March 03, 2024

From the Pastures: Education events

Well, I’ve just returned from the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival and it was entertaining and very informative. On Friday was the Sheep 101 classes and Saturday was the Profit Workshop classes. Some of the information I gleaned was as follows. In September and October the forage still has sugars in the forage’s top leaves, but by November and December that same forage is lacking those sugars. So, any animals needing those sugars to get to a finished weight — lambs and stocker steers — need to be finished before the end of October or put on high energy annuals like turnips.

The top three leaves of forages are 75% digestible and growing stock need at least 75% digestible feed. Turnips are 85% digestible and high in water content, which comes in handy in the winter when the waterers are freezing up. In the summer and fall, if the stock is biting off the top of the weed stems, the animals need to be moved. That is in the 50% digestible range. Poor nutrition.

A big one was in fall and winter grazing, leave at least a 4-inch residual. The forage will grow better, thicker and faster next spring when it starts to regrow — I have been asking that question for years. Just because it’s winter and the forage is dead, dormant or frozen, don’t graze it to the dirt. Leave a 4-inch residual cover for the plant to regrow from. Properly managed grazing improves the soil fertility, captures carbon and increases water infiltration. It’s not how much rain you get on your land, but how much rain you keep on your land.

Solar companies are looking at sheep grazers to keep the forage down under their panels. This could be very profitable for grazing shepherds. Randy Cutler, a fence contractor and shepherd himself, said an electric fence needs at least 5 kV on it to keep the sheep in and coyotes out and below a 10 amps load on the fence. I highly recommend attending this event for the education, plus there are a lot of wool classes and a border collie dog trial for three days.

For upcoming education, the Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Illinois is putting on a 2023 Regenerative Grazing School at All Grass Farms in Dundee, Illinois. This will be Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16.

We will cover fencing systems, soil fertility, water systems, hands-on observation skills and a producer panel of four sheep or cattle grazers to answer your questions. That is just the first day with a lot more to be covered on Saturday. Lunch will be available on Friday and Saturday with a light breakfast also on Saturday. For more information or to register, contact Christian Lovell at 317-650-6161 or christian@ilgrazinglands.org. I hope to see you there because it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Elton Mau

Elton Mau

Arrowsmith, Ill.