Why you should avoid grazing coarse stems

Neither animals nor soils will benefit from the practice

By Janet McNally

Recently I heard a fellow grazier advocating that we should be grazing the stems of pasture forages.

His reasoning is that with the leaves gone, the stems pull energy from the roots. With no photosynthesis from the leaves, the plant cannot replace that energy. So the plant is better off with the stems gone. He admitted he was in the minority with that opinion.

Continue reading “Why you should avoid grazing coarse stems”

Managing the rank growth of summer

Grazing sheep

By Janet McNally
Hinckley, Minnesota—
Years ago I was interested in trying mob-stock grazing that uses higher stocking densities and daily moves.

What held me back was knowing that at some point in early June we would face a tremendous amount of rank growth going to seed and no longer nutritious.

My approach at the time was to have sheep covering every acre in late-May/early-June, biting each plant in an effort to control growth and seedheads. Continue reading “Managing the rank growth of summer”

Finishing lambs when the rain won’t stop

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—Much of the Midwest received an extraordinary amount of rainfall this fall. In Minnesota, meteorologist Paul Douglass reported that most of the state had 10 to 20 inches more precipitation than normal in 2019 through October 25, making this the sixth wettest year on record. Other states also saw huge volumes of rain this year.

While the sheep in these places were knee deep in beautiful green grass, some of you might have noticed the lambs were in very lean condition and not attaining the finish required for slaughter.

Continue reading “Finishing lambs when the rain won’t stop”

The biggest pitfalls to producing grassfed lamb

Janet McNally with lambs

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota — There is no denying that producing a grassfed lamb requires skill and know-how. Grazing is about replacing purchased inputs with knowledge inputs. Unlike grains and stored forages that can be tested and formulated into a ration with a predictable result, green and growing forages are constantly changing.

Therefore it is impossible to offer a cookbook for producing grassfed lambs and expect everyone, everywhere, to achieve the same result. A lot of education is required. Most importantly, the grazier needs to train his or her eye to observe forages and animals so they know when to make changes. This will not happen without just jumping in and getting some experience — hopefully first in the pastures of a mentor, then later in your own pastures. Continue reading “The biggest pitfalls to producing grassfed lamb”

Land salmon? Grassfed lamb’s Omega-3s shine

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—While doing research on diet and health, I found an article describing lamb as “land salmon.” The author claimed this title was earned because the omega-6:omega-3 ratio of lamb is closer to salmon than any other domestic meat.

Photo: Janet McNally
Lambs finished on a brassica mix produced very high omega-3 numbers.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to our health. But modern diets tend to be too high in the omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation of tissues and lead to serious health problems. Many nuts, grains and vegetable oils are high in omega-6. Continue reading “Land salmon? Grassfed lamb’s Omega-3s shine”

If you want to build topsoil, try bale grazing

Janet McNally with lambs

By Janet McNally

Hinckley, Minnesota—In past articles I’ve described how much more productive my managed pastures have been compared to the continuously grazed pasture right across the fence line.

I’ve also told how much more productive and drought-tolerant my pastures have become since I moved toward a mob-grazing system with more frequent moves and longer (six- to eight-week) rest periods. I always attributed the improvement to deeper roots and better plant vigor, both of which tend to be true when plants have longer rest periods. Continue reading “If you want to build topsoil, try bale grazing”