After Sheep Grazing

Post date: Apr 23, 2016 4:28:16 PM

And didn't they do a great job!! Previously, I had posted a few short videos of us moving the sheep into an area of our "house canyon" and them enjoying the forage there. That was on April 1. Thursday April 21 - approximately three weeks later - we moved them back to the south, to the barley pastures. We still have a couple Navajo-Churros to shear, and 8 Santa Cruz Island ewes and one wether. We moved the SCI sheep-to-be-sheared to a small pen to make them easier to catch and shear. Likely we will resume shearing tomorrow. In the meantime, this morning I took down the five lengths of Electrostop electric fencing that we had used to confine them, and while at that, took a few photos of the aftermath of the intensive grazing the mixed flock did in this pasture. The first photo below shows a general view of the south end of this grazing area, with a small catch pen made of panels (the black things are some outdoor mats we used under the shearing stand to keep the fleece out of the dirt, as we sheared several NC sheep and two SCI sheep in this catch pen; I hung them up to let the wind and rain (0.05 inch yesterday!!) clean them off a little). You can see the grass is mostly gone or trampled flat (the grass past palatability got trampled).

The photo below shows where the fencing was - there is a very clear difference between grazed on the left, and ungrazed on the right!

Below, in the photo on the left, there are two bare sticks - the one in the foreground is a chaparral honeysuckle, and the one behind is an oak, probably a blue oak. By way of contrast, the photo in the middle shows a chaparral honeysuckle outside the grazing area. Most likely, the browsed one will sprout out again later. The photo on the right, and sorry it is out of focus - the pink blotches are tiny oak leaves already sprouting; this is the same small oak tree as in the left photo below.

The twiggy stuff in the two photos below are California buckwheat shrubs that got browsed. Previous experience tells me that definitely, they will sprout again.

So, all this tells us, that sheep are very effective grazers and browsers, and are very good at removing vegetation that could turn into fuel for wildfires later in the season. They are most effective when kept in a fairly confined area. We had 22 sheep in this area, and I estimate the area was about 33,600 square feet, about 3/4 acre. They were in for almost three weeks, but probably had the area grazed/browsed down in about 2.5 weeks, as we did feed them hay for a couple days. Their body condition was good - not too thin, not too fat. They ate a variety of material - grass, forbs, leaves and tender twigs from shrubs, and tree leaves as high up as they could reach. They did pick up a variety of plant matter in their wool, which tells us that next time we should shear them before putting them out to graze and browse.