I have been warned that pigs will OD on salt and kill themselves.
I'm here to say: not so!
I imagine its possible that if you mixed salt and yummies (feed, molasses) etc, a pig could OD on that. But I've been using Salt Blocks (plain white, mineral mix, and selenium, free chocie [michigan soils are sel. deficient]) for quite awhile. Adequate mineralization of the pigs is one of the factors that depresses rooting, and pigs salt intake hikes considerably as their diet switches from grains (low potassium) to vegetation (high potassium). Potassium must be in a 3-way balance with sodium and chloride (why cows need so much salt)
They chew and slobber on those things.
I tried mineralizing pigs with kelp, but free-choice they kelp you into bankruptcy. I give them a bit now and then.
I graze pigs through wetland areas. After 4 years, the wetlands look fine
The pigs root around the edges of of swamps. The swamp rooting is a good thing - muck tends to anaerobic=acidic=on its way to peat. Aeration liberates nutrients to grow things
Marsh areas (grassy wetlands) don't attract a ton of eating interest from my pigs. My pigs don't root through it, though they make use of wallow spots.
Most scientific literature is dubious about pigs doing anything good, because they don't know how to raise pigs with low rooting behavior. I have finally been able to follow in Jeffries footsteps in grazing pigs without excessive rooting.
I have read scientific articles about grazing cattle in wetlands that fingered lack of disturbance as the cause of excessive invasive perennial species in wetlands. Wetlands in the wild do get disturbed.
Thanks for the pics...Wish I could see a map of your water management features laid over topo.
I'm going to try draining the swamp with a monk controlled dam and a few drainage ditches (might have to do some hand digging) to bring water to the dam.
Then let it flood over the winters and drain it after spring rains.
Addressing this to Travis particularly, but figured it was general interest
Dealing with wetlands (at the scale of an acre to several acres).
First I want to bypass questions about use - I do want to get agricultural benefit from my wetlands, and where I am in Michigan we have lots of precipitation, low evap and lots of wetlands.
Primary goal is probably grazing - I currently graze mixed herds including cattle, sheep and pigs (no purchased grain)
Are you describing a serpentine swale that basically leaves the entire marshland in ridges and swales, and maximizes surface area; with forage growing on the berms?
I also have an option to somewhat control a flood/drain cycle (at least to drain the rain buildup in the spring and let it grow)
Also open to other options.
I'd vote for ladino clover. It grows in a variety of conditions, some varieties can put on a lot of biomass and height (6ft) in one season
I've been growing sudex for forage, as long as its warm, it sure grows. It does not put energy into seeds, put into foliage (seed energy would be the straight sorghum)
Michigan, zone 5 cool/temperate
Full time farmer (pastured pork, beef, poultry &etc), excited to add fish.
I'm finally getting a pond dug this fall. I've read Desert or Paradise, Earthen ponds and a few others, saw geoff's video and a bit by ben falk. I'm just trying to get a list of ideas here that I and others can draw from (tools); then we can each figure out how to put it all together on our own property
-Deep corner- somewhere in your pond should be a deep corner for fish to hide when its warm. A lot of people say 15' or more. Do you think its an advantage to put it on the South side where it will get less sunlight?
-Shallow- a portion of your pond (up to a 1/3) should be shallow enough for cattails to filter the water. One smart farmer had the pond collecting tile runnoff and the tile dropped into a finger of cattails so it was filtered before it hit the pond
-Fingers - shoreline should be as long as possible, fingers can let you do that. Perhaps each finger could be a different biome (depths, rocks/logs, width, flow) - I need some ideas for different finger biomes
-Limestone - some people recommend dropping limestone gravel or boulders into the water to buffer ph.
-Rocks - Sepp wants rocks in his ponds; prefer shallows or north bank? Also submerged trees?
- Bubbler- windmill bubblers oxegynate
- Pump - or you can pump the water up and through a bio filter and rockbed or flowform or waterfall to aerate
- Island - habitat for ducks etc
- Floating island - shade and biofilter
-Nutrient catch - we often want to minimize animal manures into ponds due to algae overgrowth, but something has to feed the nutrient cycle if you want larger surplus harvests
-Waterfowl and fish - Polyculture!
