Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pasture Management

For those of you who haven’t been to our ranch, a little description is required. Since we bought the land as a patch of “woods” that had been selectively cut about thirty years ago, we don’t have what most people would call any “pastures” yet. We have some large tracts of open ground that have been scraped of topsoil and forest debris in which some patches of green stuff grow. As it is raining today, we have open patches of mud with little rivulets coursing through them. Alpacas do not care if it is raining until it begins to hail at which point they usually lie down. They do not care if they lie down in mud. This evening, the alpacas came into the barn a soggy mess of mud and sticks, not resembling the fluffy dry critters we let out of the barn this morning.

Something needs to be done.

Part of that something is to install actual pastures, meaning “parcels of ground in which grasses grow,” as opposed to “parcels of ground marked off by a fence.” We went to a pasture maintenance seminar this weekend at Legacy Alpaca ranch in Newberg, OR, to learn how to create and keep good pastures. We are big fans of Ag Ph.D., a television show out of South Dakota that explains farming basics, like what nutrients plants need and how to get them to the roots. We knew we were going to have to add something to our fields, but we didn’t know what.

The primary skill we learned in this workshop was how to take a soil sample, and how to read a soil test. Then, based on the information in the soil test, we learned what to add to different fields to make the pasture grow better.

To summarize: plants need nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), and sulfur (S) to grow correctly. In our area, we need levels of P = 15-20 and K = 175-200, plus a pH of about 5.9. All of these things can be measured on a soil test. You adjust your fertilizing by the data on the soil test.

Or else you just spread alpaca poo all over your fields. That seems to work just as well. J

Also, it’s going to take at least a year before we will have nice pastures. We have to rake, drag, plant, and fertilize the land, and then let it grow unmolested by animals until it is established. That’s going to take a while.

Along those lines, I planted a bunch of Douglas Fir seedling on our property to pretty up the place. The trees came from our friends Rob and Camilla who were married recently and gave the trees out as party favors. Since we were some of the last to leave, we asked if we could take a bunch of leftover trees. Now we have the “Rob and Camilla Memorial Groves” on our ranch. After I dug a hole for the seeding, I plopped a little scoop of alpaca poo into the bottom, just to give the little trees a head start. I’ll bet the trees will grow like its going out of style this summer!

Have a nice day.


No comments: