Monday, June 18, 2007

The Best Pature Management

We have been so lucky with our pastures this year! Early spring rains in abundance and just the right amount of warm days brought on even more pasture than the sheep could eat! (I know, I know...I need more sheep, right?) Here is a picture taken just a few weeks ago, in lush green grass...the little bumps you see out there are actually sheep!

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Good pasture makes so much sense in livestock production...the animals are eating what God intended, they are out in the fresh air and sunshine, they stay in good shape physically. For sheep, the critical point in pasture management is rotation as sheep are so susceptible to parasites (internal worms) Now that we have sold the horses, I have plenty of pasture for rotation and the sheep are following behind the few horses we have left - they clean up what horses don't.

Just at the time when the grass was starting to get away from the sheep (ripening faster than they could eat it) it is hay making time. Because my husband has always done such a good job of managing our pastures, they actually make very good hay. So, hay was made off the pasture fields. This benefits in two ways - first the hay and second the grasses are clipped, giving them the chance for more nutritious regrowth. A good rain to get things growing again, and the sheep will go back into one of these pastures.

This photo was taken at 7:30 in the morning, today when the temperatures have shot up to mid-nineties with high humidity and is the same field as the one pictured above. You can probably see the haze in the air. This is the man who makes the hay in partnership with us, loading out the round bales that are already sold. Isn't it interesting to see the paths that the sheep and horses have worn into the fields? They follow those same routes almost exclusively, for reasons known only to themselves!

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For me, I have a load of square bales in my barn, ready for winter. Before we put new hay in the barn, we sweep the chaff from last years hay and straw out of the mow to clean the floors. That is the "job" for the youngsters...and here is one of my favorite "helpers", four year old grandson Mason. Up until just a few years ago, that job belonged to Alex. Now fourteen years old, Alex has graduated to the real hay help, and spent his day on the wagons - loading and then unloading square bales. He did a great job and we are proud of him.

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Mason chose his work attire ;) His Uncle Michael, my brother, wears a bandanna when he is working in the fields and Mason wanted to do the same. He couldn't stand still for very long though, and was soon hard at work:

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First we pray for sunny, dry weather to get the hay put up and we had that...this June was perfect haying weather. Now, in the fickle way of a farmer, we pray for good soaking rains to kick start re-growth of the pasture and hay fields as well as the corn and soybeans and wheat in the crop fields.

Just enough, but not to much....


Anne said...

I think 14 to 16 is about the optimum age for haying. The three "helpers" I had at my end, ages 65, 40 and 31, were popping Advil like M&Ms and groaning a lot. All day. The next day too. :)

Glad you were able to put stores up for winter. That's always a good feeling.

Alpaca Granny said...

Yea! we have some rain this a.m.

Melanie said...

I love the pictures - beautiful. I'm sure it's hard work, but thanks for the explanation of haying for this suburbanite!

Molly said...

You bring back such wonderful memories for me :) My dad always helped our neighbors put up hay. I got to go play with the kids which ususally meant riding the ponies/horses or playing in the creek. Once I was old enough to help stack hay, I didn't enjoy it as much :) Molly :)

Carissa said...

What great pictures of Mason! I'm sure that Alex is enjoying taking on the more important roles with the sheep. I think he will take excellent care of his growing flock!