Monday, May 23, 2011

Whitney Oaks Grazing Update

Taff bringing newly shorn sheep back to the Whitney Oaks project.
Now that the sheep have been shorn, we'll be bumping up our numbers on our Whitney Oaks grazing project in Rocklin.  This year's better-than-average rainfall has resulted in tremendous grass growth, and we find ourselves behind schedule on this project.  Now that we'll have more mouths on the project, we should pick up the pace.
Lack of on-site water means we're hauling water to the animals
on a daily basis.  Each sheep needs about 1 to 1.5 gallons of water per day.

In addition to adding animals, we're boosting consumption through management as well.  We've added protein tubs for the sheep - the additional protein will help the animals consume and digest more dry feed.  Ruminant animals need protein to digest cellulose, and the dry grass doesn't have enough protein for their systems.  These tubs take more labor and expense to use, but the trade-off in terms of animal health and forage consumption will be positive.
Sheep grazing on wild oats.

Protein supplement will help boost
consumption of dry grass.

Shearing the animals will also boost consumption.  Without wool, the sheep will be less likely to seek shade during the hot part of the day - meaning they'll graze for longer periods.  The continued cool weather will also help.

We're hoping to add a second group of animals (goats, this time) by the end of the week - more animals will equal greater coverage.  We'll be purchasing ewes from another producer, too - we finally found some sheep that are available for purchase.
Like goats, sheep will graze blackberries - they like the green!

We're starting to see some evidence of invasive weeds.
This is a stand of medusahead barley in the current paddock.

We're also seeing barbed goatgrass.

Steep slopes and run-off from streets and yards creates erosion.
We're trying to leave enough residual grass to protect slopes while
removing enough to reduce fire danger - a real balancing act!

Finally, we'll be setting up 5-acre paddocks that will allow us to move every day.  Animals will consume more forage if they're moved to fresh feed more regularly.  We'll test this system out this week.

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