Monday, May 21, 2012

Out to Pasture

Almost everytime we host a farm tour, at some point along the tour, someone will say, "This is so impressive. You guys just seem to have everything figured out and it all works so well together."  Mark and I always say thanks, but wish that those same people could be here on a morning like this morning, when we have NOTHING together and we're feeling like foolish rookies making big mistakes. 
You may recall that last summer my sheep were out on brand new pasture, they got really (too?) fat and did wonderfully all season.  We had new fencing and life was great.
This summer, after two weeks of grazing their first paddock, the sheep were blatting and complaining and spending more time eating the alleyway than the paddock.  They should have been moved last week to the next paddock but there was so much grass left that I forced them to stay in #1 and eat more.  I knew that by today I would have to move them on, whether they had eaten more or not.  A more careful look at the pasture revealed that our 'sheep pasture mix' we planted three years ago failed to encourage a healthy population of clover and alfalfa and instead became a thick stand of almost exclusive orchard grass-which evidently, sheep do NOT enjoy. 
It is coming out in head and is only getting coarser by the day.  It's probably the ideal time to make first cut hay, but that's not going to happen, so I think we've decided to cut it down and hope for a more balanced second cut hay.  We're also guessing that we may need to re-seed that pasture to prevent this problem again. 
So as we were kneeling down in the grass, trying to identify the culprit using old notes from NSAC, we were feeling less than 'so impressive'.  I was feeling like a bit of a failure.
It doesn't help that since my lambs were all born at Christmas and are now weaned, they won't follow the rest of the flock outside.  They seem terrified of the outdoors.  I figured that left without hay, they would have no choice but to go, but today I decided they were going to need a push to get out there, rather than lay in the barn and live off their fat stores.  So Mark, Lucy, Wilson and I all managed to (finally) get the reluctant lambs outside, only to get them up to the paddock and them refuse to walk into the grass.  After 10 minutes to prodding and waiting and pushing and encouraging and even throwing them into it, they hightailed it back to the barn at top speed.  It was like they couldn't even smell the grass and had no sense of what nature intended.  Grazing is supposed to be a sheep's #1 skill and I have a barn full of idiots.  Due to my management?.
I am feeling like a failed shepherd this morning.  This whole livestock thing continues to be brought into question.  Don't even mention what we're doing about security for the chickens this summer. 

At least Mark is looking like he will have a productive day in the fields.  It is barley planting time and Wendell is harrowing.  The wheat is coming up really nicely and the weather is so beautiful, you can almost watch it grow. 

Such is the life of a farmer on this glorious Victoria Day.


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