Pasture Rotation: Grass Shortage. This post is the fourth article in my Pasture rotation Series, to follow from the beginning check out the first post, Pasture Rotation: Phase 1. We have been working very hard to improve our soil, and reclaim our pastures from years of abuse and neglect by the previous owners. Our last rotation (Prairie Grass) was a high, and Grass Shortage is a low. We had so much grass this fall. Our pastures were growing more than enough for our sheep and goats. The grass had started overtaking the weeds, it was growing in thicker, and our bare spots were filling in. Well this is what they look like now…Bare. Sad. Not enough grass for everyone. In this post I will explain what went wrong, and how we can fix it next time.
We learned something important this fall. The Summer grass starts to die before the Winter grass starts to grow. They don’t overlap, it seemed like the grass stopped growing for the month of September, even with regular watering. We did plant our Winter rye seed in September, but the weather did not cool down enough for it to sprout until the end of October. We are blessed here in Arizona, since it doesn’t snow, we can grow grass all Winter. Hopefully we can figure out how by next year.
We still have our Spring lambs. We aren’t quite ready to butcher them. They are eating a lot, and weaning them only made them eat more grass.
This might be the kicker, we had four out of the five pens occupied in August and September for weaning and breeding season. The pastures didn’t have a break. They had plenty of growth to begin with, but they still grazed them down to the ground.
We are feeding hay for the first time in months.
We see our winter seed (that I planted in early September) FINALLY starting to come up. We will order more irrigation water this month to try to get the grass growing well.
Next fall we need to have enough pens to have everyone separated for breeding, and still have spare pens to rotate through. It will still be a juggle, but it is something we need to figure out. Along that same line, it would a good idea to sell or butcher any extra animals before August when our grass slows down for fall.
Having only 3.5 acres we will have to keep our animal numbers in check if we expect to feed them off the grass alone. It is too easy to get caught up in making every new animal a pet (especially when you have a 5 year old daughter!).
All in all our pasture management has been a success thus far. We have learned so much, and will continually check and adjust. We have made more progress than we had expected this year, and have high hopes for the other half of our property that we haven’t started working on yet.
Grow grass, grow!
Read the next article in my pasture rotation series, Pasture Rotation: Winter Hay, or visit the Pasture Rotation Archives.