-Grass Carp - sterile grass carp can keep weed pressure down
-Stacked ponds - ponds that flow into eachother might give more options
-Wind - design your treescape to funnel prevailing wind the long direction across the pond for free aeration
-Shade- in dry climates you want trees, in humid climates, it depends (do you want warmer or cool water) you will need some sun to keep the cycle going
You don't have to agree with all these ideas, but add more and flesh them out where you can
We had a lot of yarrow a couple years ago. Less now.
My grazing animals (sheep and cattle) will eat some. While its young and tender.
I believe it indicates a weak soil (general low nitrogen and organic matter, but moderate moisture)
You can continue to pasture till the nitrogen from manure allows the grass to outcompete - but that takes a long time.
Disturbance is a tool after a disturbance, with some active un-assimilated organic matter, it doesn't stand a chance.
my disturbance preferences:
(a) find the worst spots (preferably higher point because nutrients will flow downhill some), winter the cattle there or winter feed them there. Smother it with 3 inches of uneaten hay and manure. You'll never see it there again. Tall dark grass will poke through, and in a few years it'll be gone.
(b) chicken tractor or paddock the worst sites.
(c) till it with pigs. Overseed with some clovers if you want, but don't worry: a pig tilled pasture will quickly regrow to surviving grass (unless they stay on there for a very long time)
Disturbance can be good. It can restart the cycle and allow you to lay nutrients in the soil with grazing/root slough and manure. Don't feel bad about disturbance in the right place.
These things have worked for me.
Same problem, same solution for knapweed, except knapweed favors drier, acidic, low fertility spots
I'm a farmer in west Michigan 5b.
Our biggest product is woodland pastured pork.
I'd like to increase the percentage of food they get from the forest. Observing has led me to conclude that my forest grows oaks well; and the pigs eat the acorns, preferring them over my grain mixes. So now I see improved acorn bearing oak types. If I can go into an oak sapling in the wood edge (already above the damage line from pigs) and graft from one of these, and get a 5 year headstart on the process, that would be cool. Same for improved sugar maples some of the pippins on the farm.
Does this work, to go into the woods and graft onto existing trees?
1. You may not have to water. We live and farm in michigan 5b, and we hardly use any heaters.
Cows and sheep do just fine on snow (and I've found studies to back this up) only caveat is that it its a learned behavior, passed on from older animals. Ours do just fine.
Note that when we barn any animals or if there is no snow but its below freezing (rare around here) they need unfrozen water
The pigs live in the woods, its my opinion they break open the ponds/swamps at the edges where the ice is thin all year and drink from there. I will not and do not haul water for 70 pigs 1/2 a mile every day.
The poultry survive without water, but I think they get dehydrated, attrition rates are higher and they are more prone to egg destruction
2. Which leads to the very permaculture solution: Compost!
my chickens free range round the clock as they please from a coop (which is on the back of a 3 sided cow shed in the middle of the pasture) They pick through fresh patties all year as they please, and the presence of cows all night has deterred any ground based predators for the winter (summers are different)
Any manure/bedding (probably 80% of their crap in the cold times) I scrape into a pile and fluff. You can store water in the pile in pail or put a waterer right in the pile.
This means (a) liquid water (b) extra heat in my strawbale coop (c) less material handling at cleanout time and a ready product and (d) active compost is active food source at certain stages for chickens.
For extra credit, put a roost over the compost pile to win the poultry winter permaculture jackpot!
Everyone wants to plant trees in their pastures. I do too.
West Michigan z4-5, cold temperate, oak, maple, aspen types on my property
But more practically, what are good ways to create solid undergrowth in woods?
Thinning is the first step, but even in areas with plenty of light, the grass seems very weak. I guess the years of wood domination favor fungi?
Or maybe it just needs more time.
How would you turn hardwood forest (and I have a 5 acre witch hazel brushpatch) into productive silvopasture?
Making char is pretty contraption intensive. Best case scenario, gasifier byproduct. But if you could just get it when its being discarded...
Lots of people here in rural michigan heat their houses with outdoor boilers. Lots of you use hi efficiency woodstoves. These things generate char and ash.
