Justin Morris
The following question was recently asked at a webinar that Linda Poole and I co-presented. The question was:

I like to have my lambing take place in the same place each spring because it is close to the house and easier for me to make sure everyone is ok. Can I do anything to counteract the damage this might cause to diversity, etc? They do come back through those paddocks at varying times the rest of the season.

My response was to consider using the next closest field so that each lambing pasture would only have lambs in it every two years instead of every year. Linda gave a great response which was to divide the lambing pasture into several, smaller paddocks where only one of the paddocks would be used for lambing in any given year.

Here are a few more options to consider:
  1. After thinking about it a bit, one of the answers is in the question itself. The question stated that after lambing, livestock return to the same paddock at various times the rest of the season. Allowing livestock to keep coming back like this allows the plants to be grazed again before they have fully recovered. This is the definition of overgrazing. Overgrazing reduces plant diversity because only a few species of plants can recover quick enough to not be overgrazed. Because the plants in the lambing pasture will be starting from ground zero once lambing is over, they will need the longest time to recover. This means that livestock should be totally excluded from that field for the rest of the year so that no overgrazing occurs.
  2. If number 1 above is followed, plant diversity might be maintained to a certain level, but may not be as diverse as the other paddocks where season of use can be changed from year to year. At this point, it's perfectly okay for the lambing field to not be the most plant diverse. While a diversity of grasses, legumes and forbs is the ideal for all pastures, sometimes the ideal isn't always possible. A grazing system must also take into account our own personal circumstances.
  3. An alternative to number 2 above would be to plant a diverse mixture of annual forage species after the lambing season that could be grazed 45 to 60 days later and potentially again in another 60 days. All the manure and urine that was left in the lambing pasture should provide plenty of nutrients for the annual forage mixture. Depending on the size of the lambing pasture, this strategy may significantly increase the amount of forage being grown for those livestock coming back to the lambing field later in the growing season while providing some excellent soil health benefits.
  4. An alternative to numbers 2 and 3 above would be to plant the lambing pasture or a part of it to a garden. Again, the manure and urine from lambing should provide sufficient fertility for the garden without adding anything else to the soil. Once the garden is harvested, livestock could be turned in to graze some of the crop residue. Another option within this strategy is to keep livestock out and leave all the residue to cover the garden area during the winter and very early spring. Then when ewes arrive to lamb, there should still be plenty of soil cover and the ground should be clean of any previous manure, making for clean conditions for lambing.
Does anyone else have more ideas to answer this question? I'd love to hear them!

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