9 January 1998

Sheep come each winter for the sun

WARM winter weather also provides winter forage for sheep. One of the largest concentrations of sheep in the United States gathers in the Coachella, Imperial and Palo Verde valleys each winter – close to 300,000 sheep are brought in from adjacent western mountain states. The attraction is that one of the largest concentrations of alfalfa in the world is located here.

According to Juan Guerrero and V L Marble, agricultural extension engineers for the University of California, a slow winter alfalfa hay market plus a supply of late-born lambs in the mountainous western states make the pasturing of alfalfa in the desert valleys of California and Arizona a viable economic option for both graziers and alfalfa producers.

A number of factors may affect lamb average daily gain (ADG) on alfalfa pasture but lamb gain in relation to herbage allowance is one of the variables that graziers can most easily manage.

Above, right and below: Total agricultural production in Imperial Valley in 1996

was £560m.

Everything from asparagus to dates, alfalfa to sugar beet, oranges to cotton is grown in the state.