How we ensure our Dohne Merinos have good nutrition – ALL year
DOHNE-MERINO, FARMING, GRAZING | APRIL 29, 2019
It’s planting time in the Overberg. Because Suidplaas Dohnes is a mixed farming operation, we not only plant cash crops. But we also focus on making sure we have enough grazing for our Dohne Merinos.
This side of the Suidplaas farming operation is run by Jan du Toit (Wynand’s nephew). And Jan and the Suidplaas team have developed a system that ensures our sheep have pastures and feed available to them THROUGHOUT the year.
More than that, in 2001, we shifted to a conservation agriculture practice. That means we focus on:
– Minimum till (which has reduced our carbon footprint significantly);
– Leaving permanent soil cover;
– And a 5-year crop rotation system.
We’re in a winter rainfall area in the Overberg. And that’s great for the hardy Dohne Merino. Dohnes can withstand the long dry summers (and EVEN the droughts, as we recently experienced in the Overberg).
But here’s how we use our planting programme and crop rotation on our camps to provide good quality nutrition for our sheep all year.
- YEAR 1-4
Lucerne is planted as grazing for the sheep.
- YEAR 5
We grid each camp, then add compost with dairy and beef cattle manure to the veld. This cuts down on the use of fertilizers, and adds phosphates and trace elements to the soil. (The compost does not contain lots of nitrogen, though, so that needs to still be applied).
- YEAR 6
We plant oats (either as grazing, or for malt); or we plant a triticale, pea and vetch mix, or canola and vetch (for grazing or we harvest and bale it for feed during the summer months).
- YEAR 7
We plant wheat on the land.
- YEAR 8
Then we turn to barley (for malt).
- YEAR 9
We stick with barley for malt.
- YEAR 10
We under seed Lucerne to canola. That way we can establish Lucerne for grazing for the next 5-year cycle.
- YEAR 11
Some lands remain in rotation for longer periods, and we plant lupin on these, which we harvest and feed to our Dohne Merinos.
After each harvest
We put our Dohne sheep on the harvested land. They pick up excess kernels and heads of grain. And they graze down the weeds; so they serve as a natural way to control weeds (as opposed to using herbicide).
According to Jan, these steps are all essential in maintaining healthy soils. He says, “After all, healthy soils feed a healthy animal.”
A percentage of our arable land is used for cash crops. But you’ll find Lucerne on 55% of our arable land ALWAYS – albeit at different ages. And we have other planted pastures on 8% of our land.
Dohne Tip: We feed the lupin to our Dohne ewes just before we put the ram with them. It’s a tip to improve their fertility.