Strolling through the pasture: May 2012 Edition

All the grazing books emphasize the need to walk your pastures regularly.  See what’s going on out there, take notes and really pay attention.  Today I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  Pigs are hard on clover.  Let me show you.

We had pigs on this spot in March.  The grass is recovering well and has been grazed once but the clover is almost non-existent.  A good mix of grasses and weeds but no clover.  I’m not too surprised as it had little clover to begin with but there is none now.  None.

Continue with me to the cemetery gate.  Here the grass is mowed regularly and the clover grows thick.

Now, look to the South with me.  The pigs were on this slope starting in July of last year and worked their way around the hill over time.  One section at a time the hillside became a wasteland as the pigs worked their way through.  The grasses more than recovered from the disturbance, and did so quickly.

But while the grasses benefited from the disturbance, the clover is absent.

If I look around a little bit I can see new clover establishing itself out of the soil bank but not much in the way of old growth.

Now, wait a minute.” you say, “Mr. Head Farm Steward, didn’t you just have goats and chickens here?  Aren’t your cousin’s cows still roaming and grazing in the pasture?  Maybe they are eating the clover faster than it can grow.”  Well, I don’t think that’s the case.  Here’s where the goats and chickens just left.  Sure enough, not a clover leaf to be found.

But, if we look back at pasture that has had at least a week to recover we can see strong clover growth.  In fact, on the left in this picture you can see a line in the grass where the clover ends.  I believe that’s where the pig quick fence stood last summer.

So it appears my grass is strengthened by the presence of pigs but I sacrifice my clover stand.  Ah, tradeoffs.  Why can’t it be more simple?

Takeaways:
-Walk your pastures regularly
-Take notes
-Take pictures
-Reflect on changes you observe.
-Evaluate these changes to determine if it is really a problem and, if so, if your management has caused it.

It is possible that I just need to move the hogs more frequently to help retain some portion of the clover.  I’ll keep fiddling with it.

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