Char is carbon, (but not for purposes of C/N ratio) water absorbent, microbiota apartment house. Ash is potash (carbon and potassium). Now if only you could add Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Humus, some micronturients and huge mess of active microbiota, you'd have the perfect product.
We collect charcoal from a local restaurant/brewery where they make wood fired pizza (we originally began that relationship to pickup spent brewing grains for animal feeds). We then use it in bedding (most of it gets saved for winter, but the poultry use it year round)
Its the perfect match! The char is a veritable sponge at grabbing ammonia. I swear it can pull it out the air itself. A layer of that between the carbon diaper layers, and there will be a lot less wasted nutrients and a more pleasant barn. The char, sitting in contact with nutrients and bacteria is now biochar. Its layered in between manure, straw, sawdust, anything else I can throw in there. It will be slow composted, then dug up and spread on the fields: a complete soil meal.
As an aside, I prefer higher carbon bedding with higher nitrogen poopers. Cows and sheep hardly ever merit biochar. They are bedded with rained on Hay, wood chips, and things in the 40-100 C/N range. Bulking/air accessibility is important. Poultry need very-high-carbon: sawdust, shavings, cardboard, straw and CHAR! Pigs are in between, and they get good use out of straw.
Anyway, its my guess that char is best value as a byproduct on the inflow, and I'm confident its many times worthwhile as a bedding agent on the outflow.
Having tried all 3 methods (1000 birds this year) go for the paddock, buy electric netting.
Still aerial predator problems but they snitch birds...not exterminate. Kencove makes the best netting I've found
I am mostly done building my A-frame house with a cathedral ceiling.
You're right in wanting to use rafters to create an a-frame effect inside and out (instead of those fake scissor truss cathedrals)
The problem is the rafters are too small to get enough insulation inbetween. We don't want to build a false roof or false ceiling, but even with 2x12 and sprayfoam (10.5" x r6) you can barely get to the r60 I need in my state, and that's outrageously expensive and heavy. Then you still need occasional horizontal ties to keep your roof from pushing your walls apart
I hit upon the perfect solution for me...It should work for you too. You need a single purlin at the top of the roof from one end of the house to the other (great place for a decorative log).
-You then rest your rafters on that and on the wall. Voila: no more outward push, roof load is pushed directly down on the walls.
-Instead of dimensional lumber you buy/build parallel cord trusses, to whatever width you need (mine are about 16"). You have built a vaulted parallel cord truss (google the pic).
OSB, wrap, steel roof on the outside. 2x2 stringers and 3/4 rigid insulation on the inside (creating a channel for soffit to ridge venting), plank/drywall the inside and blow it full of nice cheap, eco-friendly celullose insulation.
Aerobic piles are good for market gardeners. They kill weed seeds, pathogens, and produce a friendly compost.
Anaroebic piles are the farmers friend. They require less attention/handling and preserve a greater percent of the nutrients (aerobic piles offgass a lot of goodies). They're great for pasture application.
Its not entirely cut and dried; all anaerobic piles are aerobic go through at least one aerobic phase (right after they're laid) and most aerobic piles that aren't intensively managed go through some level of oxygen shortage.
In Ana Edey's book, she describes that draft that is created when a dark surface is glazed.
I don't have a glazed roof, but I know that your average roof can create a pretty good draft from the soffit vent to the ridge vent.
I'm in the process of building (framed in, wrapped and moving into the basement). I have a steel A-frame East/West roof, 1200 sqft, true cathedral ceiling made of parellel cord trusses on a central log purlin.
Ana Edey talked about a system where they could in the summer (a) close the soffit vent and open vent inside the house in roughly the same place, and roof draft would pull air out of the house (creating good drafts through windows rather like an attic fan). She could also (b) open a vent inside the ridge and cycle house air through the roof in the winter to get solar heated.
We feed 1.5 tons of spent brewing grains (sbg) per week to our animals. Pigs eat about half of that.
Last year we tried to carry them through the winter on 75% sbg and 25% corn. It was a mistake. Growth rates were slow and we lost smaller ones. Cheap though.
After investigation of amino acid profiles, protein/carb percentages, and most importantly maximum fiber intake, we have a system which is working very well.
