It is easy to lose track of our goals for grass management in a climate where we don't see grass for five months of the year, but seeing livestock feeding outdoors, at a long swath of hay, and the resulting residue spread all around, reminds me of why we do it.
While bale grazing is a very workable solution to feeding without a tractor, which we relied on for several years, it does leave a thicker pile of residue. Rolling the hay feed out with our bale unroller allows for easier and cleaner access for the animals, more efficient cleanup and better distribution of residue. With more animals it is also easier for each one to gain good access to the feed.
I like how this looks.
There are a host of reasons that we are so fond of feeding in this manner.
Winter feeding out on pasture keeps the manure where it is needed. Throughout the winter, via the animals, we are spreading a blend of residue (future organic matter) and fertilizer which will be naturally incorporated into the soil during the following growing season.
We take the sheep to the feed rather than taking feed to the sheep. Because the animals travel back and forth for feed and water, we are exercising our animals rather than exercising equipment we'd have to go into debt to purchase in the first place.
The Ranger (our equipment) is still needed but we drive out and back once versus two or three trips each morning that we'd have to do if we were hauling feed to animals.
Although soil compaction is less of a concern during our winters, the Ranger causes far less compaction than heavy equipment loaded with a bale of feed would.
Unrolling the feed is far less labour intensive than forking with a pitch fork and rolling small cores out manually is, and the time spent feeding a large flock is almost cut in half.
Yet despite all these management benefits, the greatest benefit is the mere satisfaction I feel at being witness to the processes.
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