Sunday, November 21, 2010

Picky eaters

Our sheep are picky eaters. If we leave them on a single small pasture for a week, they eat everything down to about 2”. That’s the ideal. If the pasture is too big, they eat the best grasses and leave the rest. If we leave them on a pasture for longer than a week, they keep eating the best grasses as they regrow, leaving the rest to go to seed. And that leaves us with pastures full of overripe grasses that don’t have very much nutritional value and taste even worse than they did before they became overripe- judging by the sheep’s refusal to eat them.

In the summer, Dave cuts the long grasses that then grow back nice and juicy and the sheep eat them. In the winter, the sheep have to make do with what they get. But so far this fall, when we’ve fed them grass hay, they’ve chosen to eat the old grass in the pastures rather than grass hay. So next we gave them oat hay, baled from our very own oat field last summer. They liked that enough to mine it for grains of oats, but not enough to eat the leaves and stems.

We only have about 700 bales of our own alfalfa hay and that won’t get the sheep through the winter. So, late this fall, we found a source of nice alfalfa hay and bought 400 bales. The farmer delivered. In order to keep the number of trips from his farm to our farm as low as possible, he loaded his wagon and his pickup with an unimaginable number of bales. The wagon listed to the right; the pickup (eleven bales high)was riding on its springs. It looked like something out of a Dr Seuss book. I was exhausted just looking at it. Then the farmer and his brother helped Dave and I put the hay in the barn so that they could take their wagons home that night. It was the best deal we’d ever had on hay and the sheep are happy too.

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