Of Grass and Rain

As the grass grows thicker and taller along the fence lines, the electric fence loses its power. Wily ewes (the ewes we should have culled last year) figure this out and begin to crawl through the cross fencing in search for fresh alfalfa. All the grass at their feet doesn’t compare to untouched alfalfa in the next paddock.

With all the rain we have been receiving the grass is growing rapidly. It is tall and watery. To us it looks lush and plentiful and we are tempted to hold the sheep in a paddock longer, but for the ewes it loses some of its appeal. It does not have what they need. They want to move on.

The tall grass is challenging for the dogs. The guardian dogs lose sight of the sheep and especially the lambs, in the tall grass. The tall grass makes it advantageous for predators to sneak up on sleeping ewes and lambs. The stock dogs see sheep from their vantage point on the Ranger as we approach, however, completely lose sight of them once on the ground.

We are unable to move our water bus to the next quarter of pasture as we cannot cross at the gateway due to standing water in a low spot. Water for the sheep is not a big problem with all the moisture in the grass but when they do need a drink, the ewes are forced to water from the wetlands until we can move the bus again.

We are just entering the summer season but the meadow brome grass is already heading out. Unless we find a way to graze or cut all the grass we will have an excess of standing residue again this year. I’m torn about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  On one hand, it is good for the soil in the long term as it will result in organic matter eventually, on the other, I wonder if it is too much residue for too many successive years.

The ewes are increasing their uptake of mineral, particularly salt, perhaps something attributed to the lesser nutrition in the grass. The lambs are learning what mineral is and where to get it, from the ewes.