Frost Seeding & Pasture Improvement
Every year we try and do something to improve our pastures seeing that we are a 100% forage based operation. The goal is to use as little energy as possible (human and mechanical) to do this. We have two goals for this year, the first is to convert some of the wooded areas into silvopasture so we can have a woodlot as well as grazeable area for the sheep and the second is to get some diversity into old fields as well as maintain healthy growth in improved pastures.
The idea with frost seeding is that you broadcast the seed onto the soil and the freeze thaw cycle draws the seed into the soil where it will germinate and grow when the temperature is right. From previous attempts we learned that soil contact is very important, it works best when you actually have bare soil you can see, broadcasting seeds onto other vegetation wont work or you will have a very low success rate.
We do have areas that we want to improve where we do not have enough bare soil, frost seeding just will not be cost effective. We are planning to seed these areas before we start grazing the sheep. The idea is that the sheep grazing will help to get the seed onto the ground and the hoof action will help to imbed the seed into the soil. We have some Chicory, Birdsfoot Trefoil and White Clover we are planning to over seed this way.
A few years ago we had what felt like a tornado even though they said it was straight line winds that severely damaged our woods. The result was that there were a lot fewer trees standing and open areas became overgrown with briars. During fall of last year we had the pigs clear about an acre of woods, they unrooted all the briars, trampled some of the dead branches and left us with bare earth. Today I frost seeded with Orchardgrass, Annual Rye and White Clover, it was a good day for that, the snow melted, it was a bit warmer and a cold spell was in the forecast.
We have a few areas that had a lot of animal traffic, we will try and repair areas where we see too much bare soil with frost seeding as well. As we got closer to breeding the sheep we moved the rams closer to the ewes, the plan with that was to have a "Ram effect" (non-cycling ewes are stimulated to ovulate by the sudden introduction of a ram). The rams were so excited that they kept walking up and down the fence damaging the the pasture. Frost seeding should repair these areas.
We also have other pastures that were unused for over 10 years. These fields have a lot of weeds with some grass, last year we started to graze these fields, this year we want to take it a step further. We will over seed before grazing with Chicory, Birdsfoot Trefoil and White Clover and then monitor if we can get any of this established.