Thursday, October 14, 2010

Question from the web: Clearing land with animals

we have a raw piece of land, partly logged, with small trees and some grasses and lots of blackberry bushes. we intend to enclose a parcel, about 2.5 acres in permanent woven wire fencing. we also plan to put some strand of electric wires in it. we will also put electric quickpig fence inside to divide the area into smaller paddocks.

 our intention is to have goats to consume the blackberry bushes and pigs to root the roots. the following are my questions:

1. can we put the goats and pigs together in the same paddock?
2. are goats effective in razing down the blackberry bushes (or human/machine intervention required?)
3. what is a good number of animals - pigs and goats, given a certain area, i.e. 1/8 of an acre(?) what's a good size of a paddock?
4. what is a suggested number of days stay in a paddock? if they stay too short, will they inflict enough damage/effect on the bushes/rooting?
5. any suggestion on gates? what are best places for them?
6. waterers - ratio of animals/waterer
7. what breed of pigs/goats?
Goats and pigs coexist in a pasture very well, as long as the goats are adults. if the goats are kidding you've got to watch the pigs, as they may consider a newborn goat/lamb a nice tasty treat. goats are browsers and really like blackberries. they'll eat the leaves and foliage, leaving the vines and roots. The pigs will eat the roots.

In the non-growing season you can use a smaller number of animals as the vegetation isn't replaced as it is consumed. In the winter the ground may freeze, making it difficult for pigs to root, but the blackberries aren't growing either, so it's a wash. when the ground softens the pigs will finish the job.

I keep two goats in with my pig herd to eat the thistles that appear in the pasture. the pigs don't like thistle, the goats do.

for 2.5 acres, depending on how much vegetation you've got, 4 weaner pigs and 4 goats will eat the majority of the vegetation by the time the weaners are market weight (6-8 months). if you'd like it cleared faster, add more.

I keep 4 full-sized cows on 8 acres of pretty good river bottom land -- they keep the grass less than knee high over the entire parcel. For a homesteader having your own beef cow is a nice alternative if you have the space. maybe buy a yearling next spring and put it out on this parcel until the fall, when you butcher it.

A final consideration is the vegetation that's already there. Whatever is growing there is acclimated and suited to your land. that means you may want to look at the forage and make a decision to keep some of it. in my area reed canary grass is the predominant river bottom grass. I decided that I'd keep it as my primary forage/ground cover and I've been pleased that I've never had to reseed, fertilize or otherwise mess with it. Whatever you've got on your land deserves a look to see if it'll work out as your primary pasture forage.

For example, when I started grazing my cow pasture there were stands of bushes interspersed with the canary grass. So what I did was encircle the bushes with a battery-operated electric fence and put pigs into that area. the pigs reduced the bushes selectively, and the grass regenerated into the cleared areas. the grass around the bush stands controlled the loss of soil and colonized the bare areas once the pigs were done. over a years time I had nice finished pigs and 3 more acres of nice grass, all without any tractor time.


Jonathan said...

Did the hogs root out the canary grass?

Jonathan said...

did the hogs root out the canary grass?

Bruce King said...

Absolutely. They eat the stems and roots and all.