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How many pounds of seed?

 
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I’m clearing pasture for my sheep and I’m wondering how many pounds of seed per acre is normally used? I’m using a mix of about 6 types of forage seeds, annual rye, perennial rye, birdsfoot trefoil, bromegrass, Timothy, and orchards grass.

I had my soil tested and I tilled in the recommended amount of lime so I’m good on nutrients and my ph is on the rise. I have an starting from dirt. I can only find info in reseeding, not starting from scratch.

So, what’s the recommended amount of seed to use on my freshly tilled pasture?
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master pollinator
Posts: 668
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Hi Matthew, I hope it's OK for me to be forthright with my view; please don't take it as a condemnation, just a different point of view.

If I had your property and wanted sheep on it, I wouldn't have done anything that you did.  I can understand why you did it, as it's probably what the conventional ag people advise, but there are other ways to approach it.

First, I don't know what you cleared from your pasture, but I'm going to assume that it didn't consist of plants that are poisonous to sheep.  If it was, you get a free punch the next time you see me, but not in the face, I'm not pretty enough to take damage there.  Otherwise, what you had there to begin with would've been food for the sheep; maybe not top quality, but still edible.  Tilling the soil is very disruptive to the organisms that live in the soil and even conventional ag is moving towards 'No till' methods, though they use herbicides to do that.  Soil also usually has a huge amount of seed already that's just waiting for the right conditions to grow.  Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of clear-cut logging, but I've always seen the land sprout vegetation afterwards from the seeds already there.  It may not be what you want, but it's often what the land needs, at least initially.  So, I would've fenced the pasture, set it up for rotations every 1-3 days, let the sheep eat it all down to the ground (they're very good at that), then see what comes up.  If you've got the right stocking rate, by the time they circle back around, you'll have slightly better pasture for them to eat.  Rinse and repeat, and you'll eventually get a much higher quality pasture through pressure on the undesirable species and the fertility the sheep add through rotational grazing.  You can seed behind the sheep, though I think the best thing to do would be to broadcast seed BEFORE the sheep graze, let them clear out the growth at the same time they push the new seed into the earth and fertilize it with manure and urine.

You didn't do that, but it's not the end of the world, not even close.  I figure you've got two options: let it grow what's already in the soil or seed it yourself.  If you choose to seed it now, you may find that the conditions aren't great for your seed mix  so the seed you sow will be out-competed by the native seedbank.  By using a mix you're increasing your chances that one or two species in the mix grow well, but don't expect only your seeds to germinate.  

For seeding rates, I think a lot of your varieties would be in the 5-10 lb/ac range.  If you want to seed it all, I'd seed at half the rate suggested, or at the lower end of a range, but I like to experiment, so I'd do it in strips and I'd leave at least a paddock bare, just to see what comes up.   Unless the original pasture was toxic, I'd leave 1/4 of the pasture unseeded, the next 1/4 seed at full rate recommended for reseeding, next 1/4 at 25% of recommended reseeding rate, then half the rate for the last 1/4.  This will give you an idea of what works and how much seed you need.  With rotational grazing you'll improve your pasture and you can always seed in front of the sheep to thicken your stand.

Hope that helps.
 
Matthew Steven
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No worries at all.
The land was, and is, mainly covered in Russian olives and wild rose. Their wasn’t much other stuff growing in the underbrush, and there was about 6” of dead leaves, branches, and other duff on the ground.

I could have let them graze the garbage but I guess you’ve never dealt with a sheep’s long wool caught in thorny rose branches.

So I made the decision to clear the land, which was a good opportunity to till in lots of lime to bring the soil ph up. Which afforded me the opportunity to plant a healthy grazing field for my sheep.

If I had goats, I would just let them graze and follow behind them and reseed but the sheep are different, their wool poses a different set of issues.

I appreciate your advice and I might try something similar in the future.
 
Timothy Markus
master pollinator
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That makes sense.  I'd still recommend trying different seeding, even if you just do a few patches that way.
 
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