We have a 10acre block in the Wairarapa, completely flat. The growth on it is a mix of everything, grasses, dock, thistles, weeds, a bit of clover, truckloads of plantain. At the moment we have someone else's sheep grazing, but in about 3 or 4 years we'll have our own alpacas, maybe some goats and in the meantime we'll get it turned into baleage from time to time. What i want to know is, while the land is completely empty, is it worth the effort and cost to get it re-sown with decent grass? Is good grass so important to sheep, goats and alpacas, and worthwhile for baleage.
I have no idea how much a re-sow of 10 acres would cost, presumably it varies depending on whether we get it completely turned & tilled or just kill off the existing growth & drill sow into it.
Unless you are into spending money in the hope of making even more [to my mind, a dicey proposition on a 4-hectare grazing block], 'good grass' can be pretty much what you describe in your second sentence...minus the thistles. First up, read up on controlling thistles. [Eradication is possible, over time...if your neighbours are working on it too.] You will soon come to appreciate which other species of weeds need to be kept down, because your animals won't eat them.
Unless the fertility, pH and minerals are correct for pasture, then new varieties will not do as well as what is there. New varieties need more fertility than established pasture for them to become established. Thus to my thinking you should start at the beginning and get the lime and fertiliser correct, and then see if you need to re-new the species.
Good idea, will hunt down a soil testing kit or two. One of our immediate neighbours on a 2.5 acre block has his completely turned and re-sown in lawn grass,, he takes fabulous care of it and it's starting to look like a cricket pitch. While I'm more after productive pasture for animals, I hope thats an indication that the soil can grow good stuff. We aren't overrun with thistles, more dotted here and there and pulled out or roundup'd whenever we find them,, and I forgot buttercup. Last spring it was yellow as far as the eye could see, but this year, not so much. I think buttercup is generally bad...
think about what alpacas would be eating in their natural environment, it wouldn't be lush green grass for sure! They are browsing animals so a good mixture of species is needed, plus some foliage like tagasaste or willow. I would just mow what you have and do some soil tests as suggested.
Buttercup tells you one thing for certain...the soil pH is low...ie, acidic. If you want more grass and clover growth then you need lime. Most people seem to hate buttercup, but my Wiltshires have always thrived on it. [??]
As with everything .... including water and oxygen ... too much buttercup is poisonous. Nutritionly it appears to not be beneficial so none is best, a little bit is not worth panicking about, but when there is lots then other food needs to be available.
Thanks for those comments. Interesting that the photo we took over a year ago is lovely lush grass & lots of buttercup, this year there's barely any, all the yellow flowers are dandelions. I pulled out armfuls of stuff that has long feathery leaves & tiny purple flowers, easy to spot from the flowers & easy to pull out once you trace down to the base & pull all the leaf stalks together. This summer though there's just bits of everything. Very good point though that neither alpacas or goats are likely to be fussy eaters. We're going to plant fruit trees soon, so a soil test is probably a good idea anyway. Next stop, shade trees.