Friday, May 31, 2013

Manage Pastures for Continued Growth

One of the easiest ways to manage pastures for continued growth is to clip seed heads after the sheep have been moved on to the next field. One a seed head emerges, the plant focuses nutrients/energy toward producing seeds. This means that the nutritional quality of the plant will decrease as that plant matures. Plants such as orchardgrass lose quality very rapidly once the seed head emerges, while others such as bromegrass lose quality more slowly. Clipping the seed heads will keep the plants growing in a vegetative state and will mean higher quality forages for the sheep to graze. For more information on grazing management, refer to the Penn State Agronomy Guide at

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pasture Fertility

Pasture fertilty should be maintained through the use of soil tests. The first fertilizer should be added after the first grazing as this can help to prevent problems from grass tetany. Lime is very important to maintain correct soil pH. Soils that are too acidic (pH is under 6.0) will tie up nutrients and thus nutrients will not be available for plant growth. One way to save on the cost of nitrogen for fertilizing pastures is to include a legume in the mix. If about 30% of the pasture mix is a legume, this should produce enough nitrogen to feed the grasses. For more information on soil fertility, refer to the Penn State Agronomy Guide soil management section at

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rotate Pastures to Maintain Optimum Plant Height

During the spring, pastures are growing rapidly and sheep have plenty to eat. However, you still want to manage those pastures so that the sheep have plenty to eat during the hot and dry months of summer. Pastures should be rotated out of when the forage has been grazed down to 3 inches in height. This keeps the plants from becoming stressed by overgrazing and also helps prevent internal parasites in the sheep. A good goal is to provide enough area to feed the sheep for four days or less. Use temporary fencing to better manage pasture size.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Be Prepared to Prevent Grass Tetany This Spring

What a beautiful site to see all the sheep turned out on the lush spring pastures! At this time of the year, the grass is growing rapidly, but we need to be aware that the forages may be low in magnesium. This can cause a disease called grass tetany or grass staggers. The disease is most prevalent in the spring, but can occur in the fall also. It is also more prevalent on pastures with high potassium levels in the soil. To avoid this problem, there are several options. One is to add magnesium oxide and lime to the pastures to increase the magnesium in the plants. Another option is to add magnesium oxide to the mineral mix or to a concentrat (grain) mix if you are feeding grain.Treatment for the disease can be difficult and requires consultation with your local veterinarian. For more information about grass tetany, visit