This spring, we’ve over-seeded many of our fields. We put in plenty of clover to enrich the earth. Clover is a legume that takes nitrogen from the air and adds it to the soil. This is a good way to naturally enrich the soil, without using chemical fertilizers. Some farmers simply turn the clover over in their fields, using it in a manner called “green manure.” This adds organic material along with the nitrogen to the soil. If you can’t access animal manure for your garden spot, you may want to try overseeding your spot with clover in the fall, and turning it over in the spring to enrich the earth.
Another nice thing about clover is the fact that you can graze your animals on it, and it is a high-protein feed for cattle, sheep, and goats. Of course, you have to be very careful. Clovers used for grazing need to get a bit mature. Otherwise, a field of lush clover can cause your ruminants to bloat.
Bloat happens when the animal can’t belch up gas quickly enough and its rumen becomes distended. If an animal gets too much air in its belly, the expanded rumen can put pressure on its lungs, eventually suffocating the poor critter. This has happened to us before and it is a dreadful thing.
Yesterday, put our sheep out in one of our newly seeded fields. My husband checked on them six hours later, and said they were acting sluggish. Sure enough, their left sides were puffy, a sure sign of bloat. We immediately moved them off of the field and put them in another field where they would only have access to dry hay. I checked on them several times last night, and again early this morning. Thankfully, they are much better today.
I read online that we need to make the change to new spring pasture extremely gradually. Their tummies have to have a chance to populate with enzymes and bacteria that will break down the new feed without producing excess gas. I forgot that sheep are so much smaller than a cow, so it will take them much less time to overindulge on rich feed than a cow. So, over the next few days, they will have very limited access to nibbles of clover until they can handle the rich green feed.
Photo Credit: Clover…Non-Spreadable by Alex Drennan, via Flikr