Sheep on the Wild Graze

SageHill

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Well, now sure if that's a good title for this thread or not.
I graze my sheep old style - moving them down roads with a dog who then becomes a living fence for the area to graze. Sheep choose to eat plants at certain times in the lifecycle of the plant - I've learned that just recently in my reading. I've found over the years that they will something for awhile and then move on to something else. Like eating at a smorgasbord. The first years of doing this my intention was to have them graze down areas kind of like a lawn mower :lol: Well - they are definitely not lawn mowers. They seemingly are picky eaters. At least that's what I thought. They'd graze for awhile, then just stand there and look at me like -'well, we're done here, what's the next course?'. Begrudgingly I'd move them to another area and they'd just stand there with the look. We'd keep moving until they'd all put their heads down and graze again. We'd repeat that day after day.
If I left things to their own way - sheep and dog - they'd keep grazing. The first years I would set it up and then work about in the same area. After awhile the dog would move the sheep a bit, and the graze would continue while I worked cutting back trees, picking up ancient boards from a long ago avocado grove and other various debris.
Enter the new phone that will identify plants that I take photos of. Cool - Of course the identification of the plants is not always accurate - but it's a start. If I identify a plant incorrectly and you know for certain what it is - let me know!
Now years later I've touched base with a friend who put me on to some great books that she has found immensely helpful. Enter the book The Art and Science of Shepherding - Tapping The Wisdom of French Herders by Michel Meuret & Fred Provenza. I am hooked. Furthermore, what I found in the first years is exactly what is in this book. A quick quote - "To set up the "first course" of a meal, a "booster phase" of ten to twenty minutes may be just right, while thirty to forty minutes may be too long". I just about screamed YES when I read that. The timing is exactly what I observed with the sheep and with my dog. ME - I wanted them parked and eating for an hour - never happened. Dog and sheep - they knew what was best. Damn! There are so many things like that in the book. I'm glad that I learned to let them be, it works. Now I know why! My dogs are not your typical herding style dogs, they are European. Actually all of them are from Belgium (next door neighbor to France). And while they are not specifically from herding lines, they are a rare breed whose instincts have not been diluted with the dog show world vision of what they should be. At least not yet. As unintentional as that choice was, it worked. The world works in mysterious ways I guess. I'm blessed to have them.
So this thread is me trying to keep track of what they are eating. Maybe not the why (yet), but it's a start to document so I don't forget. Of course I've got more reading to do, more grazing to do and watch, and this will either be a passing thing, or I hope to be something that evolves into useful information.
Maybe this is Mr Toad's Wild Ride on the Graze :lol: who knows!
EDIT TO ADD - if anyone wants a better picture of any of the plants I'll be happy to get them.
EDIT TO ADD LIST OF PLANTS in the order they are posted.....
..RED=Bad GREEN=Good ORANGE=not great not horrid BLACK=unknown
Telegraph Weed - Heterotheca grandiflora
Spotted Spurge - Euphorbia maculata -
Thorn-Apple, Jimsonweed Devil's Trumpet, Moon Flower - Datura stramonium - vespertine
Castor Bean, castor oil - Ricinus communis
Wild Mustard - Brassica nigra - Brassica tournefortii
Horseweed - Erigeron canadensis, Erigeron sumatrensis
California Buckwheat - Eriogonum fasciculatum
Tumble Weed, Russian Thistle, Salsola tragus

Sugar bush - sugar sumac - Rhus ovata
Wild Radish - Raphanus sativus
Stinkwort - Dittrichia graveolens
Tanglehead - Heteropogon contortus

Jerusalem Oak Goosefoot - Dysphania botrys
Stork's Bill, Redstem Filaree, or Pinweed - Erodium cicutarium
Woody Crinklemat, doveweed - Tiquilia canescens
San Diego County Sunflower, Tornleaf Goldeneye - Bahiopsis laciniata
 
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SageHill

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Telegraph Weed, silk-grass, goldenaster. - Heterotheca grandiflora - species of Asteraceae

Sheep like the leaves best, then the flowers, and then the seed heads.
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Telegraph Weed - Heterotheca grandiflora - species of Asteraceae - common names:
silk-grass, goldenaster.
Sheep like the leaves best, then the flowers, and then the seed heads.
 
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Mini Horses

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Animals search out what their body needs. Plants change taste & nutrition with growth age, weather and soil. Spring they may eat something that they won't in fall. This will be a fun "rabbit hole" 😁. It can get intense. I'm interested.
 

SageHill

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Animals search out what their body needs. Plants change taste & nutrition with growth age, weather and soil. Spring they may eat something that they won't in fall. This will be a fun "rabbit hole" 😁. It can get intense. I'm interested.
Exactly! And mama ewes teach their lambs. I’ve actually watched it. One will be eating their lamb will follow suit. Then ….. the lambs all get together and graze a bit then all return to their moms and the cycle restarts.
 

Baymule

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This will be fun! I don’t use dogs like you do, but I walk with my flock and observe. I had lots of black nightshade on the farm in Lindale. I pulled a wagon all over that 8 acres, pulling up the plants. POISON! DANGEROUS!

Then I observed the sheep eating the leaves off the black nightshade! They avoided the berries, which probably would have made them sick or killed them, I dunno. But the leaves were a tasty treat!