Basically sbg is 30% protein (and fairly balanced at that, though, like all plant foods lysine deficient) and 70% fiber. It can be included in a pigs diet up to how much fiber they can handle (which is a growth curve not a ceiling of course).
Traditional pig diets have recommended against feeding too much fat to pigs, because of its negative effects on the quality of pig fat (too soft, I think), but fat and fiber stand in a relationship. More of one demands more of the other. So we have balanced our sbg with things like flax seed (expensive, but good amino profile) and sunflower seed (cheap) as well as corn.
Our goal has been to maximize useful sbg uptake. Partly this is an age thing, so we have a creep feeder with a 1/9th sbg ration (because everybody needs some fiber and it might as well come from sbg instead of oats) and a regular feeder with 1/4 sbg. But these are dry weight rations. Our actual wet feed ratios (sbg are 35% dryweight) are 1/7 and 1/2 So we mix the main ratio 1/2 and 1/2 with sbg, and the larger pigs and breeding stock thrive on it. No lactation problems.
Sbg is great for cheapening pig ration. It should be the first feed of choice for supplement dairy animals, since they both benefit from the protein, and receive a calorie value from the celluose/fiber which their rumen breaks down. We don't do dairy, but our cattle/sheep eat whatever the pigs don't, and it drops their winter hay consumption by 2/3. The cattle are capable of 75lb/head/day if you have it.
Also, don't forget your bringing massive amounts of carbon/nutrients to your land, which might otherwise be landfilled. Encourages me on bad days to know that every week, good or bad, our soil is appreciating.
Don't know much about yeasts, I'll have to ask about them myself. Good idea...heavy in B Vitamins.
I have pursued a large black as the dominant breed in my outdoor pigs. My pig are hairy and tough and have survived 2013/14 winter with subzero weather (not including windchill) in plywood shelter. They will still grow thru the winter, albeit slower. If your near michigan, come pick some up.
First, consider my USDA tables in the back of Mark Shephards "Restoration Agriculture" indicate that comparing lamb, beef, pork and chicken, (in terms of vitamins, minerals, balanced proteins, fatty acids etc) Pork was at the top of the most categories, beef and lamb were together, and chicken far behind.
2 problems: this is national statistics based on conventionally produced meats; and this deals with the positives, not the negatives.
Many of us are privileged to consume the meat we grow, so we don't have to go by gick-fed animals with impending liver failure.
The food chain is also a nutrition chain. Both toxins and nutrients condense up the food chain, and are usually stored in the liver and fat. This is why predator fish (like salmon) are more likely culprits of mercury poison, but better sources of Vitamin D.
Pigs are further up the food chain, and therefore more dangerous/potentially better than herbivores.
Pig diets, and thus pig flesh are more similar to ours. More caution is probably necessary in terms of cooking both for parasites and smaller bugs, although a healthy animal is a healthy animal.
Then the other mantra: pigs are wasteful and environmentally unfriendly? I believe they have a place in the ecosystem, and that harvestable calories is not the only measure of land unit. My pigs root through many acres of woods, but realistically get maybe 75% of their diet from supplements.
I'd say pigs have 2 roles: forest revitalizer/grazer and (for humans) waste disposal. My pigs feast on microbrewery spent brewing grains and commercial cherry byproduct as well as corn based grain mixes.
Nutrition in -> digestive magic/nutrition increases -> nutritive poop and nutritive stored (meat). . This is why we don't rush our animals too early: older animals accumulate more nutrients.
I believe pork can be very healthy
We mix our own feed, buying fertrells mineral mix and adding it to some grains at a certain rate. That said, a lot of micronutrients/probiotics are moot in the free range world.
If your not concerned with large scale production efficiency, we've had good luck doing it much simpler
Compost/free- range - micro nutrients
Calcium - they need supplement, eggshells suck it out of them. Crush their eggshells and feed them back; or buy oystershell supplement and offer it ad lib
Protein/fats - chickens are omnivores. They'll eat insects all summer, but if you have a time without insects (winter), you'll want to get them some of these. Fishmeal, cooking fats from your kitchen, dairy products
Carbs - Corn, oats, soy etc. Pretty much everything but corn also has a protein component. Corn is convenient and makes a good treat. If you free-range I would scatter on a hard surface, not ad lib
Don't forget, if there's no small gravel around , buy some grit (its cheap) and offer it ad lib as well.
