Category: Grazing

Fenceless Targeted Grazing Using Supplement Blocks

By   /  December 3, 2018

Sometimes landscape terrain and size makes temporary fencing too expensive or difficult to set up. Here’s an alternative that I’ve used successfully. From November of 2015 – an alternative to fencing that still directs your animals where you want them.

When Derek Bailey began looking at ways to move animals across landscapes it was because he wanted a way to protect riparian areas from damage due to overgrazing. He and his fellow researchers set low-moisture supplement blocks on ungrazed uplands and then herded the cattle to the area.  “We were flabbergasted! We were just terribly surprised,” he said, when they found that went from spending 1% of their time in the study plot, to them spending 32% of their time within 600 yards of the low-moisture supplement blocks. It got them thinking about how ranchers could use this tool to improve the quality of their rangelands for livestock and wildlife while improving profits at the same time.

Derek describes the results of his work in this 19 minute video. In case you’ve got a slow connection, I’ve included the video’s highlights below along with tips for getting started with low-moisture blocks.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/15461789

The video is part of a SARE-funded grant I worked on with Beth Burritt of Utah State University. Our focus was on sharing ways that folks can use animal behavior to accomplish their goals rather than spending money on equipment and infrastructure.

What’s a Low-Moisture Supplement Block?

The product is made by heating up molasses and then cooling it into a very hard block that can only be licked, not bitten or chewed. Different manufacturers have different recipes but in general they all provide additional energy, protein and vitamin and minerals. They were originally created to be a supplement to low quality forage. They work because the protein in the supplement feeds the rumen’s microbes. That gives the microbes the ability to break down mature/dry forage and turn it into something useable.

The positive feedback from the nutrition in the block and the nutrition that animals can make from licking it explains why low-moisture blocks are a better attractant than salt. Derek explains:

“A lot of people have asked me over the years, wouldn’t salt work just as well? It’s a lot cheaper and we put it out there anyway. And my answer is ‘Sure salt helps. But it’s not very persuasive. It’s not very powerful.” These maps, showing the movements of radio-collared cows demonstrate what he’s talking about.  The pink dots on the first map show where cows grazed in relationship to the placement of the low-moisture blocks.  The blue dots on the second map show that grazing was much more dispersed when there was only salt placed in the pasture.

Map of grazing with low-moisture blocks placed in the top center of the map.

Map of grazing when salt was placed in the upper center of the map (see the 2 white dots).

Derek also found out that low-moisture blocks were better attractants than either hay or range cake. As Derek says:

“Low moisture blocks last a long time, so they’re always there. But if you feed something like hay or cake, animals will readily come, eat it all up and spend about an hour a day where we feed. But if we put a low-moisture block they’ll spend 5 hours within 100 yards of the location.” He also notes that feeding hay or cake requires a lot more time and money to deliver.

Are Low-Moisture Blocks For You?

Find out by asking yourself some questions. First, do you have a forage quality problem? The answer is yes if you look out at your pastures and your grass is not green and you see lots of dry, mature forage.  Like this picture from the video:

Low Quality Forage

Next, do you have a distribution problem?  Are there areas of your range or pasture that are rarely used? Derek’s review of pastures in Montana and in New Mexico showed that in large pastures with rough or steep terrain about 1/3 of the pasture received very little grazing. If that’s the case in your pasture, what would happen if you could use that pasture? Derek figures that using that pasture could extend the grazing season or allow more cattle to be run on the same amount of pasture.

Is It Economical?

Rangeland Economist, Dr. Alan Turrell puts it this way, “If you can replace relatively high-priced hay by staying out on rangeland longer because of feeding the block then that was a very valuable, economical tool.” Ranchers like Melvin Armstrong who participated in one of the studies in Montana said that using low-moisture blocks allowed them to use rangeland that hadn’t been used in the 4o years he’d been running his ranch. But specifics about the costs will vary by location and forage conditions at different ranches. Turrell suggests that ranchers do what they normally do: figure out what the cost is compared to the potential benefit in gain and reduced winter forage costs to determine what will work best in their particular case. To make that easier, here’s an Xcel-based calculator where you can plug in the cost of winter feed and compare it to the cost of using low-moisture blocks to extend the grazing season.

How Do You Use Low-Moisture Blocks?

