— The Maine Alpaca Association Team

Spudland Alpacas

Working towards being one of Maine's premier alpaca farms.

Richard Porter
P.O. Box 43 Blaine, ME 04734

Pasture Information

We have only the best for our herd

Alan Perry, CCA - Bedrock Soil Balancing Services - A Division of Farm Technologies Network

Have you ever wished you had more pasture space for the animals that you have? This is a common problem for livestock growers. Space is expensive and often hard to come by. As livestock numbers increase, either by plan or by accident, it is critically important that the pasture space you have is producing at its potential.

Part of the solution to this problem comes from an overlooked and perhaps unlikely place. This solution comes from a soil test. No matter if you have one animal or 1,000 animals, if the grass in your pasture is part of your animal?s diet, it is important to make sure you have yearly soil tests taken. The best way to make sure that your animals are being fed the essential minerals they need is to make sure the grass they eat is being fed adequate amounts of all the essential elements. It is recognized that it takes at least 17 minerals, which are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Boron, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Chlorine and Potassium as well as pH, organic matter, and exchange capacity, to maintain plant and animal health. Human health requires more than 60 minerals every day.

This is what a soil test is for. You can't manage what you can not measure. With an accurate measurements of what amounts and kinds of minerals are present in your pasture soils, it is an easy process to add those that are lacking and to stop adding those which you already have available. This simple process is often overlooked by livestock producers. They often think that soil tests are for crop farmers. It is even more important to livestock owners in order to reduce the high costs of mineral supplements, veterinary bills, and to eliminate animal losses. A livestock producer?s crop is GRASS. Taking a simple soil test every 12 months can provide the information needed to create a soil management program.

Unfortunately, not all soil samples are alike. There are many places that produce soil sample analysis. Each state has a university lab, fertilizer companies take soil samples and there are a number of private soil testing companies. Each of these produce similar information but some companies sample more items than others, use a number of different tests, and they present the information in different forms. Some companies provide fertilizer recommendations, some only laboratory results. As a result, they have a number of different prices. If three companies take a soil test and they all recommend adding 1,000 lbs. per acre of dolomite lime, then you have three good soil tests. But if one company says add 2,000 lbs high calcium lime, one company says add 1,000 lbs dolomite lime and the third says don?t add anything at all, then you, the rancher, has a problem. How can you tell which one, if any, are correct?

The answer is simple. The best soil test and/or soil consultant is the one who gets the best results. Remember, we are taking soil tests to provide information that can be used to create animal health and grass quality. The test program must provide results that are predictable and repeatable and should be a system that you can learn so you can be part of the nutrient management planning process.

After working with soil test programs in eleven countries for more than 15 years, I have chosen the Albrecht soil fertility program as the best soil testing program in the world. This is the program that I use for all the soil tests I take. This program has produced results on some of the most difficult soil conditions in the world on row crops, root crops, tree crops, vine crops, golf courses, lawns, and on pastures.

This program is easy to understand and there are books, tapes and classes for those who would like to learn more about how the system works.

Unlike human health, livestock illness creates no profits for anyone. The cheapest way to maintain healthy animals is to make sure the 17 essential minerals are always available. This will help with animal reproduction, fiber quality, keep animals producing longer, reduce the need for costly mineral supplements, and reduce costly vet bills. When soils have the minerals they need, they will produce larger quantities of high quality feed, allowing more animals in the same space. Also, the soil microbiology can reduce or eliminate problems with animal parasites.

Do not forget about winter hay crops as well. If grass is grown or purchased for feeding during the winter, this should also be tested for its mineral levels. This simple test may help you decide what value to place on purchased hay.

If you have not had your pasture tested in the last 12 months, or if you are not familiar with the Albrecht soil testing program, E mail us today and make an appointment. Soils can be tested any time the soil is not frozen and results are usually produced in two to three weeks.