The weather has been unseasonably warm and the snow is all but gone again. We are feeding all the livestock, but I have been surprised by the amount of grazing they are doing. While some of the pastures have some stockpiled grass, others have little because of the dry growing season. The amount or quality doesn’t seem to deter the animals however. They seem to be eating only the best hay and leaving everything else, preferring instead to move around the pasture and pick at the dormant grass.
Watching this makes me wonder what it is that urges the animals to do this. They could easily get their fill by staying at the hay, so it is unlikely hunger that moves them on. It may be that these dormant grasses are quite tasty, or it may be some inherent desire that makes grazing animals want to graze. They have evolved to do just that, so it maybe should not come as a surprise that they prefer it, and feel content to fill a good portion of their time by moving across the land in search of feed. I also have to wonder if animals which are not given the opportunity to graze have the desire to do so, even if they are given ample feed.
On the other side of this is the grass. I have rarely worried about winter grazing, and usually encourage the animals to do so, but this year, with some pastures having very little late season growth, I worry that we are taking too much of the grass and may impact the growth next year, particularly if we have a dry spring. I will be moving the sheep off one particular pasture soon, and try to balance the health of the pasture with the animals which rely on it.