Here are Derek’s tips for being successful:

Cows lick molasses block1. Make sure the animals know what the blocks are before you begin.
“You can’t expect a cow to walk a long ways if they don’t know what the product is,” says Derek. They introduced the blocks to their herd at calving season when the cows were close to the home place. Then when they saw it out on range they knew what it was and they were more likely to travel long distances, up a steep hill to go eat it.

2. There has to be something around the block for them to graze.

3. Show your animals where the block is.
You can place the block and then herd the cows to it the first time so that they know where it is. Then they’ll return on their own to eat it. Once cattle know where a block is, you can place subsequent blocks in a succession, 200 yards or so from the first one, working your way across the landscape. Just don’t put the new block too far from the old one, or they may not find it. Also, the more mountainous your terrain, or the more trees you have, the more you need to do to make sure your herd knows where you are putting new blocks. In Montana, where it was fairly open, Derek found that the cattle would follow the paths where he had driven his vehicle to drop off the next tub. Other researchers have trained cattle to recognize a flag that they placed near the low-moisture block. When the cows saw the flag, they headed over to find their new block. The flag could then be used to move cattle easily to new locations. Finally, Derek says, “You don’t have to show every single animal.  If you show a fourth to a third of the herd, the rest will soon learn where it is.

How Much Product Do You Need?

4wheeler and trailer hauling supplementDerek has found that one 250 pound supplement tub will last 25 cows 2 weeks. But if you can’t drive to your location, you’ll need to consider the smaller size tubs and adjust your quantities accordingly. Derek has hauled smaller tubs on pack horse, but normally used the 250 pound tubs, hauling them with a 4-wheeler and a trailer.

Ranchers See Success

Participants in the study were very positive about the results.  One noted that it kept his cows in a part of the pasture that was rarely used, giving rest to other areas that were typically grazed hard. Another said it gave him summer pasture that he wouldn’t otherwise have, and without that he’d graze 400 less cattle and one less family would be able to make a living at the ranch.

Figuring If It Works For You

Beth Burritt at Utah State University put together a couple of Xcel based calculators to help you do the math for figuring out how much nutrient you need and how much supplementing with low moisture block might compare to feeding hay during the winter. You can download them below and use them to see how low moisture blocks might help you out.

Nutrient Reqs and Costs

Click to download this calculator and try it out.

You Might Be Cell Grazing If…

by Dave Pratt

A lot of ranchers use some kind of grazing rotation. Very few do it in a way that has even a 50/50 chance of improving the health of the land, the performance of their cattle and the profitability of their businesses.  There are so many names attached to various rotations, it is hard to know from the name what people are doing. Cell grazing is not a grazing system, it is a management method based on 5 fundamental principles.

You might be cell grazing if…

  • You are using at least 10 paddocks per herd.  It takes a minimum of 10 paddocks just to stop the overgrazing.  14-16 are required to support decent animal performance and it’ll take 25 or more if you want to see rapid range improvement.   Ranchers using fewer than 8 paddocks are not rotationally grazing. They are rotationally overgrazing.
  • You have combined several herds into one.  The fastest, cheapest way to create more paddocks per herd is to combine multiple herds into one.
  • You have reduced your workload. It takes a lot more time to check 4 herds of 200 cows than it does to check one herd of 800.
  • Productivity per acre has improved without sacrificing individual animal performance.  Many people using grazing rotations increase output per acre but find that individual performance suffers.  Cell graziers keep graze periods short and animals moving frequently to fresh forage. This tends to keep performance high.
  • You’ve dramatically increased the productivity of your pastures and the carrying capacity of your ranch without seeding or fertilizing pastures. Many Ranching for Profit School alumni have doubled the carrying capacity of their ranches while reducing labor and input costs.

 

You aren’t cell grazing if…

  • Someone asks you how long your recovery periods are and you tell them how often you move the cows. I’m continually surprised by the number of people who describe their grazing practices by explaining the length of their graze period when it’s the rest period that is most important.  The single biggest mistake most people make in grazing management is providing too short a rest period.
  • You use the same recovery period year round.  In cell grazing the recovery period is matched to the growth rate of the pasture.  Since growth rates change, the length of recovery periods needs to change too. Slow growth, long recovery.  Fast growth, shorter recovery.
  • Animals are moved from one pasture to the next in lock-step fashion.  In cell grazing, if a paddock isn’t ready for grazing, the animals should not be moved there.  The animals ought to be moved where the resource dictates they go.
  • You have increased your use of herbicides, fertilizer, seeding or fire.  These tools aren’t bad per-se, but they can have more negative consequences than positive ones.  Cell graziers usually don’t find herbicides, fertilizers or seeding necessary and many have dramatically reduced the need to burn.

