Back on Pasture

There was a time in March when the fields were quieter than normal.  Pigs were in the barn and the sheep were being kept elsewhere.  But not any longer.  Here are a few pictures and commentary based on the past couple of weeks.

The laying hens are out on pasture.  Operator Chris Hansen put together a very nice mobile hen house that is light weight and comfortable for both hens and egg collectors.

These 150 lb Berkshire hogs had never been on pasture before, but instinctively took right to it.  Chris is running around the perimeter as they test the electric fence and learn to avoid it.  Sometimes a novice pig runs through the fence, so he wants to be there in case one gets out.

In the distance a group of ewes makes themselves at home after recently being unloaded from a trailer.  These will soon give birth to lambs that will be the majority income for the farm this year.  The foreground highlights the fine condition of the pasture, which was sown in early May of last year and was grazed from early July to mid November.

I am a big fan of April.  The daylight hours and warmer temperatures lead to luxurious pasture growth.  For the next three months we will worry about having too much feed!

How can there be too much feed?  Because when pasture grows for too long a period without grazing forage quality declines.  I discussed this in a previous article, but the gist is that plant tissues are most nutritious when fairly immature.  We now have hundreds of animals on our property, but they can only eat so much per day and we don’t want to put so many out there that they have too little feed in late summer.  It is a balancing act, and over the winter rancher Cody Wood and I developed scenarios and plans to do our best to get it right–i.e., maximizing long-term productivity and cash flow.