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The “3 knows” of grass production.

Discussion in 'Feeding Time - Sheep' started by The Old Ram-Australia, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. Jan 5, 2019
    The Old Ram-Australia

    The Old Ram-Australia True BYH Addict

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    G’day it is generally acknowledged that “grass” is the most efficient form of raising livestock.

    KNOW what you have.

    KNOW what you need.

    KNOW how to manage its production.

    In the main pastures are made up of species that are Native or Exotic. In both cases they fall into one of three classes. Warm season, Cool season and year round. On our place the year round are Natives and respond whenever we get some rain.

    Know what you have: take some time to learn about what you have by way of species through reading or getting someone from the local authority to come and identify for you. Generally speaking most of your annuals will be warm season, but it’s the perennials that you need to encourage for the long term and that entails “not driving “ the crowns too hard at the end of spring and wherever possible after the spring thaw let at least some of your paddocks to rest and re-seed especially after a dry spell.

    In the U.S.A.I suspect in days of old (before the coming of the white fella) the range lands would have had a stand of “dry feed” when the first snows arrived and when it “fell over” it would have formed a blanket between the snow and the ground, thus lessening the depth that the ground froze. So it seems to me that if you graze the land “hard” leaving little or no cover when the first snow arrives it will freeze the soil deeper and when the thaw comes the frozen ground will repel the moisture and run off thus you are getting minimal penetration of the moisture into the soil to sustain it through the dry period of the summer.

    Know what you need: It is usual for paddocks to have a mix of warm and cool and if you are lucky some year round as well. After the fall break spend some time looking at what you have in which paddocks and “plan” how you can increase the shortfalls of either type this will entail “locking” up a particular paddock and let the grass flower and seed for the length of the season. In one of our40 ac paddocks we fenced it into 4 grazing paddocks and in the middle fenced out about 1 ac which we rarely graze and so it tends to grow flower and seed throughout the 4 seasons and the resulting seed is carried by wind, wildlife and the sheep into the other 4 which surround it and over time we have increased the diversity in all 5 for the benefit of the stock.

    Management takes planning: but success in the main comes from “planning” .IMO, the better the plan the better the outcome and the reduction in COP and ultimately the profit outcome.

    Part of the following was influenced by the writings of Em.Prof. Fred Provenza in his most recent book titled “Nourishment”. It would seem that diversity of forage species increases the diversity of gut bacteria in the grazing animal and this diversity means that the animal gets the maximum growth from the material consumed. I am sure we have all experienced the result of a “sudden” feed change our animals because the gut bacteria was the wrong type to cope.

    For many years now I have used the term “Wire grows grass” .Because I believe that the more paddocks you have the “more control” you have. If your pasture is a single or even a duo species type it will never be as good as a “wild meadow pasture “for animal health”…E.G. I like Bacon, but bacon for breakfast, smoko, lunch, smoko, dinner and supper. How many days would I last on that diet? Down here is was and is common practice to sow Oats in late summer ,graze in mid winter and at lambing put the late stage ewes into the crop for lambing. Generally speaking this will result in a Calcium deficiency in the lactating ewes and force her to mobilize her own reserves which for twin bearing ewes are in fact quite dangerous for the health of both ewes and lambs.

    Many of you will know that retaining moisture is my “thing” and over the years I have devoted a lot of time, energy and thinking time to the subject, so here are a couple of photos to illustrate what we have observed over the years.


    Pic 1.Shows the swale acting as a giant bathtub.

    Pic 2.shows the melting snow being held prior to being absorbed.

    Pic 3/4.shows the volume being discharged.

    Pic 5.Shows the effect of the structure on the speed of the flow.

    Pic 6.Our ewe flock was lambing at the time “outdoors”.
     

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  2. Jan 5, 2019
    Rammy

    Rammy Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Very informative. Thank you for posting this. I am working on a plan to manage my pasture grasses. This helped me understand alot.
     