Responding to a survey we included in last week’s ProfitTips, reader’s answers revealed several important trends. For example, people reporting that carrying capacity increased “A lot”  used an average of more than 30 paddocks/herd. Readers reporting “A little” increase used an average of 20 paddocks/herd, and those reporting no increase used an average of 10 paddocks per herd. The same trend held true for improvements in pasture quality, animal performance and profit.

 

Your responses also revealed several differences in the grazing practices used by Ranching For Profit School alumni v. non-alumni.  The key differences are:

While more than 60% of RFP alumni completing the survey use at least 14 paddocks per herd, only 40% of non-alumni use that many.

 

RFP alumni reported that the average recovery they gave paddocks during fast growth was two to four weeks longer than the rest periods used by people who have not attended the RFP school.  The difference was even greater during slow growth. The average recovery period used by RFP alumni averaged one to two months longer than the recovery periods used by non-alumni.

 

Most interesting to me is the difference between RFP alumni and non-alumni in the change in workload.  RFP Alumni using 30 paddocks or more were four times more likely than non-alumni to report that cell grazing dramatically reduced their workload. Non-alumni using an equal number of paddocks were twice as likely to report a dramatic increase in their workload.

 

The most dramatic decrease in workload was reported by RFP alumni using more than 50 paddocks per herd. Why would the workload decrease for alumni using that many paddocks?  The majority had also timed the breeding season of their livestock to match the breeding season of wildlife, thereby drastically reducing or eliminating the need for hay. Fewer non-alumni had the breeding season of their herds in sync with the forage cycle.

What Does Size Matter?

Cow and calf sizes: A lesson in basic cow economics….

A big question for many cattle producers is how to make their operation more profitable.

“Cow-calf producers tend to operate on a fixed land/feed base associated with a substantial overhead cost in annual rents and finance payments,” says John Dhuyvetter, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension livestock systems specialist at the North Central Research Extension Center near Minot.

Key profitability drivers are the production of as many pounds of calf as possible to sell off the resource (land/feed) and capturing favorable market prices, he notes. Factors that contribute to the pounds produced are the calf crop percentage (low calf losses equate to more calves to sell), cow longevity (lower heifer retention equals more producing cows), calf weights (which are a function of genetics, age, and nutrition), and stocking rate.

For the operation to be sustainable, the forage resource is limited in pounds and the animals it can support. Opportunities are available to enhance production through grazing systems and management that improves soil and moisture retention.

However, while simply overstocking and overutilization may improve output in the short term, they likely will diminish output through time. On a fully utilized land/feed resource, even selecting cows for added calf growth and weaning weights likely will not improve profitability.

“From a feed equivalency standpoint, differing numbers of cows of varied sizes weaning calves of different sizes generate the same market weight,” Dhuyvetter says.

For example, 88 frame score 4 cows each weighing 1,200 pounds and weaning 550-pound steer calves at seven months have roughly the same feed need and generate the same market weight as 75 frame score 7 cows each weighing 1,500 pounds and weaning 650-pound steer calves. The feed needs are similar for 83 frame score 5 cows each weighing 1,300 pounds and weaning 585-pound steer calves, and 79 frame score 6 cows each weighing 1,400 pounds and weaning 620-pound steer calves. With selection for higher milk production, which may increase weaning weight, stocking rates will be reduced further.

“If reproduction, calving loss, culling rate, and market price are the same, there is no advantage to any size group,” Dhuyvetter says.

“If, however, there is some adaption advantage, as seen in maintaining body condition, leading to better breed-back and calf survival, by some type or size group, an economic efficiency exists. Similarly, if the market discounts prices for some weight/size combination, that group will be economically disadvantaged.”

The market generally slides prices, paying more per pound for lighter calves; however, this may not reflect true value differences for some heavier calves capable of greater feeding efficiency and carcass value, he notes. That being the case, somewhat smaller calves appear to be favored until calf prices become discounted.

Along with the consideration of cow and feeder calf size is the potential value of the terminal crossing of larger sires with moderately smaller cows to maintain high cow numbers capable of producing greater weaning weight of greater market preference. An example is mating bulls with acceptable calving ease scores and a frame score of 6 to frame score 4 cows and providing supplemental feed (creep) if necessary to add growth.

