Winter crunch is coming

The toughest time for pasture growth in our area is late May to late July. Sunlight is low intensity, short in length, the skies are usually cloudy, and the weather is cold and wet. It is important we try to get a wedge of high protein and plentiful pasture growing ahead of the impending squeeze that will come.


It is not normal practice yet, but it should be, and one day will be. I am referring to adding nitrogen and other fertilisers to the pastures in late April to early May period. Instead of feeding hay and grain during this time, people will spend more effort in growing high quality pasture ahead of the June and July squeeze. It is cheaper and better for the sheep to feed the pastures rather than feed hay.


Even though our stock numbers are still well below where they will be by next year, and fertiliser prices are through the roof, we still went ahead and added some fertiliser in early May to prepare the pastures for the winter. It was less than half the rate I will use in the future, but we don't have enough sheep to warrant adding the full doses just yet.


As a result, our pastures are greening up and growing better by the day and we will enter winter in a fairly good position. We still need to keep some roughage available to all mobs to help them utilise the green pastures better. Kikuyu still grows through winter where we are and it is growing very happily at the moment. Ryegrass and clovers are growing very well underneath and will soon dominate the pasture volume. Right now, I'd say the kikuyu is still comprising >70% of the pasture that is available.


On another note, we sold many of our lick feeders that we had for the days when we need to put mobs into containment areas. In their place, we purchased a solar/battery powered autofeeder as you can see in the photo below. It has a little more to complete on the electronics and then it will be ready. It is there whenever we need to give some pastures a spell to grow more bulk, or to finish off some wethers that are heading to the markets, or if we ever have a disease problem, we can put a few thousand sheep into the containment areas. It just gives us more flexibility for the inevitable hiccups that occur in farming.


Our new autofeeder.

Our new autofeeder.

Our 1600+ ewes have just gone into Echo with a nice wedge of high protein feed ahead of them.

A closer look at the pasture in Echo where the ewes have just gone in.

A close up of the pasture in Echo. Like nearly all of our pastures, it is still predominantly kikuyu but the ryegrass and clovers are coming up underneath.

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