Pasture Maintenance

Pasture maintenance is an integral part in the proper management of a successful sheep flock. Because most sheep production systems are based around a pasture system for their primary source of nutrition proper management is essential. Feed costs account for a large portion of the costs associated with sheep production. When a good pasture is available in many cases you can keep these costs down. Many things however must be taken into account before picking a good pasture. What is the opportunity cost of using pasture rather than planting another crop such as corn or soybeans? Generally highly productive farmland is not well suited for pastures because the land can be more useful raising crops. Marginal land or land where the soil tends to be highly erodable will make the best pastures at least here in the Midwest. This type of land is less expensive and still is very suitable for growing different forage species.

Pasture can lower feed costs but his does not mean that there are not some costs for maintaining a good pasture. First you need to get your species of forage that is best for situation and get it established. The first and most important thing is to get soil samples of the area so you know how much fertilizer you will need and the samples can also help you figure out the type of forages that will be best. Most chemical and fertilizer companies are willing and capable to do these tests and will give you the information needed to get your pasture established. Once your pasture is established taking care of it is important. You will need to fertilize the ground and it would also be a good idea to get more soil tests done every few years. With the animals defecating in the pasture this might change your fertilizer requirements. Another large concern is not letting the sheep over graze the area. Watch pasture closely during dry periods and rotate sheep between multiple pastures to give the forage time for re-growth if possible.

A good pasture is an integral part of a sheep production. If pastures are properly managed and provided with the proper fertilizer and not over grazed they can be very valuable in the right kind of production system. The most important thing is the maintenance. Pastures can be expensive to establish but if they are maintained they can last for a very long time and provide a source of good cheap nutrition to your sheep.

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