Pasture Residue

Our little bit of snow is rapidly disappearing under the welcome warmth of a temperate March week so a walk across the pasture has been made easy again. I like walking on pasture. I see things that I cannot see from the road.

Last summer our East pasture was thick with milkvetch, grasses and clover and it was unevenly grazed since it was so advanced by the time we put the sheep into it. It went into winter with a lot of residue grass.

October 2011 Residue looks like thatch on the ground
Due to the stockpiled forage, from the road, the pasture looks unkempt with it tall twigs, and tufts of brown grass amidst the shorter grazed off stuff. It’s certainly not like the pastures depicted in books on grazing management. It’s ugly and it’s looked that way all year.

The dogs and I headed across it, me taking wide berths around the large puddles and they running through them. Every so often I stopped to lift the thick mounds of residue and snoop.  I’m  so excited to report on what lies beneath.

Grass found beneath residue March 2012
I know it’s only last years grass but to me, a grass farmer, it marks the importance of leaving residue on the land and of not overgrazing. It’s so amazing to see the pale green color still there when plant life above ground turns brown and brittle with our first hard cold snap each fall.  Besides just seeing some color, there is moisture held at the soil. And the soil surface and the life in the soil has been buffered from the extreme cold due to the residue. In our dry climate this residue will take a long time to transform into organic matter and it will need animal impact to help it.

This handful smells like earth and old wet grass. It a welcome sight and smell after a long, dead winter. I wonder if the sheep will like it and contemplate letting them out here for a day or so of picking. It wouldn’t be quality enough to sustain them feed wise, but I’m pretty sure they would enjoy lifting those mounds of residue and snooping themselves. And their lifting and disturbance of the residue would do good things for the future grasses to come this spring.