Thursday, July 05, 2007

Intensive rotational grazing

Since weaning I have begun a new form of rotational grazing.

It involves using electric nets (from Premier) to contain sheep on a rather small paddock for a period of just a few days.

This is not a new idea of course, but it involves more frequent moves than what has been done here in the past.

The fencing is comprised of 164 ft sections of net set up two nets long and half a net wide. This works out to something over half an acre. The photo shows two such paddocks (click on the picture to enlarge), the near one populated by this springs lambs, about 50 of them.

I have just enough netting to set up two paddocks and leap frog over the active paddock.

Much of what I am attempting I got from the book “Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence” by Bill Murphy. I think I bought the book from the Stockman grass farmer web site.

Like all the other “How to” books I’ve seen on farming, it does not offer a system I can use on our farm as it is. It does not pretend to do that.

The author lives in Vermont, a very different climate than ours here in North Florida. So the details of his system may not work here but the basic principals are the same.

The main idea is to use the livestock to maximize the production of the grass, rather than using the grass to maximize the growth of the livestock. That does not mean that the livestock are not important, but the idea is to focus on the grass.

Anyway, there is lots of good information out there on rotational grazing. What I am trying to do is adapt them to fit my situation.

For me, that means finding way to make these frequent moves without too much work. We farm part time here and time is always in short supply.

I’m using 2 50-gallon rubber water troughs and filling them from a 65-gallon plastic tank a carry in the back of my pickup. I fill it with a garden hose at the house and just use gravity to get the water from the tank to the trough.

To move the netting I just lay it on the grass and drag it along to its new location and set it up there. If I try and gather it up to move it, I get a tangle that takes a long time to un-snarl.

The move process is still clumsy but I hope to smooth it out with a bit of practice.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fence line Weaning

There have been lots of farm happenings that should have found their way into this blog, but have not.

We hired a professional sheep sheerer this year for example.

He averaged three minutes per sheep. It sometimes takes me ten times that long.

Anyway, this post is about weaning. We did that the weekend of June 22.

We put all the sheep through the chute and wormed the ones that needed it.

Now that summer has started and the weather is hot and wet, we need to do this about every three weeks. Most sheep will not need to be wormed, but the ones that do can go down fast if we don’t take care of it.

This time we sorted the lambs from thier mammas as we worked them.

Then we took the ewes down one side of the fence and the lambs down the other, back to the pasture they had just left (for the ewes) and the one next to it (for the lambs).

In theory this reduces the stress of weaning to it’s minimum. I guess that’s true, but the next few days were a bit noisy in any case.

Now the lambs are being moved in a very short rotational grazing pattern. More on that in the next post.