Rotational grazing and pasture maintanance : LUSENET : ACountryPlace : One Thread

I am really interested in what all of you are doing in this direction. Our new place is 4acres with about 2+ in Pasture. My goal is to create three pastures(on small and two large)and grow feed as well as run livestock in them. A long time ago I read a great book written in the homesteading heyday of the seventies about how to manage animals and pasture on small acreage. I have searched both online and offline for this book to no avail. Unfortunately I have no Title. Nevertheless book or no book I plan to grow summer feed crops in one side and then turn animals into the pasture after the harvest. First will be the goats, then the cow, and finally the pigs. During this time I plan to turn the other pasture to a winter feed crop. Does anyone have any experience with what I am talking about? This was sent to me by a friend on an e-mail list. It has a lot of really good links. hope you all enjoy them as much as I did.

"Some good books are Grass Productivity -Andre Voisin Greener pastures on Your side of the Fence by Bill Murphy Salad Bar beef - Joel Salatin Gold in the Grass - Margaret F Leatherbarrow Pleasant Valley = Louis Bromfield Grasses and Grassland Farming - Hi W. Staten Permaculture - Bill Mollison Holistic Management - Allan Savory Allan Savory has a website that is I believe he also has a sustainable agriculture list at Yahoo. This next website is excellent, and they send you pamphlets/booklets on various grazing info for free - if you live in US which I don't*G* - and have wonderful resources, on-line and off. I have lots of their stuff but never enough time to read it all. And the ones below are just some from my favorites but I can't remember exactly which ones they are as my computer is not wanting to go into some websites today. If you want lots of info on grazing, soil structure etc, the books are great, but personally, I'm more interested in sustainable agriculture than lots of fertilizing unless it is fertilizing with compost, green manure crops or manure - which takes lots of cows or lots of work*G*. In my grandpa's days, the farms mainly relied upon manures and composts produced on the farm to maintain soil fertility, which is something I want to go back to. Recently, I spoke to a local extension agent about different grasses we could plant next year in our empty grain field. Her biggest concern was the need for fertilizing to get good fast growth, and legumes that don't disappear after a few years. I mentioned my interest in intensive rotational grazing which she said was very labor intensive - but I have lots of time and "labor". And then if I don't fertilize I can't grow the "new and improved" varieties of everything, but I'm trying to figure out how to reduce the need for artificial fertilizers, so lots of new and improved things are out. She didn't quite understand that I want to feed the soil and correct it's imbalances, not the plants. Many times if you base your fertilizer needs on the needs of the plants rather than the needs of the soil, you overfertilize, creating a chemical imbalance in the soil that damages organic material, soil structure, and soil life. I asked the extension agent if I should test the fields yearly to find out how much nitrogen fertilizer I needed - I assumed I would if I was going to fertilize. She said that would be optimum, but that most farmers (including her experimentation fields) don't routinely test, and instead apply "x" number of lbs per acre per year (depending on what you are growing) and it works fine. Then with excess fertilizers in the soil, our groundwater also becomes polluted by excess chemicals. When I talked to another fellow from the PRFA, re. water conditions and building a dugout for the animals, he said that they recommend shallow wells because of serious concerns with groundwater contamination. We took a tour in a local potash mine several years ago. During the tour, the guide (who was also the manager) pointed out several "growths" along the ceiling and walls as well as constant odd colored drips everywhere and said that they were caused by years of fertilizers leaching through the soil from the farm fields above us (no, he wasn't an environmentalist or even close to one:<). My uncle couldn't believe this and asked how deep we were - we were 130 feet below the surface! Can you imagine what this is doing to our water and us? Anyway, it's easy for me to say all of this as I haven't had to apply it or put it into practice. I'm still reading lots (too much!) and trying to figure out what to do next year with our land so we can be the best stewards of what the Lord has given us. I figure by the time spring comes, the pile of bedding I haul out daily from the barn should be big enough to cover the entire 160 acres!!! Speaking of hauling manure, it's that time of day again - we've been sick with the stomach flu for 4 days and the barn is starting to reek. Not a hard task when I clean it daily, but after 4 days - whew!! Heather"

Little bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, December 11, 2001


My dad doesn't grow his own feed, but he does keep, I think, three pastures, which he rotates his stock on. He has set his up so that he can let them out a different gate right at the barn after feeding for different pastures. This gives him a chance to let one area recoop while another is grazed. I've wanted to do this with my goats, but, you know, one big project at a time;)

-- mary (, December 11, 2001.

