Friday, May 9, 2014

Out to Pasture

When I blogged yesterday about what to do with the dwindling feed problem, I didn't tell you that we'd already made a plan and carried it out. I wanted to see what others would have decided, though I realize I didn't give all the information. Things I left out included lack of money and the fact that we are still lambing. The first year we had sheep we had the ewes giving birth out in the pasture, and it Did Not Go Well. Since that time we've chosen to lamb inside, where conditions are much more controlled.

Anyway, this past weekend it was apparent that we had a dire situation on our hands. Denial of the situation was not working; something needed to be done, and it needed to be done right then. But of course we had these cows in the way.

So the first order of business was to sort the calves from their mothers, and remove the bull from the group. Enter the sorting chute we recently purchased (which probably has something to do with our cash flow problem).

We spent an afternoon with five of us herding cattle who were used to being left alone on large pastures into little teeny areas with clanging metal noises. There were some exciting times, but no one got hurt. In the end, the cows (due to begin calving in the next month or so) went out to fresh pasture. The bull was put in his own secure paddock. And the calves were penned in the sheep barn.

The trouble is that the calves really want to be with their mothers, out on pasture. They've never been in a barn. They don't get the drill. They leap over the gates and feeders designed for sheep. Putting skids in the feeders only slows some of them down. So we've had to have the barn doors closed to keep them inside. Good thing we have adequate ventilation due to the curtains we added to the barn a couple of years ago.

After the cattle sorting, the ewes who had already lambed were given one last meal and let out to pasture. It's important, when putting animals out on fresh grass, to have their bellies full of hay. Hungry ewes will gorge themselves on grass. This abrupt change in diet can cause problems.

Since that time, we've also let the expectant mothers out to pasture. We felt we had no choice in the matter. But that means that we've been pasture lambing again. And as I sit here typing before daylight, I am listening to the steady rain falling outside. Brand new lambs, cold and wet. Brings me back to that first year...


  1. It was a warm rain wasn't it? We were 76 today and maybe again tomorrow. Try it I think you will like it, I liked it although we started more like the 15th of may. TB

  2. Maybe of some help :
    the 4" soil temps in Minnesota on April 29th were still 30 to 35 degrees. I know I am still hitting some frost, and that is despite the fact the frost did not go very deep this year due to the deep snow.

    for those that pasture lamb, a conversation I had with Dr. Joe Rook, we both came to agreement that we think soil temperatures are probably as important as air temperatures for newborn lambs, and we'd like to see soil temperatures above 50 degrees. This is because the newborn spends so much time laying on the ground. Anyone who has gone camping without a pad under the sleeping bag might appreciate how the ground can suck away your body heat. As bedding is worth 32 degrees in ambient temperature, providing some insulation from the ground is advantageous in a cold spring like this. Our bale grazing does this in our home pastures, by providing a 3 or 4 inch thick layer of hay, and most ewes choose to lamb on these when the ground is cold and wet. Having some residual from long rotations will help as well. Otherwise some bedded 'creep' areas for the lambs might be a good idea for those who are already lambing.

    Some thing I ran across. TB

  3. Thanks for the information, Tom. Good to know.


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