“Decades of selection for greater growth and size have been associated with improved efficiencies in the feedlot and packing sectors,” Dhuyvetter says.

“It also has resulted in larger, more productive cow types on the ranch, which may or may not be more efficient.

“Cow requirements need to be matched to and met by ranch resources to avoid costly excessive inputs,” he adds.

“It’s about achieving lots of weight to sell at favorable prices from a herd of cows of moderate size that are capable of producing a high calf crop percentage with minimal culling.” — NDSU Extension

 

Low-Stress Weaning Done Right

Whit Hibbard & Dawn Hnatow September 12, 2018 01:27 P

Low-stress weaning—regardless of how we do it—begins with how we gather and bring in the cattle. If we don’t do it properly, the cows and calves are in panic mode before we even have them in the corral. ( Sara Brown )

A lot of producers look forward to weaning with nothing but dread because it’s so often a bad experience for them, their cows and sometimes their facilities. Many producers can tell stories about their corrals being torn down by the cows postweaning, and not being able to sleep for three or four nights after weaning due to bawling cows and calves.

Also, weaning can be an extremely high-stress experience for calves and the short-term effect on health and performance can be significant. For example, the stress of abrupt weaning increases fatal secondary bacterial respiratory infections and average daily gains can be seriously compromised. 

handling

Conventional Weaning

The conventional belief is weaning is a difficult, traumatic experience, and the cows and calves are going to want to get back together. Therefore, we need to do it in a sturdy corral. And here’s the irony: If we believe that’s the way it’s going to be it probably will; it all starts with our mindset.

But it needn’t be that way.

handling A
Prior to weaning, pour the cattle back and forth several times to prepare them for the weaning. 

Low-stress Weaning

Weaning can be done low stress, but it takes a different mindset. The low-stress belief is that weaning is only traumatic and stressful because we make it so. If left alone, cows will wean their calves naturally and with no fuss and no postweaning sickness or weight loss. They are also more than likely happy to be rid of their 6- to 8-month-old 500-lb. to 600-lb. calves. And that’s the way it should be when we do it. The problem is, we get the animals out of a normal frame of mind and end up causing all the problems we normally experience with weaning. The cows’ concern is us, not necessarily the weaning. If the cattle are always handled well, they learn to trust their handlers and they know their calves aren’t in danger.

So, low-stress weaning—regardless of how we do it—begins with how we gather and bring in the cattle. If we don’t do it properly, the cows and their calves are unmothered and in panic mode before we even have them in the corral. But if we bring them in calmly and mothered up, the actual weaning process is rather uneventful.

Fence-line Weaning

A particular form of low-stress weaning involves weaning through a gate between two pastures. The idea is to calmly separate pairs at the gate so they never lose sight of each other or, if they do, they can quickly find each other across the fence. With this approach the emotional trauma of complete separation is mitigated.

A three-year study compared the behavior and postweaning performance of calves that were: not weaned (the control group), fence-line weaned and abruptly weaned. The fence-line-weaned calves exhibited similar behavior to the non-weaned calves and they spent more time eating than the calves that were abruptly weaned. They also gained 50% more weight during the first two weeks after weaning.

handling B
One or more handlers can keep a slow, steady stream of pairs walking to the gate. Photo: Whit Hibbard

Ingredients For Success

1. Prepare Your Cattle

In general, everything we do with our cattle that we’ve been talking about in this stockmanship series will train more manageable animals that will help in the weaning process.

Of particular importance is training your cattle to calmly walk past a handler at a gate. If you don’t do this, then fence-line weaning will likely be difficult at best.

2.  Pasture Management

You need two pastures, each with enough forage to last at least seven days.

Keep the cattle in the pasture where the calves will stay for several days prior to weaning so they get used to their new home.

handling C
On weaning day, a sorter at the gate is charged with separating cows and calves. Photo: Whit Hibbard

3. Cattle Management

Prior to weaning, pour the cattle back and forth several times to prepare them for the weaning (Figure A).

If your cattle are accustomed to walking calmly past a handler at a gate you might only have to do this exercise once. However, if they are not, you might have to repeat this several times over successive days until they understand the process.

