• Wayne

Time has flown and I have missed doing regular pasture growth measurements with my dogometer. My apologies for that. Hopefully the photos below show a little of what it looks like on the farm. We have had a wet August (180mm) and September (83mm so far). The fertiliser that I spread has made a big difference and was done in anticipation of truckloads of trade sheep coming. Unfortunately there is only one due next week (700 crossbred shorn lambs), but we need many more. If you would like to become part of Caluka Farms and help it expand, please come and have a look and a chat.

Our green tag ewes (born last year) finished lambing a month ago and we marked them this week. It looks like we lost a few more to cold weather than expected (they were in paddocks with shelter and disturbed as little as possible). Nice lambs though.

Our older ewes are a combined mob of three groups. One group finished lambing yesterday, one still has until 10th October, and the third one is green tag ewes that did not get into lamb the first time and they are due to lamb from 10th Oct to 4th November. I hope they can find their lambs in the grass. It's abit treachorous checking on the ewes at the moment with lambs hiding in the grass. Peak spring growth here is usually late October, so we have lots more production coming over the next month.

I am seeing two interesting things at the moment that are hard to show in the photos. The first is where the soil was not acidic and I have still added all the lime, including a strip where I was practising spreading lime with the new tractor. Pasture growth on those areas are clearly restricted now. The oats from the hay in those areas has been showing me there is zinc deficiency around, even though I had spread quite high rates of it. But where the soil was acidic, the pasture is flourishing with all the lime. It wasn't too much on those soils.

However, I will be spraying some zinc ASAP which should make those areas pick up quickly. While at it, I will have a few other experimental things in the tank, of course. There's always more to learn.

The second thing is in our efforts to disturb the ewes as little as possible during the lambing, and this is with the green tag ewes, two paddocks were over grazed with long lasting consequences. The first and last out of five paddocks for them are suffering. In those two paddocks, even though we opened the gates to the next paddock, the ewes stayed in the former paddock, or kept coming back into the former paddock. We were unable to shut the gates for a 2½ to 3 weeks. The middle three paddocks, when 7-days was up and we opened the gates to the next paddock, nearly all the ewes walked through on the first day enabling us to shut them in. However, despite skipping these paddocks on their next rotation, and giving them double the amount of fertiliser, they are still way behind in pasture growth compared to the middle three paddocks.

This is why when people suggest I don't move the ewes at all during lambing, my answer is the damage it does to the pasture for months and I am very reluctant to do that. We have not moved ewes while lambing this time around to see how much difference it makes, but we let them move into the next paddock at their own volition. We only shut the gate when nearly all of them were in the next paddock. We probably still lost some lambs this way, but the cost to the pasture growth is immense and expensive. A classic case of "if you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else".

I have a few photos below with descriptions in them for your interest.

This is Lima paddock being spread with fertiliser on 4th September. It is our worst non-wetting paddock and we skipped it on a rotation to give it a chance to grow more. As you can see, it is very hungry and skipping a rotation didn't help a lot. But, check what it looked like 20 days later (next photo).

Lima paddock on 24th September. ~900 weaners have been in here for 2 days, hence some pasture flattened. So 18 days of growth without sheep since the fertiliser was spread. A lot more table top and looking much better.

An interesting one here, for me anyway. Foreground is Echo, middle is Delta, then the green with the dam is Charlie, and behind the dam and before the lime green paddock is Bravo where ewes and lambs have just entered. When I was spreading fertiliser in early September, those ewes with lambs were in the Delta paddock so I did not spread fertiliser. I only spread it yesterday. Even though it has had 7-days extra growth than Echo (the paddock in the foreground), it is well behind in growth and is pale (hungry). It should look much better in a few weeks when the ewes reach it.

Left is Alpha paddock that is ~8ha, was down to 3.1pH at 30cm and has had 30t/ha lime in that section. ~900 ewes with lambs didn't eat it down in 7-days. The sheep moved themselves into Bravo paddock when the gate was opened.

Laneway in foreground, Alpha paddock where the ewes and lambs have just moved out of after being there for 7-days. Background is Bravo paddock with the ewes and lambs in.

No matter how good the feed is in the paddock the sheep are in, they have to stick their heads through and eat the otherside. Sigh.

Ewes and lambs in Bravo paddock - they have only been in there a few hours.

Closer view of the ewes, lambs and alpacas in Bravo paddock.

It's treacherous to drive through the paddocks at the moment with so many lambs not visible until you are almost upon them. At least its a windbreak for them.

It's been a wet August. As of today, 14th August, we've received 147mm. It has been cold and cloudy, but the pasture has been growing quite quickly.

