December 04, 2023

From the Pastures: Doing something right

Can we have a “spring flush” in August? After the rains we have had, it sure looks like that in central Illinois. I didn’t get one this spring. My permanent pastures have exploded with taller regrowth and filling in the thin spots in the field. In the wheat stubble field, I have a good stand of volunteer wheat along with copious amounts of other forages — that is, weeds — by other standards. However, the sheep love the pigweed (above 20% protein), lambsquarters (highly digestible and medicinal), road ditch chicory and forage chicory along with plantain (high in protein, medicinal and an anthelmintic for sheep), cocklebur, ragweed and other weeds.

The reason I know they love them is those are the first things they go to and eat when turned into a new lot. From the road it looks like a solid stand, but when you get out into it and look straight down there are some open spaces. I have also noticed, after the rains started, an increase in the bugs, bees and birds. These are indicator species of a healthy soil, so I must be doing something right.

With the recent rains that soften the sheep’s hooves, and since they were close to the barn, I decided to trim their hooves. This is the first time in two years I’ve trimmed hooves. Some really needed it and some didn’t need much trimming done. Two of us weighed, body scored and trimmed hooves on 100 head of sheep, plus we weighed and body scored all the lambs, which was about 140 head. After I did the math, it came out to about nine minutes per head from setting up the corral gates, processing and then teardown and putting everything away. It takes time when you have a lot of numbers of any type of animal.

Elton Mau

Elton Mau

Arrowsmith, Ill.