Location: North Central Florida, subtropical zone 8b
posted 6 months ago
We have a small farm in North Central Florida - long, hot summers, normally a decent rainy season although this past year there was not nearly as much as usual. Our very short winter can get in the 20s at night even though days are seldom below 60. Very sandy soil, fairly alkaline. Lime has been recommended but we can't afford it right now.
We have about 25 acres of pasture to renovate/improve for cattle, sheep and guinea hogs. Cows and sheep are Florida Crackers, native breeds that are parasite resistant and great at subsistence foraging. Currently have 12 cows, at least 4 of which are bred, 4 sheep with 3 bred. 5 guinea hogs with 2 litters on the way. (Figure future numbers when planning!)
Property was fenced but not cross-fenced. So far, we've gotten fencing up for 3, +/- 3 acre pastures. Between the aisleway, pond plan and our yard, we have about 12 acres to go - plans are for a 5-acre pasture and a 7-acre orchard or to plant all 12 in industrial hemp, now that it is legal here. There might be a house going in on the 7-acre parcel in the future.
For now, I'd like to concentrate on the 3 pastures that are completely fenced, with shelters over the pass-through gates. Cows and sheep are rotated through with one pasture between them so the parcels have time to rest. We are using all 5 parcels, so they go through 3, 3, 3, 5 then 7 acres, then start again. Guinea hogs are normally let out daily, although we're keeping them in their pen right now so they don't pop their babies out in cow country. After animals move through, we drag the pasture to spread out and incorporate the manure into the soil.
We can't afford any additional fencing right now, and my husband is recovering from a couple surgeries so won't be able to "help" for several more months - perfect timing for me to get started since we have very different ideas about what makes a healthy pasture.
If I get it started and it works, he'll continue what I'm doing - but if I wait to start when he's recovered, there will be some nasty chemicals involved along with several "oops, shouldn't have done that" type of experiences.
The main green stuff is Bahia Pensacola, with live oak trees scattered around. The previous owner didn't do much for about 5 years before we bought it, so there were tons of cactus, dog fennel and beauty berries. We've gotten rid of the cactus in 1&2 - mostly by hand digging (several weekends of cussing the spines while we pulled them out of our fingers...)
So given all this, what would be some suggestions for pasture plants? I'd like to end up with a variety of grasses and forage that is heat and cold tolerant, nutritious and low-or-no maintenance.
We're not going to do mob grazing, mainly because we don't have the money for the electric tape and we haven't gotten the water lines run yet...and I don't have time to move them daily - I'm working full time, doing most of the farm chores and all the housekeeping stuff. This needs to be done on my 1 or 2 days off per week.
Thanks for any ideas or advice!
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