On weaning day:

  • Gather cattle loosely near the gate.
  • The sorter opens the gate and draws the cattle to him (See photo A).
  • One or more handlers can keep a slow, steady stream of pairs walking to the gate (See Photo B).
  • The sorter makes the split at the gate (Photo C).
  • If you make a mistake (e.g., a calf gets through the gate) resist the temptation to fix it because that will unnecessarily stir everything up; rather, wait a few days postweaning and go straighten it out.

Going through these preparatory steps is important. If you don’t follow protocol, you are inviting a wreck. For instance, one rancher fence-line weaned across a page wire electric fence, and the cows tore down a couple hundred feet of the fencing because he didn’t go through these steps. If done properly, however, cattle have been weaned across a single-strand electric fence.

Postweaning

If protocol is followed, weaning should be a non-event for the cattle as illustrated in Photos D and E. Photo D was taken down the fence line (the sorting gate is in the foreground) later on weaning day. As depicted, all the cows and calves are out grazing and nothing is hanging on the fence. Photo E was taken the next day. Some cows and calves have returned to the fence but nothing is balled up on the fence, and there was no bawling. 

Regenerate Earth – we are doing it…

Here is a great article from Holistic Management Canada Newsletter September 2018 Whether you believe in Climate Change or not: If you store more carbon in your soil, you will be more profitable, pastures more productive, and your land will be more resilient. As Blain states it is a WIN-WIN solution.

Climate Change Solutions by Blain Hjertaas
Several months ago, I wrote about the history of the climate change and the limited success of change to date. In fact most people are disengaged and feel powerless to effect change on the single greatest event that we have ever faced as a species. This focuses on some of the practical solutions that we are doing and could all be doing.

If you look into climate issues one of the first things you will come across is the Keeling Curve. In 1958 Dr. Charles Keeling set up an observatory on Mauna Loa in Hawaii high on the side of a mountain facing into the Pacific trade winds. He wanted samples that would be representative of world levels. In 1958 the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was 312 parts per million (PPM). The observatory is still working today and levels are 409PPM (as of July 2). (See attached photos from previous post)

If we look at a single year the levels are the highest in the winter and the lowest in the summer. The reason for this is more land mass in the northern hemisphere. As we green up in the spring the green growth uses a tremendous amount of C02 which brings the curve down. There isn’t an equivalent amount of land in the southern hemisphere to offset our winter period so the curve oscillates being the highest in winter and lowest in summer.

How much? On an annual basis the natural cycles remove about 120 billion tonnes of C02 in the spring and in the fall about 130 billion tonnes are released back into the atmosphere from vegetation dying, land use, fire and burning fossil fuel. Hence the gradual slow increase in the curve which is currently at 409PPM.

If we want to become serious about climate change we need to ramp up photosynthesis, so that we are removing 130 billion tonnes every spring or better yet 140 billion tonnes so we begin to remove the legacy load from the atmosphere. Over time our C02 levels will begin to decline and our climate will become more stable.

The question is how do we do this? Most of our discussions over the last 60 years have focused on limiting our burning of fossil fuels as the solution to climate change. Fossil fuels contribute about 6% of the 130 billion tonnes that move annually in C02 cycle. I’m not saying we shouldn’t burn less fossil fuel. If we want to have an effect why wouldn’t we do something that has a major effect not a 6% effect?

We can see from the above chart, how we have changed the surface of our home over the last 10000 years with agriculture. Instead of 13 billion ha doing photosynthesis, we now have 8.5 billion ha doing photosynthesis and some of that is not very efficient. Crops are only green for 70 or 80 days of the year and the desert is doing nothing. If all 13 billion ha of our surface were functioning effectively we would not be having this discussion.

To solve the problem we need to ramp up photosynthesis worldwide so we are cycling at least 130 billion tonnes per year and better yet 140 billion.

As nature did, we only have one means to do this. That is to maximize plant growth so as to:
• A) Draw down carbon from the air to fix it via plant photosynthesis and then…
• B) Minimize how much of that fixed carbon is oxidized back to CO2 and instead allow it to be…
• C) Converted via soil fungi into stable soil carbon to restore the Earth’s carbon ‘sponge’.
This A, B and C process is simple and natural, but what matters is that we do it, now.
How do we do it on a world scale? I don’t know but part of it is knowledge. The good news is that most of us are already doing it. With our grazing management we are maximizing photosynthetic capture which relates to C02 cycling. The beauty of it is that it gives us more production and makes our system more resilient as we build our soil carbon sponge. It’s a win/ win for everyone as we begin to regenerate our soils using holistic principles.

