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  • Writer's pictureWayne

September 2020 update

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.

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