Note to reader, attached is the complete final report for FNE03-499
The goal in this project was to improve pasture land and plant it with drought resistant grass varieties so that sheep could be grazed all summer, without resorting to feeding hay before the summer ended.
Two one acre pastures were used for the project and each pasture was divided in half. Soil samples were taken from each section and lime was applied at the recommended levels on one field and one half the recommended levels on the second field. Compost and manures were applied to the pastures and one pasture was rototilled to aerate compacted soil. Two different pasture seed mixes were seeded, one on each pasture. Both mixes contained tall fescue – good for intense grazing and deep roots for maximum water absorption.
Moisture was not a large limiting factor during this trial, although an average of less than one inch of rain per week fell during July, August, and September. Pasture areas that received the full complement of lime were more productive and pasture areas that receive some shade were more productive. Areas with the highest amount of manure application grew well throughout the summer and into the fall.
Richard learned many lessons from this project, perhaps the primary one being the importance of soil testing – “a small expense providing a big benefit”. In the year prior to this project Richard spent over $800 on hay for feeding during August, September, and October. During the year of this project, no hay was fed until November. As he replants other pastures, the monetary savings and nutritional value to his sheep will increase. Richard learned that he needs to import organic matter sources for his pastures; his own flock of sheep does not produce enough manure to spread over his acreage. He also learned that top-dressing and liming must be done with greater regularity. And he learned that “one good pasture is better than three that are mediocre” so he will be putting into place a regular program to improve and rejuvenate his existing pasture.