Calcium and grit year round ad lib
Winter: Roughly 2/3 corn, 1/3 soy/oats/barley, mineral mix if you want, animal protein if you have it
Summer: throw some corn on the ground unless the chickens are outgrazing the pasture. Animal protein if you have it (they'll polish off an acre of insects long before an acre of grass)
btw these are all maintainer ratios. The younger they are, the higher protein they need, and smaller grit. I always start chicks with unmedicated chick starter and switch them to feed
beautiful. With plants coming out it will be real showpiece on growing food.
Expect considerable settling initially and ongoing as the branches rot, I wouldn't plant the top shelves for a while. Heavy watering will help it settle before you plant it.
You should be able to find sheep from local natural farmers for around or better than that price.
Farmers raise lambs for less that $110, and pay more like $75 at a conventional abbatoir, so even with a labor profit margin they may be able to match you
I sell my lamb for $2.25/lb liveweight (which might be low for natural raised lamb), but then customers still have processing fees etc. There's no accountability like visiting your farm. Decent farmers will love to meet you. Don't expect the place to look like a kinkade painting, but build a relationship.
If you do that you'll free your time and land. Of course, you'll miss the sheep, and the ground will miss the fertilizer. There's nothing like ruminants for grass. Dairy goats are good investments for backyard foodies who like Dairy and have the time. One of those would eat a fair bit of grass, and you wouldn't have the attachment problem. Just sell the little ones before you do get too attached.
Spent Brewery Grains (SBG) is great protein source for ruminants of all stripes. They have the gut bacteria to reprocess the abundant but very crude protein in it. They also appreciate the tremendous amounts of fiber.
In Monogastrics (Pigs, Poultry, us) the incomplete protein results in poor utilization (the challenge faced by vegetarians everywhere). For pigs, which I'm interested in, lysine is the limiting amino acid. In the inorganic business they use synthetic lysine, but that's not an option for me. Lysine shows up some in Amaranth and Soy, but it really is part of an animal protein (dairy would be wonderful).
So the goal would be to convert some of the excess SBG to worms, which are 70% protein - and a complete protein at that. Vermicompost would be a bonus.
The question is what critter would do the quickest/most efficient turnover into protein, and what that setup would look like. Or maybe I should just feed it to a dairy animal, and feed the pigs from that...
With the cost of home remodels, not to mention inane regulations, it seems to make sense to explore passive technology with barns.
My chickens won't lay when their cold, and every large animal btu that goes into the atmosphere is wasted feed.
Salatin wintered chickens in a greenhouse, and in Solviva they were the heaters of the operation. Holzer winters pigs in earth dens (55F is close enough to warm around here)
Traditional English barns are built of stone and half/sunk in the ground (makes mucking a lot of work especially mechanized)
Anybody have intentionally designed barns for both function and heat conservation? Or thinking about it?
I'm building a house, probably this summer, and after some reading decided composting toilets and graywater systems were the way to go.
The county Health Inspector didn't think so. He said they only approve composting toilets in places where septic systems will not work.
If this is a brick wall (and we have regular streams of guests who might be offput by alternative systems anyways) How do you reform a "legal" septic system?
I know trees like willows destroy septic systems - I was wondering if a comfrey pasture on the leach field (I farm animals) was the friendliest option. I live in a very sandy but fertile area in West Michigan.
Also, dormant (winter) plants probably don't metabolize much Nitrogen...
I've been mooching free info from permies for awhile. Now I finally joined.
Trying to make a living out of Natural Farming, permaculture plays into that. Finished a trial year on the east side with 4 acres, now living on 80 acres in the Big Rapids area.
Looking forward to meeting other local permies. We just moved here but have mostly livestock (pigs cattle poultry sheep goats), focus on pastured pigs. We've been eating all our own meat and veggies for years.
Dreaming of forest-based grazing systems (pigs already out there, want intentional plantings and pasture trees for grass animals), passive houses, aquaculture etc.
No internet in the house, no cell phone reception in the field
However, that means I'll be an infrequent contributor.