Monday, 8 June 2009

Observations: Sheep Grazing the Saddle Paddock

Yesterday we moved the sheep from the Saddle Paddock to the Duck Dam paddock. They were in the Saddle Paddock, which is just over 13 hectares in area, for 6 days in total. Our observations follow.
When we drove around the paddock in the utility to check on the sheep they at no time ran up to the vehicle, confirming that the previous owners were not in the habit of substitution feeding. For us this is a good thing as the animals don't tend to get unnecessarily excited and more importantly there is then no risk of someone accidentally running over any of them.
The Saddle Paddock and the Yabby Dam paddocks were recently 'created' out of us sub-dividing what was previously called the Contour Paddock into two. Under the previous set-up the sheep had their regular camp on the highest point of what is now the Yabby Dam Paddock ... on the southern border toward the east. Thus this was the first time sheep had grazed the 'new' Saddle Paddock.  They selected their new camp location on the highest point along the north eastern fenceline. This area has been bare ground for many years, due mainly to the impact of the trees just through the fence, but also in part due to firebreak maintenance. The animal impact of the sheep on the new camp site is apparent in the accompanying photograph. There is a heavy load of manure and urine now in place and it will be interesting to see how this area of land changes over time.
We had expected that the sheep would have found the dense stand of green pasture in the bottom of the creek and in the contour banks at various points particularly palatable and desirable. This proved not to be the case at all, with very little evidence of the sheep even walking through these heavily grassed areas. We received approximately 40 mm of rain during the 6 day period. The sheep did make an impact in breaking some of the mature capped areas of bare ground in the paddock. The hoof marks evident in this photograph will help in slowing run-off in the future to a limited extent at least.
We remain determined to leave leaf matter on the growing plants allowing for effective and immediate significant photosyntheses when the sheep leave the paddock. 
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This photograph gives an indication of what a large proportion of the paddock looked like close up as the sheep were moved out. To quote from one of the Holistic Management Certified Educators I work with from time to time "The more you leave, the more will grow".

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