Training Kit No. 3.1  

HOW DO YOU GRAZE MEDIC?

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Script: Brian and Lynne Chatterton.

Photos: Florita Botts.

Additional photos: Brian Chatterton.

Production: Florita Botts.
 

 

Photo No. 1.

    When the medic plants have germinated and grown to the height of half a hand  - about 8 to 10 cm high -  grazing can begin.

Check the pasture every few days to make sure that the height is kept about 8 to 10 cm.  
 

Photo No. 2.

    This is a pasture that has been over-grazed in winter.

The height of 8 to 10 cm. was not achieved.

You can see the medic plants do not cover all the ground.

Pasture production is much lower.

If over-grazing continues the medic plants will produce only a few pods in the spring.

  

Photo No. 3.

    To control the height of the pasture feed the sheep some cereal straw at night and in the morning in the sheep fold. 

If the pasture is over-grazed take them out for a short period each day until the pasture recovers. 

If the pasture grows taller than 8 to 10 cm take the sheep out to graze for longer periods each day.  

Photo No. 4.

    In the spring, the pasture will grow faster and you can graze the sheep on the pasture for longer and longer periods each day.

Feed less straw in the fold. 
 

Photo No. 5

    Do not let your medic pasture become tall like this.

  

Photo No. 6.

    If you do not graze the pasture enough in the spring it will grow too tall.

Weeds will grow taller than the medic and shade the medic plants.

The value of the pasture as green feed will be less.

There will be less production of medic pods for summer feed and regeneration.  

Photo No. 7.

    If your green medic has not been grazed each day during winter and spring, your sheep may develop bloat when you begin to graze them on the over-grown pasture.

To avoid any possibility of bloat make sure the sheep have been fed on straw before they begin to graze.

You should graze them for short periods each day on the tall pasture until they become accustomed to it.  
 

Photo No. 8.

    In the spring the medic plants produce yellow flowers.
 

Photo No. 9.

    The flowers turn into seed pods.

These are the pods of barrel medic.

The pasture can still be grazed but the same rules apply.

The pasture should not be grazed below a height of 8 to 10 cm.  
 

Photo No. 9.

    When the pods are dry they will fall on the ground.

Grazing can continue with care. (see Measuring the pods)  

Photo No. 9.

    Do NOT cut the medic pasture for hay in the first spring.

If you do you will prevent the medic plants from producing pods and seed.

The seed is essential for the medic pasture to germinate again in the following autumn.

Photo No. 10

    In later years you can cut hay from medic pasture, but only after the pods have fallen on the ground.

Photo No. 11.

    Dry medic pods and straw are high quality feed for sheep in summer.

Sheep will gain weight on this dry medic pasture.  

Photo No. 12.

    During summer grazing, the hooves of the sheep push some of the seed pods into the soil where they cannot be picked up by the sheep.
 

Photo No 13.

    On hard soil the sheep will eat almost all the seed pods that are on the surface unless you take them to other grazing.

You must move them off the medic pasture before all the seed pods are eaten.

If they are eaten you will not have any seeds for your next medic pasture.  

Photo No. 14.

     This is a simple way to tell when to stop summer grazing of dry pods.

In the next group of photos we will show you how to use this simple device to count the pods remaining on the ground.

When the pod count becomes low you must move your sheep to another pasture or cereal stubble.

Photo No. 15.

    Late summer or early autumn is a good time to broadcast phosphate.

Apply 100 kg per ha. of triple phosphate.

When the rains come this will wash in and fertilise your medic pasture.

If you sow cereals it is better to apply the phosphate close to the cereal seed with a combine seeder.  

Photo No. 16.

    Some of the seed in the medic pods will germinate when the autumn rains fall.

The seedling will produce another abundant pasture for winter grazing.  

Photo No. 17.

    You have now completed the cycle from one autumn to the next.

You have a medic pasture that has regenerated naturally.

You do not need to buy more seed, to cultivate or sow.

The new pasture will cost very little.

The only expense is the phosphate broadcast earlier.

    Once the medic has reached a height of 8 to 10 cm. grazing can begin again.

Return to Photo No. 1.
 

Continue to next Training Kit No 3.2
 
 

FURTHER INFORMATION AND LINKS

    I have emphasised the need to plan a rough balance between the medic pasture and the number of sheep from the very beginning. This make grazing management much easier. An account of the planning process is provided in Planning the stocking rate for medic.

    The grazing of the green medic pasture is based on achieving a balance between the needs of the sheep and the pasture. The first stage is to build the photosynthesis factory in the form of a dense pasture 8 to 10 cm high. Keeping the pasture at this height provides optimum production of feed for the sheep. More details are provided in Grazing green medic.

    The question of bloat in sheep fed on lush medic is mentioned. Over the last thirty years in the WANA region this has been a minor problem. It has occurred when the following factors combine:

  * Medic too lush.

Has not been grazed on a regular basis from the 8 to 10 cm of height stage.

    * Sheep very hungry.

Have been kept in fold for a few days (probably due to bad weather) and have not been fed sufficient hay or straw.

    * Shepherds have failed to take care when introducing the hungary sheep to the medic pasture.

They have been allowed to graze too long. Instead they should be introduced gradually perhaps for half an hour every few hours.

    Hay production from medic pasture can cause difficulties.

It is never recommended for the first season. The reason hay is considered in the first season is a failure to plan the medic in relation to the sheep flock.

Farmers see the excess of pasture from an under or un-grazed pasture and naturally wish to convert it into income.

This should be resisted as pods are often removed with the hay and the pasture fails to regenerate. More details in Hay production.

    Grazing the dry medic is discussed in more detail in the next group of photos and in Grazing dry medic.
 

    The grazing management cycle in the above group of photos is completed with the regeneration of the medic pasture. At this stage the farmer has a number of options. The pasture can be kept as a medic pasture or cultivated for a cereal crop. These options are discussed in Decision time in autumn.