whole year, and at that point, at my place, they were also moved daily and had not yet been back to any of the original paddocks, on pastures that hadn't been grazed by sheep ever and it had been several years since there had been goats on them, so I dunno....). It is high on my list of educational projects to learn how to do the sampling properly.

Just yesterday we took the two skinny-ish ewes to the meat market for slaughter, and yes, they had names, and yes we were very fond of them, but as you said, they had to go. One of them also had an udder issue and the other one was small and needed an assist for what should have been a normal birth, so they each had another strike against them as well. The rest of them were a little skinny during early lactation (in February and March!), but conditioned up again nicely since then.

I teach at a high school, and I know the ag teacher here is planning to teach her kids how to do fecal egg sampling. She's already asked me if I can bring in samples from some of my sheep, and I plan to stay and get the lesson as well.
 

Cotton*wood

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You are welcome. Range management/Rangeland Ecology and Management was my major as an undergrad and as a grad student.

Well... first figure out your goals.

What do you want growing? Or, which animals do you want to encourage?

Once you figure out the plants that you want to encourage, you can better determine when the sheep should be moved into or out of a pasture.

Big blue stem is a bunch grass. It starts out as a clump, and as it increases in age the plant keeps growing bigger. Once it reaches a certain size the middle dies and the plant looks like a donut. This creates the ideal nesting location for ground nesting birds.

Big bluestem is a bit delicate in the sense that it shouldn't be grazed below 6 inches in height. If you watch the big bluestem, you want to put the sheep into graze when it is at boot stage(seeds are mostly developed but haven't yet emerged).

Big bluestem is a royal pain to get to grow from seed. You need a month of soft gentle sprinkles and cloud cover :rolleyes: So, no reason to let it go to seed. Also, if you wait until after it has gone to seed then the grass isn't as palatable.

Fescue is a pain to get rid of, and is terrible for wildlife. If you have a section of it, till it up, let it start to green up (from all the rhizomes/plant parts) disc it, let it start to green up again, disk it again.... and maybe that is good enough and you can toss out seed.
I would really really like to get rid of the fescue, but we don't have any way to disc it, and I'm not going to poison it. I don't suppose there's any way to transition the pasture in any other way?

I went around to any little bare place (between fescue clumps, for example) last summer, and put in some seeds of big and little blue stem, Virginia wild rye, sideoats gramma, and buffalo grass, and there are actually quite a few of those that are growing (and seemingly expanding). But they probably don't compete very well with fescue......
 

Alaskan

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I would really really like to get rid of the fescue, but we don't have any way to disc it, and I'm not going to poison it. I don't suppose there's any way to transition the pasture in any other way?
No other way.

It is very resistant to grazing pressure.

You don't have to use machines to get rid of it. You could hand pull.
 

Bruce

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You don't have to use machines to get rid of it. You could hand pull.
:gig :lol:
Wouldn't THAT be fun on a few acres of land!!!!!!! That is the only way I can get rid of burdock and stinging nettle though and I'm mostly dealing with the fenced in area which (excluding the pond) is about 3/4 acre.

I suppose if one kept at it a little at a time, progress could be made against the fescue especially if the area was then seeded with something useful.
 

Cotton*wood

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No other way.

It is very resistant to grazing pressure.

You don't have to use machines to get rid of it. You could hand pull.
Well, maybe I'll make my paddocks VERY small and let them sit there for multiple days...... OR try to rearrange my thinking about it and embrace it as a winter forage?
 
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