calculating winter forage

   The sheep and short yearling calves are on the white barn paddock, which is small and grazed seldom, making it a natural sacrifice paddock.  This means that we will hold them there and on the wooded hillside above for the winter, realizing that they will do some damage by grazing the grass too short and cutting up the turf when the ground is muddy, but preferring this to letting them graze at will on the five acre south hill pasture where they spend spring, summer and fall.  Additionally, since we feed them hay spread out on the paddock, they will be adding fertility and carbon to the white barn paddock, which, given a good long rest in the spring and early summer, may actually benefit by it.  We don’t know how much damage to expect they will do there, as we have not wintered sheep before.

   Daily thought must be given to the feeding of each animal – how much, where, what kind – as factors such as the cold, and their state of pregnancy, come into play.  Pigs are fed twice daily, one feeding usually being grain-based, either mash, corn, or  bakery waste (courtesy of the monastery), the other being mostly vegetables, thinnings from the low tunnels, cull potatoes and squashes, and whatever our super market salvage gleans.  Dry cows get a new section of grass daily; the lactating cows twice daily, or, in the evening, hay in the barn if the weather looks fractious.  Their ration of grain has gone up to five pounds daily, less than one percent of their body weight, but still more than we would like, but while the pastures are being renovated we have to supplement as necessary to maintain sufficient milk production.  Actually, as far as we know the all-grass dairy farmers in our neck of the woods dry off their animals in December or early January when yield drops below a certain level and the thought of going out in the cold for milking gets really unattractive, but we would not willingly do without our milk.

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