I took a tour of several of the Vermont Shepherd farms a few years back and they recommend rotational grazing and do it intensively. At one farm they raised their weanlings this way. They had fairly small areas that they fenced, and they moved them quite frequently (they were moving them every other day at that time, but they base movement on grass growth). They would move the following fence to the center of the feeding area, then move the forward fence over so they could do it while the lambs were in the feeding area. This is also has the delightful effect of acting as a good worming method since the animals are moved to new ground before the full life-cycle of most worms could be attained (and certainly before any type of worm load could be attained).

-- Sheryl in ME (, December 14, 2001.

We have a very large dairy farm near us that practices rotational grazing very successfully. The real trick is in the frequency. You don't want them to take it down to nothing so careful watching is terribly important. In cooler wet weather they can stay on a spot a bit longer. This farm pretty much rotates every day. I would think that if you broke your animals to the portable electric type fence that you could be very successful at it on a small homestead.

-- diane (, December 15, 2001.

Hi Little Bit!

Sounds like you and I have similiar projects in mind. Just moved into a nine and a half acre homestead which we are calling DunHagan. Given the placement of the house, workshop, and leaving myself some room for garden, corn patch, fruit & nut trees, bit of lawn and the driveway from the gate I think I'll end up with about 4.5 acres of pasture or thereabouts. Going to be a project getting it all in shape since the soil can charitably be described as sandy loam, there's no cross fencing at all and part of the perimeter fence needs work. What part of the pasture is open and grassed has a bad mix of wire grass, centipede, a bit of the bahia that I want, and what I'm afraid is beginning to look like that damned coogongrass. Maybe about 40% of the pasture area is treed and brushed.

I'm still moving stakes hither and yon trying to eke out the maximum pasture space (yard has to be mowed, pasture doesn't!) but I'm fairly sure of the square area now. The plan as it currently stands is to run a five wire electric fence around the entire thing as I accumulate capital for posts and wire to put in a more permanent fence. I think I can run the hot wire in such a way as to allow poultry to free range and be fairly protected against groundborne predators.

The poultry are key to the pasture renovation. I've already built a prototype henmobile and learned much from the process (the next one MUST be lighter!) and am using 16 foot stock panels for a portable yard. Once a week I shut the hen house door at night, pull it to a new location, drag the yard up around it and leave them in the new location for a week or two before moving them again. Depending on how long I leave them they either graze the available grass short or if I leave them long enough eliminate it altogether. At the same time they're manuring the ground. So far the prototype model is working pretty well.

When I get the electric fence up I'll eliminate the stock panels and add one, maybe two more henmobiles and just let them free range over the entire pasture. Move the houses weekly or thereabouts to prevent too much manure build up underneath. Use small amounts of scratch feed to encourage them to really get down and scratch up areas that I want them to work on.

With the hot wire in I can also add up to about four goats and maybe as many as two cows in addition to some turkeys. The goats and cattle will start clearing up the scrub and the lower limbs of the trees and the turkeys will eat a fair amount of the forbs the brush, trees and weeds provide that the hens will only marginally consume such as acorns. I'll make three sudivisions of the pasture of perhaps an acre and a third each and move them based on how heavily they've grazed. If I lime the soil (as per soil tests) before putting the animals on I think between correcting the soil pH and the grazing/manuring action of the animals the pasture conditions should steadily improve. I'll have to be careful about getting too many animals for the carrying capacity of the land since our persistent drought lowers the number of animals you can have per acre without irrigation.

My only real concerns is correcting the centipede/coogongrass problem. I'm not really sure that there is coogongrass out there, it looks a bit funny but that could be because it's stunted from lack of water/fertility. If it really is coogongrass that stuff can be Hell to get rid of and I might have to go to a mowing/Roundup application program to eliminate it. The centipede grass grows pretty well but while it makes a nice lawngrass I haven't found anything that mentions it as being suitable as pasture forage - too short I suspect. I'm thinking I may keep one henmobile inside the livestock panel fence (16'x16') and have them mobgraze it all down to bare dirt and manure the ground. When it's as bare as I want it I'll move them to a new location, rake in some good pasture seed mix and irrigate as necessary and see if I can crowd out the undesirable grasses with something that I want. The more orthodox method would probably be to just disk up the whole thing and seed that way but I don't yet have a tractor.

I think my wife is beginning to think I'm a bit daft with all the time I'm spending running all over the pasture measuring and staking and says I'm never so happy as when I've got some new project that has to be researched and experimented. My two year old daughter is having a blast traipsing all over with me. My porch is getting to be full of fruit and nut trees waiting to be planted next month and I'm looking forward to the seed catalogs coming in most ESPECIALLY the Seed Savers Exchange catalog.

Life is good.


-- Alan Hagan (, December 21, 2001.

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