Typical farming news…. We had planted oats in a new pasture to provide some grazing during the summer slump and then again in early fall for our sheep. We always do testing on all our forages to balance the custom minerals we give our sheep so before grazing the pasture I take a sample and send it off for analysis. Because small grains can produce high nitrates we get that tested as well. Our June testing revealed that our oats pasture was high in nitrates, high enough to require us to feed the sheep hay in pens at night and only let them graze about half time. This was ok but not ideal. We checked with extension and other folks and were told that we should wait and re-test before grazing it again. Nitrate levels often go down with time and perhaps the plants were just stressed from our hot summer and would recover. We are now at the time when we need to be grazing that field so I sent off another sample for testing. Well the tests came back, the nitrates are so high now that we can’t graze it at all. With 200 sheep to feed we had really planned on having that oats as finishing feed for our lambs and flushing feed for the ewes. Now we probably won’t be feeding it at all. It’s going to be very expensive green manure! We are still debating what to do but it looks like we’ll plow it all down this fall and try to get the permanent pasture planted on that area. And I’ve got to go find more hay as we’ll be starting winter hay feeding about a month earlier than expected. At least we did the test and didn’t discover this by finding dead sheep in the field.
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