Spread the good news about what you are doing on your farms and ranches. It is critical we get our good news story out, that we are the solution to climate change.

The above is a very brief summary of the work that Dr. Walter Jehne is doing. HM Canada recently sponsored him at a meeting in Regina.

For more on Dr. Walter Jehne’s work:

READ: http://www.globalcoolingearth.org/regenerate-earth/
WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nC6j80sLZo

BeefTalk: Livestock Diversity a Good Thing

Drovers

Kris Ringwall, NDSU Extension Service

August 31, 2018 07:30 AM

The study of chemistry is based on absolutes more than variation.

The study of biology is based on variation more than absolutes.

Sometimes, what we do is absolute, but more often than not, what we do has a varied response.

That is so true in agriculture. Agricultural managers are called upon routinely to evaluate variation and sort out the good and, in some cases, actually seek more, not less, planned variation. And so today, we take a look at diversity.

Diversity is a buzzword today in agriculture: crop rotations, planting sequences, cover crops. All of these elements are part of successful management.

Grasslands, by their evolution, are historically diverse. However, the cows in the pasture have very little visual diversity, which is evidenced by cattle producers’ underutilization of additional cattle breeds or types.

Diversity throughout agriculture is a good thing. The crossing of cattle breeds or selected lines of cattle opens a new dimension, a dimension that positively responds to the freshness of increased vigor. That is good.

Just like crop producers are exploring and expanding plant diversity within grain and forage production, so should the beef producer. The livestock producer does not need to stop with simply crossbreeding cattle. I want to go one step further and expand the grassland grazers to cattle and sheep.

Yes, I said cattle and sheep. Diversity of livestock is a healthy approach to livestock production, and that goodness ultimately is expressed in better grass production through enhanced grasslands. Cattle and sheep are an obvious source of diversity within grassland grazers.

The complementary grazing of cattle and sheep is real, not just something to ponder. The Dickinson Research Extension Center determined the biological needs of sheep fit very well with cattle.

In fact, grazing ewes and cattle at the center, one ewe to every cow, complemented the cow herd very well. The cow and ewes, along with their offspring, were able to maintain normal growth without affecting the grasslands.

A very diverse plant population exposed to two types of grazers allows the opportunity for additional revenue per acre above the revenue from simply grazing with cattle. The grass did well, the livestock did well and the producer did well.

But! Yes, this scenario has “buts.” Creating diversity with alternative livestock assumes cows have the luxury of being the principal, or primary, grazing animal. The cow is not going to be replaced, but reviewing other opportunities for grazing alternative, companion livestock is a good mind-expanding process.

On a recent trip to Mongolia, I observed vast comingled herds of grazing cattle, sheep, goats, yaks, camels and horses on grasslands. Why? The thought is to better utilize the land and available forage that grows on the land.

Obviously, comingling has limits, and once that limit is met, additional grazing or stocking on the grasslands is detrimental. But finding that limit is part of the art and science of livestock production. One thing is for sure: Grazing systems that only utilize one species, such as cattle, leave additional grazing opportunities on the table.

But – yes, another “but” – comingling livestock, such as cattle and sheep, is not easy. The challenges to measuring the bottom dollar in a cattle or sheep operation are difficult to overcome. Nevertheless, let’s move forward.

At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, research suggesting one ewe can be added to the grasslands for every cow that is grazing at no expense to cattle or grasslands is ongoing. Granted, adding sheep to a cattle operation means more work and producer education; however, that does not mean the opportunity is not there.

What about the grass? What about the added dollars if dollars are tight? Currently, the center maintains a flock of White Dorper and St. Croix crossbred hair sheep to graze areas that the cattle will not.

This approach does bring challenges. Like most beef operations, the center is short of labor. Adding a more management-intensive species of livestock, such as sheep, requires considerable thought and planning. Still, the bottom line: When appropriate, adding ewes to make the sheep enterprise significant without decreasing the cow herd makes sense.

For years, the center has utilized sheep for forage management, particularly around the empty cattle pens during the summer. Although the cattle pastures have not been targeted yet, the center has several plant species that could be managed better by multispecies grazing. But first, management hurdles need to be addressed.

Sheep uniqueness also is very real, but diversity is good. The learning curve is steep but doable. But do we want to? “Yes” is the correct answer.

May you find all your ear tags.