Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grazing challenges

Keeping livestock on pasture is great, but it comes with some challenges. One that I constantly watch for is predation. So far my chickens have done very well on pasture with only electric poultry netting to protect them from predators. Occasionally one gets stupid and gets out of the protective fence and not back in before dark. I used to chase them around like a crazy person every time they got out, but there are a few who just will not stay in. Last night one of the "suicide gang" didn't make it back through the fence before dark. Reddy the fox (or some other night time opportunist) eliminated them from the gene pool and put their molecular resources back into community circulation.


The other challenge we have been facing recently is grass, or more precisely, the lack of grass. We have had about 3/4 of an inch of rain in the last 8 weeks. Not a good situation for growing grass. I did some measurements today and the paddocks coming up in the rotation are about half as high as they should be. The paddock we left 20 days ago, which should have grass at least a foot tall, is mostly brown with some spots of grass standing three to four inches. We should be back on that paddock in about 10 days, but there wont be anything for the critters to eat. I still have about two months of grass left, counting my winter stockpile, but that won't take me to January. If we don't get extremely lucky and have some consistent rain move in, paired with a nice long warm fall, I'll be at least two months short of grazing. That means one of two things, I can reduce the number of grazers (which extends the amount of grass), or I can buy more hay. This is the second year this has happened. We got through the first year without a problem, but we have more livestock this year. Not sure what I will do, but it will hurt either way. We are, however, in much better shape than our neighbors. This year, like last year, they started feeding hay in August. They run about the same stocking density as I do (stocking density = the number of pounds of livestock per acre) but they set graze rather than using a rotational system. Works fairly well when the weather cooperates, but it is a disaster when it gets dry or otherwise stressed.

I've explored this and other grazing issues in my soon to be released e-booklet about grazing.

6 comments:

The said...

Well, that's an eloquent bunch of feathers there by the fence. Sad.

The grazing issue is huge, and I'm wishing you luck with it. Keep us posted--

--Kate

Lucy Corrander said...

You make it interesting even to those of us who don't have farms.

Lucy Corrander
PICTURES JUST PICTURES

Sheria said...

I know nothing about paddocks or chickens but I agree that you write it well and you do make it interesting to those of us without farms. The one thing that I do get is the impact that another season of poor rainfall has had on all growing things. I grow what one of my friends refers to as useless stuff--ornamental plants and flowers--and this has been another lackluster growing season.

Nancy J. Bond said...

So much to think about when farming! I hope you get some rain.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

"and put their molecular resources back into community circulation"....very nicely stated! I probably shouldn't have found that sentence as funny as I did. Does this make me a bad person? You know how ridiculously I love my chickens - I really shouldn't laugh at stuff like that. I think you might be a bad influence.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

Two dilemmas in one post. What a deal!

I can relate to the suicide poultry. I have a couple who fly the coop on a regular basis, but so far have flown back in as well. The predator-proof door that you steered me to has been a real gem!

As for the rain and hay production, we're in much better shape here than in years past, but I can clearly relate. Good luck with some late season rains.

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