A group of over 40 people from around northeast Wisconsin attended a sheep grazing and pasture walk event last Wednesday, July 17, at Bob and Penny Leder’s Bear Creek Sheep Station.
The event was sponsored by the Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., and was facilitated by Grazing Specialist Teal Fyksen.
Bob and Penny Leder have maintained a commercial flock of sheep in Bear Creek since 1988. They rotationally graze 95 ewes and their 200 percent lamb crop on 30 acres of grass-legume pastures. Lambing is timed to match surging spring grass growth. The lambs are sold off as feeders in late summer.
Fall grass production is stockpiled in pastures to enable the flock to continue grazing into November and December. An additional 20 acres of hay are made which is enough to feed the ewes during the winter months. The flock is out wintered in “the back 40” on a hay station of large square bales that the flock also uses as a windbreak. The 20 acres of hay land is also grazed twice during the year.
One of the main goals at Bear Creek Sheep Station is to raise lamb and wool in a sustainable way with the use of good conservation and land stewardship practices.
The pasture walk held last week was geared to beginning producers. Topics included managing sheep on pasture, forage varieties and selection, fencing, managing parasites and undesirable plant species in pasture.
“One of the most important things we do here is record which pasture area is being grazed at a given time,” explained Leder. “We have a map of the farm that shows each paddock division. We rotate the sheep to a new paddock every 1-5 days. In spring time, the paddocks only need about 15 days of rest. Now that it is later in the summer, they need 30-40 days of rest, depending on the soil and the amount of rainfall.”
Leder said the 20-acre hay field is used for early and late grazing. Two crops of hay are harvested between early and late grazing. The paddock areas are clipped occasionally to keep forage in a vegetative state.
Fertilizers are used on the hay field, but not on the pasture areas. Pastures are sprayed for thistles, and some other spot treatment is used on occasion.
“For grazing and haying operations, you should always be looking ahead at least three weeks,” added Fyksen. “You should also remember that the best defense against weeds is proper grazing.”
“Fencing is one of the biggest jobs on our farm,” stated Leder. “Maintaining the fences requires a lot of work. We have to trim or weed-eat underneath the fences regularly. Fences also need to be repaired from time to time.
“We do have an electric fence system in place,” added Leder. “It’s at a voltage of about 3,000. This is a mental fence, not a physical one. The animals need to learn while they are young that they need to respect the fence. A good hard shock on a young lamb helps them to understand the boundaries.”
Leder said jug frost-free waterers work great at his farm, and require little maintenance. The watering devices have a geothermal tube underneath them, and a small amount of electricity is required for operation.
“They almost never freeze in the winter,” said Leder. “If they do, we just knock the ice off the top and the water begins to flow again.”
A network of shallow buried seasonal water lines supply water to the more distant paddocks during the grazing season.
Leder and Fyksen went on to discuss frost seeding of pastures, breeding concerns, lambing operations, shearing, and de-worming.
To learn more about this event or future events, visit www.goldensandsrcd.org.