- Extension livestock budgets consistently show that for northern farms winter feed costs make up 60 percent of total annual expenses for those who feed hay. Smart pasture management is critical to reducing this cost.
- If grass is still growing in your pasture but has been growing slowly then some wise rotational grazing, paired with fertilizer could provide extended grazing days for your flock, saving you money.
- Be careful at this time of year to prevent overgrazing. Too many animals on too small a plot or allowing your animals to graze for too long once your grasslands have stopped their growth can produce numerous issues such as hungry animals, damaged roots on your grass stands and erosion. If this happens you can expect mud, lameness and higher costs associated with feeding hay late into the spring.
Once you’ve determined that your pasture has stopped growing, bring your sheep in from the fields and make sure that all seed-heads of scrub grass and weeds which your sheep prefer not to eat are knocked down with a mower or scythe. This will help to ensure that there’s a good opportunity for the best forage to thrive when the snow melts. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to this task in the fall and to take time each autumn to cut or mow these invading species before they go to seed in your fields.
Also consider spreading new seed and/or working on your pasture’s pH level once your sheep are off of your pasture for the winter. This will help leguminous plants like clover, alfalfa and vetch have the chance to take root and thrive during the spring before you turn your sheep out to pasture.
Finally – the low grass levels in your fields, combined with cooler temperatures make this a great time of year to check your fences, make repairs and budget for any improvements to your fencing which you’d like to complete in the spring.
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