Monday, 18 December 2017

Grazing Ewes on Cover Crops

Ewes Grazing Cover Crops
Well the rams have really been doing their stuff in the last 4 weeks with almost all of the ewes now hopefully pregnant.  In the first week over 600 ewes were mated, as indicated by the chalk dye that the rams leave of the rumps of the ewes during mating.  The colour is changed every week so we have an idea of which ewes are likely to be lambing and when. The gestation period is about 5 months so we're on for a mid April lambing, which next year will be outside for the majority of the flock for the first time.
At the moment all of the ewes are out grazing the cover crops on the arable fields.  The cover crops are a mixture of forage rye and vetch or black oats and vetch with a few extra goodies thrown in for good measure.  These extras include phacelia, buckwheat and berseem clover.
The hard spell of weather recently, although it didn't last very long, has certainly knocked the cover crops down but it hasn't killed them and we are getting some regrowth on the rye fields.  This will hopefully continue over the winter and into the spring to enable another grazing before the ewes lamb and the fields are planted with spring cropping. The field below is due to be planted with Soya Beans in late April so we should get a second grazing before then.
Cover Crop After Ewe Grazing
The ewes are doing a great job of eating the majority of the green material. But it's not just the cover crops, volunteer wheat and some black grass as well, whilst trampling some of the material into the soil to feed the microbes and worms. This is a great news as the field/soil surface looks well protected from the heavy winter rainfall that we must surely get at some point.  We'll have to watch it on the heavy land fields so that we don't get too much surface compaction if it gets too wet, but we are not there yet.  The soil has restructured itself  beautifully on the clay soil part of the farm enough to carry stock, but it has taken 3-5 years of no till to reach this point. There is still a long way to go until the spring so we'll have to see how things progress.