Heritage Breed Conference

Last weekend I attended the Heritage Breed Conference in Santa Rosa, California.  This conference is hosted by the Livestock Conservancy and this year it was 'Everything Sheep'.  I attended some great field trips and workshops - including one on targeted grazing.  I learned so much about pasture management and intensive grazing, lots to implement on the farm in upcoming years.  The talks were very informative, covering everything from marketing to shearing to livestock guardian dogs.  Every one of them seemed to have a topic that was applicable to me.  There were great opportunities to network with other sheep lovers, exchanging experiences, ideas, contact information.  Team Black Welsh Mountain was well represented.

A couple of topics were really timely for where we are as a farm.  The livestock guardian talk was great - we finally made the decision to get one and I appreciated the ideas about how to set her up for success.

Pasture management has been something we just have not had time for.  The limited pastures we have are quite overgrazed and we never seem to be able to get enough fencing in to keep up.  After the targeted grazing workshop, I spent a little time with Google Earth and started drafting a pasture management plan.  We are not at the point of targeted grazing yet, but this is something we hope we can add to our business model.  Targeted grazing is where you are hired to graze a specific area for a particular benefit.  In California, they do this a lot for fuels reduction to help mitigate wildfire impacts around homes.  I can see a real use for sheep in targeting reed-canary grass in our area.  We are going to start with our own place and see how that goes.  The sheep definitely eat things that the horses won't so I can see a use for them in rehabilitating our pastures also.  As part of the workshop, we learned some techniques for successfully using net fencing.  We have some and have had good luck with it as long as the sheep think they have food.  As soon as they think they are out of food in an area, good luck keeping them in.  So we have some work to do there.  I am putting in for some grant money this year to help us improve our pastures.  Hopefully we will be successful in that.  As always - lots and lots of work planned for next year.