It’s fascinating to watch and see what and how they eat. This is going to be a great thread if you don’t mind, can you cross post pictures and ID of the plants on my grass and weeds thread?


We can build a great data base for edible and non edible plants. Hopefully more members will add to it.

I love your thread, showing the sheep eating, what they eat and what phase in plant growth that they eat it. Plus just the whole grazing experience with your dogs, fabulous!

Yeah, I wish MY sheep would eat ALL the grass down in a particular spot and then move on to the next spot. But NOOOO….. they only want a bite here, a bite there and next! Time to move!

Im making diabolical plans for cross fencing and controlled grazing. I may even use hot wire to further reduce the size of each pasture in order to make them eat more of the grass in order to utilize what I have.

I’m comparing our grazing styles in my head, here goes in print. You offer an all you can buffet complete with dessert. Your sheep can eat what they want, as much or as little as they want or even eat dessert first or only dessert, ALL the desert and leave the main course behind as they move on looking for more yummies. Happy sheep!

Mine will have smaller pastures with a lane to the barn. I’ll open the gate of the pasture I want them to graze and they can go eat, go back to the barn for water and shade, as they wish. There is a lot of grass on this place, the sheep can “show” me what they prefer and I can “improve” their buffet, hopefully with more of it.

I have lots of Bermuda grass, the Golden Standard of fine grazing—for cattle. Not sheep. My sheep could care less about Bermuda. Bennett, the former owner stares in amazement at the deep, lush, Bermuda that the sheep refuse and that his cows relished. I used to think fields of beautiful Bermuda grass, carefully tended, all weeds sprayed and poisoned out so they did not mar the perfect landscape of Bermuda, was the ultimate paradise.

Not anymore.

NOW I realize the perfect fields of Bermuda are a boring monoculture of one plant. One. Just one and nothing else. It’s like, say your favorite vegetable is Broccoli. For the rest of your life, all you get is Broccoli. Just one vegetable. One. That’s it forever. One. Think it might get boring? Think there might be nutrient deficiencies?

With the wide variety of weeds, forbs, grasses, our sheep get a much healthier diet. Things that we have been conditioned to believe what is best for livestock is kicking dirt in our face! My sheep have and are, giving me an education in fine dining!

I’m excited about this thread. It’s going to be informative, interesting and fun to have a front row seat on what plants are available in your area and what your sheep like to eat. I’m so glad you have started this!
 

Mini Horses

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Just wait -- I actually pick seed from their favorites, in fields where they have not eaten down, to reseed in those they have. I'm picking weed seed to replant :lol: dandelion, plantain, lambs ear, etc. I just bought more seed for chicory, turnip, purslane & clovers. I do have these growing but am expanding in areas less bountiful. I've got a lot of vetch spreading and that self seeds well. Excellent legume, up early in cooler weather. Yeah, some grass, too. 😂
 

SageHill

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@Baymule - I plan on doing that too! But more abbreviated than what I've got here.
@Mini Horses OMG -- I've ordered the chicory, but I never thought about collecting the seed. Though I do seem to have an abundance of the plants and they don't get eaten down - except of course in their turn-out pasture. :)
Oh man - now I'll think about going out with baggies and a magic marker :duc:lol:
 

Baymule

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I have a great winter grass, bromus cathcarticus according to Apple plant ID. I picked lots of the seed and scattered it in the front field.

I won’t be planting a lot of forbs. I’m afraid I’m going to have to spray some of these worst weeds. Too many invasives, hemlock, silver leaf nightshade, Jerusalem cherry nightshade, Carolina horse nettle, to name a few. I’ve been here a full year, observed and I’m getting the feel of the land. It needs help. I’ve always been organic but I don’t have a magic spell to make these nasties go away. I’m planning on spot spraying, but the Hemlock may require some heavy spray. It’s in 2 fields in large patches. My son and I discussed it, I may have to spray for a couple of years, along with mowing, to get it under control.
 

SageHill

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Beware!
beware.jpg

This post brought to you by Snow --- things not to eat......
Spotted Spurge Euphorbia maculata -
my first check on this plant the ap said it was common knot grass. Such is not the case, it is spurge, a type of euphorbia (most or all euphorbias have milky sap that is an irritant. ~some research is being done using it as a cure for various skin cancers (UC IPM - Univ. Cal Integrated Pest Management). Also from UCIPM it is poisonous and can kill sheep <GASP> - when consuming as little as .62% of their body weight. It also attracts ants - which I have seen in the garden. Good news - it's easy to pull up. Bad news - sheep seem to like it.
spotted spurge.jpg


Thorn-Apple, Jimsonweed Devil's Trumpet, Moon Flower - Datura stramonium - vespertine
Highly poisonous and belongs to the nightshade family. A known hallucinogenic, reportedly used by American Indians.
Good news - sheep stay away, and it stinks.
thornapple.jpg


Castor Bean, castor oil - Ricinus communis
This is in the euphorbiaceae family -- spurge family. The seeds are highly poisonous - ricin bad news.
More bad news - a quick web search has growing and care guides for this monster! It has a huge spike of pretty flowers, each with big seeds.
Good news - sheep don't like it and walk right by.

ricinus.jpg
 
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