Updated: Sep 29, 2020
It's been touch and go whether the rain we had in March that germinated some clover and a fair bit of ryegrass was going to be a false break or not. Thankfully most is still alive thanks to 7mm a few days ago. They were very blue and wilted up until that rain. Each day is a day closer to cooler and wetter weather! The deferred grazing is paying dividends in that it gave time for the clover and ryegrass to get some roots down before being grazed.
Right now with lambs at foot in two of our three mobs, the pastures are barely adequate to supply enough energy to the ewes. We are only getting 2-3 days grazing out of each paddock before we are moving them onto the next paddock. It is important we leave some leaves behind to help the pasture recover quicker and have something there to graze by the time the sheep have returned.
It's been a busy few weeks spreading lime before a decent rain comes, which is when I will be spreading some much needed nitrogen. I've not spread any nitrogen since late August last year. I didn't get an opportunity over summer to spread nitrogen to encourage the kikuyu to flourish and spread into the non-wetting areas, and build a thatch (which is what will cure the non-wetting problem). There was no summer rain that was big enough to wash the nitrogen into the ground. Urea is in the shed waiting. There is still no significant rain forecast that would be enough to take the risk in spreading it yet. The pastures are needing a nitrogen boost, and a drink.
Lime is one of the most important foundation inputs on this farm. That is why I went hard as soon as we had the farm, and we would not have grown the pastures we have so far without that expensive input. That was back in September 2018. Since the end of March 2020, I've been spreading another 3t/ha of high quality limesand, with some areas (peat areas mainly) receiving another 6-9t/ha. That takes all areas to a total of a minimum of 8.4t/ha in the past 19 months. The most acidic peat areas have received 18-24t/ha. Thankfully they are relatively small areas. No more lime should be needed now for a few more years, at least, and it will be the pH at depth (>30cm) that will determine when and if more lime is needed. It takes time for the lime to affect the pH at depth. Years. While we wait, the pastures will improve month by month whenever there is moisture.
I am going to refer back to photos that are shown below where lambs are at the back of the mob when we are moving them to a new paddock. It will be a sign if we have better genetics or not in the future. Right now, the mothering instincts of the Ultrawhites we have in our flocks are not strong enough for our system. There is no problem with them producing twins and triplets at any time of the year, but as you can see in the photos, too many ewes will leave their lambs behind. That is not the genetics I want and there will be a constant pursuit of genetics with much stronger mothering instincts, while still having the ability to produce twins and triplets at any time of the year. I am looking forward to infusing some Katahdin and SheepMaster genetics later this year, hopefully. These have very strong mothering instincts. In the meantime, we are culling any ewe that loses her lambs.
And as a final update to this blog, our sheep numbers. At the time of writing, we are down to having 49 rams, 2925 sheep and an estimated 500+ lambs yet to be marked, on our 185ha arable. Hopefully we won't be this low in the future as our pastures will be substantially better than they are now, the soil won't be as acidic at depth, and we will have better genetics in our sheep. We still have significant non-wetting soil areas that are not producing pastures. It is these areas that I am using every opportunity given to encourage the kikuyu to cover it. Hopefully we will receive rain soon while it is warm/hot to enable the kike to run and keep growing a thatch into those areas.