In a previous blog, I had a video of my little dog Luka fetching a ball in Alpha paddock. That was taken on 2nd August, the day before the big rain began. We received 115mm over the next two days. I took another video two days ago (12th August) just before our mob of mixed aged ewes were brought in, but unfortunately I took it with a camera instead of my phone and it is too blurry and full of wind noise. Sigh. So hopefully the photos below show what the pasture has done in 10 days since the video of Luka, the dogometer.

We have another weather system coming over the state starting tomorrow, but being on the south coast, we will usually get most of the rain after it has gone through when we get the coastal showers coming up off the back of the low.

Alpha paddock received double the dose of Urea in May, then received nothing until mid- July when I started fertilising again, this time with a blend of Urea, sulphur and phosphate. Alpha paddock received double the dose (>200kg/ha urea equivalent). The other pastures are growing very well, especially where I did look-see strips of four times the rate, but Alpha paddock has gone from our most acidic paddock to currently the most productive. That will soon change when I start another round of fertiliser in the coming weeks, by which time I hope we have a thousand or two trade sheep here and getting fatter.

Luka, our dogometer to show pasture height in Alpha paddock just before pregnant ewes were brought in. Alpha to Echo paddocks were in rotation with the weaners, but they aren't eating it down quickly enough, so we've swapped rotation with ~800 ewes due to lamb from 26th August. We should still get 7 days grazing from each paddock, and hopefully lambs on the ground will stop the spring flush getting away.

Luka in Alpha further down as we walk through it. He's not happy because I didn't bring a ball to chase (he and I would not be able to see were it went!).

Alpha paddock where some patches of ryegrass are lodging.

Alpha paddock, and some ryegrass is already coming into head. Drats.

Alpha paddock. We lost most of our clover germination in March with the false break to the season, but new germinations occurred in late May, however, it's been a struggle with the kikuyu being way ahead of it in growth.

People keep asking about our kikuyu as theirs went brown with frosts and stops growing in winter. Ours doesn't. It's hard to show in photos (you need to come and see for yourselves), but this photo and the next one hopefully show how the kike is very green and branching out very happily.

Alpha paddock. Trying to show a thinner ryegrass area so you can see the kikuyu growing happily underneath the canopy.

Alpha paddock. No, it isn't manganese deficiency. It is iron (Fe) deficiency. This where a bale of oaten hay was a few months ago. It shows the lime is working really well. Oats, then kikuyu then clover are susceptible to iron deficiency, and lime makes it much worse by raising the soil pH. Mind you, it has received about 30t/ha of lime since Sep 2018 as it is where the very low (3.1) pH area begins.

We rotationally graze as much as we can with a rule the sheep should not be in a paddock for more than 7-days. Well, 7-days is up for our weaners and though they haven't grazed the paddock (Delta) down enough, time is up and they are going into Echo paddock today. After Echo paddock has had 7-days of grazing, we will move the weaners to another rotation and bring in the 800+ mixed aged ewes that are due to start lambing from 26th August.

Leaves grow leaves, which means leaving some behind enables the plants to recover faster from grazing. However, in a few rotations with spring approaching, we may not have enough mouths to eat it down quick enough to prevent older leaves being left behind. The plan is that because the block of paddocks is growing too fast for the weaners, we'll bring in the ewes from another rotation. With their future lambs and higher feed requirement, they can hopefully graze the paddocks down better.

The weaners are being drafted frequently from today to take off all the wethers >45kg live weight (LW), which will only cause more pasture to not be utilised. Hence, our need to bring in trade sheep to fatten up ASAP. The target is to bring in ~4,000 trade sheep on 90ha to utilise the spring flush and have them all gone by the end of the year. If you're in WA and have store lambs available between now and October, please call our agent Allan Pearce on 0477331001.

Delta paddock with 900+ weaners but it is day 7 and they haven't eaten the pasture down enough, but time is up.

Another angle of the weaners in Delta paddock just before I opened the gate to move them into Echo paddock.

The gate into Echo paddock. This is the feed that awaits them.

Close up of the feed in Echo paddock. No clovers visible here but others areas it is now pretty good. We lost most of the clover with the false break in March. Next clover germination was late May. That is a plantain in the middle of the photo.

The dogometer measuring stick. Keep this in mind in 7-8 days when the first paddock in the rotation, Alpha, will have ewes brought in. Alpha received some extra Urea back in May. It is still making a large difference as you will see next week.

And the weaners are now in Echo. Not enough roughage for a few (scours). They have tested zero for worms as of last Friday.

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