Improving a Pasture Fast

We began transitioning from large sheep breeds to smaller Shetlands because they eat less and are well suited to a grass only diet. This is vital since we want to avoid genetically modified (GM) feed. Our pasture is a work in progress and these smaller sheep don’t put the strain on it that the larger breeds did.

I blogged in June about how we used the poor man’s pasture improvement scheme to advantage on our sandy soil. It works well but is slow going. We have some spoiled round bales that we have been using for our deep mulch/no till vegetable garden.

Because the hay is better at growing grass than it is at smothering weeds, we decided to spread it on the pasture instead. Leaves or straw are better choices for a weed/grass free garden, anyway. The photo below shows what happened to the thick mulch at the edge of the garden. This is one year’s growth. I’d love to have pasture grass that thick!

                                                                            
I thought about pushing a bale onto a piece of plywood and pulling it out to the pasture behind the lawn tractor. The bales were so wet and settled it was easier to pull them apart with a turning fork and load the strips into the little trailer.

It is easy to dump the load and kinda kick it around to spread it out.

I started the project and one of my adult sons stepped up and is out there finishing it. I can’t wait to see how large an area six 450# round bales will cover.

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Pasture Improvement/Poor Man’s Pasture

When we bought our land, it was covered by a red pine plantation and hundreds of Scotch pines. Knapweed, St John’s wort, hoary alyssum, mullien and horse mint grew in the open areas. The word the soil conservation guy used to describe our soil was “bleak”. We sold the red pines and had a lot of the Scotch pines chipped for the co-generation plant which opened up a lot more land for pasture. We added goats and later sheep and they eliminated the weedy plants so grass could grow. Lime was spread (by hand) a few years ago. Our soil is very sandy and nutrients leach right through so grass grew sparsely. The soil structure needed to be improved to hold all the good things in place including moisture.

Mullien is left after goats and sheep have grazed off the other weeds

We feed our sheep on clean snow in the winter time and clean ground in spring and fall. We noticed that grass would spring up through the spoiled hay in the spring. The hay seeds were falling through to the ground below and taking root. The cover provided by the spoiled hay held moisture in place and improved the soil as it decomposed. Our course of action became to establish what we refer to as “poor man’s pasture”. I try to feed hay on a different spot each day. As the snow deepens, I don’t struggle to pull the sled so far out so the area closest to the hay barn has the thickest grass.

The same area after a season of feeding hay
2011 after two seasons of feeding hay in this spot

The pasture now includes native grass and whatever types of grass the hay contained. A faster way to accomplish this would be to have some large bales delivered and rolled out on the ground.

Paid Endorsement Disclosure: I may receive commissions/revenue from affiliates or advertisers for endorsements, recommendations, and/or links to products or services from this blog. It doesn’t change the cost to you and helps offset expenses on this frugal homestead.