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Author Topic: Fertilizing Sheep field  (Read 18031 times)

moprabbit

  • Joined Oct 2011
  • North Notts
Fertilizing Sheep field
« on: January 10, 2013, 09:56:38 am »
A local farmer has offered to use a general NPK fertilizer on the field where my sheep are as it hasn't had any fertilizer on before. A friend of mine will be bringing his pregnant ewes onto the field mid Feb. I just wondered if it would be ok to fertilize it before the ewes come in and would it be ok for mine to be grazing in the field after it has been fertilized?
Thanks
4 pet sheep

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2013, 11:35:07 am »
Does the field need to be fertilised?

Personally, I'd have a soil test done first to see if it needs limed - if animals graze an area for a while, the soil becomes more acid (low pH) and lime is used to raise the pH to the optimum for grass (about 6.5).

A soil test will also tell you if you need potassium and phosphate. A more detailed (and more expensive) test will also cover trace elements and minerals. Some of these affect livestock health and productivity and some affect grass growth. Testing only needs to be done every four years, according to my fertiliser supplier.

A soil test will not measure nitrogen but if the land is regularly grazed and / or has clover in the sward, levels should be OK. Nitrogen depletion is most common when grass is cut and removed for hay or silage.

If you have clover in the sward, applying bagged N will adversely affect the clover (which makes its own nitrogen in root nodules and makes it available to the grassin the sward as well ie clover is a natural and sustainable provider of nitrogen to plants). If you add bagged N, the grass will outcompete the clover and the amount of clover in the sward will decrease. As well as being a source of nitrogen, it is also an excellent feed for livestock, so you really want to hang on to it.

I'd go for a soil test, lime and add P and K if it needs it. Our fertiliser supplier brings a quad and spreads it for us for a small charge.

I know this wasn't really the question but I love clover  ;D . I usually leave 7 days between any spreading and putting livestock on.

Ina

  • Joined Feb 2012
  • South Aberdeenshire
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2013, 11:40:01 am »
Some farmers spread while the sheep are in the field...

I also depends on how much you want to get off it in the end. Don't encourage lush growth if you only have a few sheep in it - they can end up having the runs because of too much fresh grass. Shorter grass is better for sheep than long stuff.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2013, 11:53:12 am »
As Rosemary says, take care if you have clover as artificial fertiliser can kill off this naturally-occuring one!

Also, if it's not had artificial on it before, you might find it reduces the number of species of grass and other flora you have there - this may bother you or not, but is worth thinking about. 

If you want to take a hay crop off the field in question, then don't go overboard with the artificial.  We use the occasional (maybe one year in three) very very light sprinkle of articifial on some of our hay meadows - too heavy a dose and the grass grows so fast it is too brittle to make hay, leaving us forced to make silage, which is much more costly to make.

And another thing to be aware of is the increased incidence of staggers in sheep grazing artificially-fertilised swards.  So if it were me, I'd prefer not to be fertlisiing around pregnant and lambing ewes, but if you do do it then make sure you have the appropriate licks out for them - I think it's the magnesium one you have to have, but your agri merchant will be able to advise you.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

woollyval

  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 01:54:57 pm »
As Rosemary says, take care if you have clover as artificial fertiliser can kill off this naturally-occuring one!

Also, if it's not had artificial on it before, you might find it reduces the number of species of grass and other flora you have there - this may bother you or not, but is worth thinking about. 

If you want to take a hay crop off the field in question, then don't go overboard with the artificial.  We use the occasional (maybe one year in three) very very light sprinkle of articifial on some of our hay meadows - too heavy a dose and the grass grows so fast it is too brittle to make hay, leaving us forced to make silage, which is much more costly to make.

And another thing to be aware of is the increased incidence of staggers in sheep grazing artificially-fertilised swards.  So if it were me, I'd prefer not to be fertlisiing around pregnant and lambing ewes, but if you do do it then make sure you have the appropriate licks out for them - I think it's the magnesium one you have to have, but your agri merchant will be able to advise you.
personaly I would never use NPK where sheep graze! They produce their own called poo!
www.berry land cottage.co.uk
www.valgrainger.co.uk

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

FiB

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Bala, North Wales
    • Facebook
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 05:38:54 pm »
And also.... it may well be washed/leach off the land (environmental prob and waste of money) if you do it outside of the growing season :-[ .

bazzais

  • Joined Jan 2010
    • Allt Y Coed Farm and Campsite
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2013, 06:21:17 pm »
If sheep s**t produced all the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) needed for the plant life to sustain the animal on it we would have made a perpetual energy mechanism.

Doing it now (or soon) while the ground is frozen and can be driven over is probably the best time to do it.  Would have thought that weather permitting by Feb it would be in the right place (ie in the ground) and shouldnt cause any harm.

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2013, 06:56:15 pm »
Nitrogen can only be used by the plant when it's growing and grass only grows when the soil temperature is consistently 5C or above (I'm pretty sure that's right), so if you apply N fertiliser when the soil is cold and / or waterlogged, chances are it will simply leach into the nearest watercourse. I'm also pretty sure the same doesn't apply to P&K

ScotsGirl

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • Wiltshire
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2013, 08:29:12 pm »
Rosemary is right and farmer would be wasting his money. Definitely go for sol test, I did and it showed nothing was needed. I have grazed the ground with sheep and horses for past 5 years and thought it would be desperate for fertiliser. Only recommendation was tiny bit of nitrogen in spring to encourage growth.


Sheep provide the best fertiliser and my local farmer who makes hay only uses sheep to fertilise his field and it also keeps it clear of ragwort.

woollyval

  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2013, 11:09:32 pm »
If sheep s**t produced all the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) needed for the plant life to sustain the animal on it we would have made a perpetual energy mechanism.

Doing it now (or soon) while the ground is frozen and can be driven over is probably the best time to do it.  Would have thought that weather permitting by Feb it would be in the right place (ie in the ground) and shouldnt cause any harm.

Urm what do you think happened befor the advent of artificial fertiliser? We do indeed have a perpetual energy mechanism called FYM ( F farm Y yard M manure) Shep do best at the right stocking density on a mixed sward of good herbage, unfortunately applying artificial fertiliser causes the stronger grasses to outgrow and out compete the weaker leading to loss of biodiversity, loss of different types of plant that sheep need and also leads to mineral imbalances, digestive problems etc etc in sheep that lead to mis use of wormers, fly products, mineral suppliments etc etc.

I have not only been keeping sheep very successfully on totally unfertilised land for many many years but never have half the problems many others have. Oh and I am actually qualified in grassland management to back it up!!! 
www.berry land cottage.co.uk
www.valgrainger.co.uk

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2013, 06:21:54 pm »
I agree with you on that one!  We have ancient meadow and it does far better in dry weather than the so-called "improved" pasture on our neighbours' farms.  Lush grass would swamp all the plants like sheep's sorrel, plantain and yarrow that are deep rooted and bring up minerals from below the grass roots as well as surviving drought.  Never had a sheep with grass staggers, either.  I close off the turnout field in early September so the grass grows slowly through the winter, switching to a different field each year to minimise the worm burden for the lambs.

moprabbit

  • Joined Oct 2011
  • North Notts
Re: Fertilizing Sheep field
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2013, 09:05:41 pm »
There's certainly a lot to digest from these posts. I would think my local agricultural merchant will have soil testing kit, so perhaps I should do that first as suggested. Many thanks for all your replies and advice.
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