Recap: Ohio Forage and Grassland Council Tour

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

On Friday morning July 12th, forage and grassland enthusiasts gathered in Jackson, Ohio for the annual Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council annual sheep and forage tour. A group of twenty, including livestock producers, forage managers, educators, and agricultural industry representatives, headed northwest toward Chillicothe to visit Pastured Providence Farmstead.

There they met Paul Dorrance, the owner and operator of the farm. Paul shared with the group how he came to settle down on a farm in Ohio after a career as a pilot in the United States Air Force. Although he still serves in the reserves out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, the farm is his full-time job. Paul and his wife Heather are passionate about healthy, local food, and a fullfilling life, which has led them to producing all-natural products for consumers including lamb, beef, pork, poultry, honey, maple syrup and more. They raise St. Croix sheep for the purpose of producing 100% grass-fed lamb. The primary way they sell their products is through farmers markets. Paul utilizes multi-species grazing and rotational grazing in his management program to promote the health of his soils, forages, and animals.

After a delicious BBQ lunch at Old Canal Smokehouse in Chillicothe, the group headed back Southwest into Galia County to visit Payne Family Farms.

Scott Payne, who along with farming at home, also works for The Ohio State University as the farm manager of the Jackson Agricultural Research Station, and his family hosted us for the afternoon. The farm was previously a dairy, but now more diverse. Scott’s father now raises Holstein heifers on the farm. Together they have a herd of beef cattle, corn, beans, hay, and a flock of 80 Katahdin ewes. This year Scott introduced new genetics into the flock. He is now experimenting with using a Texel ram as a terminal sire for market lambs and is excited to see how the do as they mature. Much of the farm lies on reclaimed strip-mined coal ground which presents both challenges and opportunities in their production system. With the addition of  repeated dairy manure applications over the years, and diligent management, the ground produces well for the purpose.

Both Paul and Scott selected the breeds for their flocks based on the documented resistance to parasites and because both the St. Croix and Katahdin breeds are considered “hair sheep”, meaning that they shed their coats without the need for shearing. The compounding issues of parasite pressures on small ruminants and a shortage of sheep shearers in the region make both breeds appealing.

Both farm visits were enjoyable and enlightening for the members of the tour and we were thankful to have beautiful weather the whole day.

Special thanks go out Pastured Providence Farmstead and Payne Family Farms for hosting the tour stops and to the Ohio Sheep and Wool Program for sponsoring this educational event!

Save the date for next year’s tour on July 10, 2020.