18 hours ago
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Pasture planning - test plots
Part of my property was an auto junkyard in the 60s, and there's still a bunch of stuff leftover from that. Mostly bits of iron, like seat springs, and chrome trim. To get rid of that stuff I'm going to have to plow the field, rake the debris out, and then go collect the debris. Some of the debris are big -- axles and engine blocks.
Since I'm going to have to do that work, I've been looking at what I might plant that would provide a better forage for my animals -- with a focus on providing good forage for my swine.
Alfalfa rates high in several different measures -- it is a legume, so it fixes nitrogen (improves the fertility of your soil), is high in protein, and its use as a pig forage has been extensively studied. Examples of that are here and here. Forage for pigs isn't new -- here's a newspaper article from 1916 about that very topic.
The goal of having better pasture is to reduce my primary cost in raising pigs -- purchased feed. Another candidate that appears to work well is white clover, or a mix of alfalfa and white clover. Grasses are eaten by pigs, but if given a choice, they'll choose something else in preference.
Alfalfa also sells for a relatively high price per ton when compared to other forages. I wouldn't be baling my pasture, but if I can get a stand of alfalfa that works pretty well, it's nice to have another market.
If I chose to have a lactating animal of some sort (goats, sheep, cows) alfalfa would be an excellent feed for them as well.
My land is relatively wet - the water table is pretty high. So I don't really have to worry about irrigation -- even in the summer, the water is only a couple of feet down. Alfalfa and clover can grow roots that are 2-4' long.
So what I think I'll be doing this spring is planting 1/2 acre test plots. I'll use them later in the summer as rotational grazing and see what the animals prefer, and what grows well.
If the sale goes through for the 40 acres that I've mad an offer on, spring of 2011 I can then plant what works after the trees are cleared.
I've been looking at this table referred to me by a respondent to a post I made asking for advice at a forum called haytalk.
For my relatively wet fields there are several strains of that will work well. Don't know what they cost.