  3. Jan 5, 2019
    B&B Happy goats

    B&B Happy goats Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Very informative, and appreciated , thank you for sharing
     
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  4. Jan 5, 2019
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master

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    Great post!
    However, for much of North America right now, retaining moisture is anywhere but on our minds...

    Probably correct, tho even with the huge herds of migrating Plains Bison back then, there was usually way more grass than even those 25 millions of mouths could eat.
    By the time the first snows fell in Montana, Nebraska the Dakotas, and Eastern Wyoming, the herds had already began to migrate south down thru the Great Plains to warmer climates and green grass in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
    A lot of that grass burned off every year, and fire is what kept the plains states..plains.
    The decaying grass and potash from the 100s of decades of burns is what made the midwest's rich soil the superb breadbasket it is.........was?

    If you're going to raise livestock, learn to be a grassfarmer first.
    Any bunch grass relies entirely on it's crown to survive and almost all turf type pasture grasses in this part of the world are those that were introduced by 'the white man'. 'Goodbye to the 'Great' in Great Plains...
    Bluestem, Gamma, Klein Indian grass, the Tridens and Switchgrass are still pretty common here and in Oklahoma, but lots of it has been replaced by the newer Bahias, Bermudas, and other "improved' varieties.
     
  5. Jan 6, 2019
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape True BYH Addict

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    Thank you for the post, very informative.

    Over here (and I guess in most other places of the world) we are having to adapt to quite profound climate change.

    Never have I seen such weather extremes as we are having now and we may have to look to changes in fodder species of plant (as well as doing what we can to prevent the preventable aspects of climate change).
     
  6. Jan 6, 2019
    The Old Ram-Australia

    The Old Ram-Australia True BYH Addict

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    G'day and thank you all for your kind replies and comments.

    You may wonder why we have stuck to the Natives and the "naturalized exotics,well it seems to me that "modern exotics " are designed to draw the farmer into a chain from which there seems "no escape".Lets say the farmer chooses to use high performance genetics in his/her flock.These animals (and their prodigy) generally require grain protein or at the very least "high performance pastures" to achieve the desired result,now the pastures require increased fertilizer inputs to achieve the desired growth,they also require sufficient water to sustain i (or they just die) and herbicide treatments to "protect it from competition".This results in a never ending chain of costs on the farmer.....T.O.R.
     
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  7. Jan 6, 2019
    Latestarter

    Latestarter Novice; "Practicing" Animal Husbandry Golden Herd Member

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    Back to the simpler, less intrusive/destructive/expensive manner of agriculture/farming/animal husbandry I believe would benefit us all and the planet in general.
     
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  8. Jan 7, 2019
    The Old Ram-Australia

    The Old Ram-Australia True BYH Addict

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    It gets back to a comment I often make."Make the livestock fit the environment,not try to make the environment fit the livestock "...T.O.R.
     
  9. Jan 7, 2019
    Rammy

    Rammy Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Old saying for farriers is make the shoe fit the horse, not make the horse fit the shoe. Too many times we try to change or force something because we think its better, but actually csn be destructive in the long run.
    Another old saying, if it aint broke, dont fix it.
     
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  10. Jan 9, 2019
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    I totally agree! My husband didn’t understand why I wanted many different grass seeds, even “weeds.” I asked if he liked broccoli, he said yes. Now imagine eating broccoli 3 times a day, 7 days a week and never having anything different to eat. #1, you would be malnourished #2 you would be sick of broccoli. He understood that.

    I have clovers I planted last year coming back this year. The few chicory plants that survived, went to seed and there is a small patch coming up.

    Like your seed pasture, I’m putting up cow panel mini pastures to establish more grasses and herbs.

    We bought some rye grass hay that wasn’t very good, Sheep and horses wasted a lot of it. Husband was fussing. We pichforked the dead hay into the back of the Kawasaki mule, and spread a 30’ wide strip in pasture #1. It is now green with rye grass. The dead hay is adding humus to the sand and seeded the ground. Win-win!