Spring is always an interesting time. It is that time of the year when I get to find all of my missing tools and other surprises that appear as the snow melts away.
As the snow quickly retreats under the warm days of spring, I have found the time to begin thinking of green grass and baby lambs. We are still a month until the first lambs of the year will be born, but the grass is beginning to poke its blades up through the moist soil.
As a raiser of livestock, my main job is a grower of grass. It is this lush green grass that I spend most of my time caring for that really is the key to growing my lambs. From early spring until late fall, the better care I give my pastures, the more grass and lambs I will grow.
It is important for anyone who keeps horses or other livestock to know how to take care of pastures, as it will determine the forage you will produce for your animals. As you travel around the area, you can see the beginning of the first blades of grass beginning to poke up. You also see – in too many pastures – horses and other livestock working hard to get that first inch of grass. This early spring, grazing is one of the hardest things on your grass and will result in greatly decreased growth later in the summer. With the drought conditions we are still experiencing, it can ultimately result in the death of your pasture.
If we look at what is happening with our grass, maybe it will help us understand the need to allow the grass to grow before turning out our stock to graze.
Last summer and fall, the grass plants worked hard with limited moisture to produce energy; they stored that energy in their roots to survive through the winter. As spring comes around, those grass plants have very limited energy still stored in their roots to begin to grow for this year.
Those first blades of grass that begin to reach for sunlight are the first chance for the plant to produce new energy and to grow for this year. When they are eaten so soon, that opportunity is lost, and the plants will need to use up their remaining stored energy to try and grow new green blades and to again start to make energy to survive.
While you may feel you are saving hay by starting to graze now, the amount of grass that will not be produced later will offset any hay saved now. Take some time and allow your pastures to grow and become several inches tall before you allow your stock to graze very much. Your grass will do better and so will your livestock. Take care of your pastures and they can help take better care of your livestock.
Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.