Another trip around the "bottoms" of the Racecourse Grazing Area

I've been out with a nasty tummy bug since Friday, so no shepherding this weekend.  I'm preparing to totter around the Racecourse GA (Grazing Area) with the flock this morning, hopefully all will be ok.  We are now desperately short of rain, again.  Essentially no rain for the past 7 weeks.  So I am trying to spin out the grazing in the Racecourse GA as long as I possibly can, before putting the flock back on the White Gum Grazing Area.  The Racecourse is basically old cocksfoot-dominated ryegrass and clover--a standard pasture mix in this part of the world for the last 50 years or so.  The cocksfoot is a deep-rooted, tussocky, coarse grass that can take amazing abuse in the overgrazing department and still come back.  Ryegrass, a softer grass, is much more sensitive, hence after years of overgrazing the paddocks become dominated by cocksfoot.   Then in a good year, the cocksfoot goes wild and becomes an impenetrable dense mass of coarse grass.  A lot of what I've been doing with shepherding over the last 2+ years is teaching the sheep to graze into dense stands of cocksfoot, which we've done quite successfully--there is no stand of cocksfoot on the place that the sheep won't graze.  Flip side:  not as much forage in the cocksfoot "bank" now!  Anyway, should be a gorgeous day, and we'll take it slow and easy.  Oh, if you want to see the photos in real time, follow whitegumwool on instagram.  I haven't figured out how to do the badge thing yet for you to just click on.  Sigh.  I used to be on top of computing when it was still FORTRAN programming... (sort of like walking 7 miles to school through the blizzard). END OF THE DAY notes:  I have to say that shepherding, with all its challenges is way more fun than wrestling with HTML and websites generally!  Surprisingly, this was another textbook day, where the real circuit followed the plan exactly.  If I keep this up, I'm going to start believing my own hype!  I did, as usual, start later than I intended--10, not 9, and I finished a bit after noon.  The actual wind was 15-20 kph out of the east, so I did better than the Bureau of Met, and the easterly wind helped keep the sheep moving on the first leg and the bend.  At the end of the run, it pulled them back down the hill again, which was great--rather than having them drift (or charge) up to the water points that I cleverly put at the high points of almost every paddock on the place before I realised what a tactical error it was.  Couldn't have been happier with the day, if my tummy had just felt a bit better.

April 18, 2016
April 18, 2016
P1: Pickup. Note the short grass where we are (near the top of the hill), longer near the bottom
P1: Pickup. Note the short grass where we are (near the top of the hill), longer near the bottom
P2: Grazing the "bottom" of the paddock. Not great, but much better than the short stuff higher up.
P2: Grazing the "bottom" of the paddock. Not great, but much better than the short stuff higher up.
P3: I'm trying to limit the photos I send on instagram to a few really good ones. Couldn't resist this one turning the corner, right on track. There's a little bit of broom--woody, gorse-like weed--along there they really enjoyed. Just about the only patch of broom on the place!

P3: I'm trying to limit the photos I send on instagram to a few really good ones. Couldn't resist this one turning the corner, right on track. There's a little bit of broom--woody, gorse-like weed--along there they really enjoyed. Just about the only patch of broom on the place!

P4: A pretty good stretch of "bottom". They're quite liking it--slowed down and grazing steadily.
P4: A pretty good stretch of "bottom". They're quite liking it--slowed down and grazing steadily.
P5: It took a couple of tries to make the sharp right past the gate into this truly rank bit of cocksfoot. Phew!
P5: It took a couple of tries to make the sharp right past the gate into this truly rank bit of cocksfoot. Phew!
Still grazing well in the rank patch. Hooray! My shepherding mentor, Michel Meuret says, "Shepherding is NOT the same as gardening" , meaning you can't expect the animals to eat only the specific plants you want to "weed", but also acknowledging that the tighter you constrain the flock in their grazing, the less likely they are to settle and graze. Still, on days like today, it sure feels high precision, landing 500 sheep exactly where you want them, and having them agree to eat there!
Still grazing well in the rank patch. Hooray! My shepherding mentor, Michel Meuret says, "Shepherding is NOT the same as gardening" , meaning you can't expect the animals to eat only the specific plants you want to "weed", but also acknowledging that the tighter you constrain the flock in their grazing, the less likely they are to settle and graze. Still, on days like today, it sure feels high precision, landing 500 sheep exactly where you want them, and having them agree to eat there!
P7: A close up with my good camera in the rank patch, so you can see them tackling the long grass. Don't let anyone tell you sheep will only eat where it's short--that's just a rationalisation for over-grazing!
P7: A close up with my good camera in the rank patch, so you can see them tackling the long grass. Don't let anyone tell you sheep will only eat where it's short--that's just a rationalisation for over-grazing!