It’s been months since we’ve had a decent drop of rain. I was reminded of this when a customer called a few days ago to check what our pastures are like at the moment, and I hadn’t really thought about it because our pastures right now are thick and lush. There is a natural die off of native grass species as summer turns to winter but other than that we have a pretty green block.
But it prompted Dan, Leo and I to take an afternoon stroll through the paddocks, take a good look around and take a few photos for you.
All summer long we’ve had to slash ahead of the chooks because the grass is too long for the electric fence to touch the ground (which allows foxes to get in), and chickens prefer the shorter, fresh shoots of grass that is more nutrient dense (Joel Salatin style, only we don’t yet have cattle to graze in front of the chooks).
It’s Autumn and Tony is still having to slash ahead of our chooks with the mulching slasher. He doesn’t mind in the slightest, he puts his audio earmuffs on so he can listen to some music and away he goes!
This pic shows where we’ve slashed too low, (it has been a fair bit of experimentation to get the slasher height just right) and the regrowth has not recovered as fast as the rest after one week of being grazed down by chooks. It’s trying, kikuyu is edging its way back across this patch and no doubt after some rain it will take off again. But it does get you thinking about industrial free range systems with stationary sheds and 10,000 birds in a one hectare dirt patch, or rotated in quadrants, at best.
The grass is darker and thicker where the chook manure has been concentrated than it is surrounding the dams and gullies. The more fertility in the soil the more it holds water. Peter Andrews OAM (The inventor of Natural Sequence Farming) often says the biggest dam on your property is the one beneath your feet. If you improve soil fertility via a focus on biodiversity, short, intense grazing and long rest periods, you can improve the soils water holding capacity and longer periods between rain are less of an issue.
One of our long term projects will be increasing the biodiversity of the pastures, improving the number of different species of grasses on the farm. As part of our grant we are purchasing a simple drill seeder (such as a conner shea disk seeder) to drill seed into our pastures for more diversity and improve even more what we can get from the pasture for our chooks.
Rain (20mm or so) is predicted later in the week and we are looking forward to what the next week or two will look like once it does.