Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rotational Grazing in Nevada

I have mentioned before that my husband-to-be is starting a sheep dairy. Yesterday, I posted about doing the chores while he is away. Aside from hauling water to the pasture they are grazing, my other job while he is gone is to let them eat more of the pasture. We use a system called rotational grazing. Basically we give the sheep a certain amount of grass to eat each day and then move the fences so they can eat another piece. 

We have about 180 sheep in this group, so they get moved every day to every other day depending on the section of the pasture we are in. Just like any other crop, some sections of the field are denser than others. The electric fence is connected to a car battery. We have two batteries and rotate them from the fence to the charger in the house. There are many types of fence chargers, but we use this simple one because our ewes only graze for the time when they aren’t milking.

Here is a good picture to explain rotational grazing.

The left side has been grazed the right side has not been. They are left on it long enough to eat down to just below where you could harvest it with a swather. We use this system because not only does it allow the sheep to get the most out of a pasture, but it also allows the pasture to rest. It is grazed, aerated and fertilized and then rests for a few weeks which allows the grass to grow back thicker than it was before.

It is also an economical option for us in terms of feeding the sheep. As a grazing dairy farmer friend in California says, “They harvest it for ya, store it and feed it to themselves. Then they fertilize and aerate the grass while they’re at it.”

Rotational grazing isn’t huge in Nevada yet, but my sheepherder and his brother have both had good luck with it. Maybe it will catch on with time, but most likely only for dairy sheep. Most range sheep in Nevada still run on desert ranges taken care of by Peruvian sheepherders that live in sheep camps and only come into the headquarters every few weeks. They are truly a living symbol of Nevada’s history and most of its families’ past.

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