After some thought and research on small scale grain production and harvest, I stumbled on this article (http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/smallscale.htm) that suggests both reaper/binder or small net baling equipment can be used to harvest grain for animal feed. Threshing and winnowing are not needed, nor is separation from the stalks, b/c the animals will do it. For hulless oat, amaranth, quinoa, sunflowers, flax etc. I wonder how much seedhead loss will occur if a baler is used? Storage of the either the sheaves or the bales do present a problem - that kind of forage will surely attract all kinds of varmints.
Am I out of my mind to think this could work in a way that's efficient enough to make it worthwhile?
I've stumbled across their site as well. It looks like handy stuff but it's insanely expensive...it seems like a recipe for debt on a small piece of land, which is a step away from self sufficiency. Other than that, I don't think you're out of your mind at all
How much land, how many animals? There is a lot of fifteen to fifty year old farm equipment out there that is functional and tough and can be picked up really inexpensively as it's too small now and Big Ag can't use it anymore. If you have enough acreage to use it and store it, I'd go that way. An old self propelled swather can be less than a grand...if you take care of it it'll last a long long time as you'll only be running it a couple of hours a year. Depending on climate you could then swath graze with electric fence. Or pick up an old baler too and make greenfeed (harvest while the grain is still at soft dough stage) The horse people have kept prices high on old square balers though.
On a smaller scale a scythe would be a lot simpler and more economical than the italian machines. I am scything oats right now and hand tying sheafs. They are getting piled in shooks for now, and i will probably bring them in and stack them (heads to inside) on some pallets and throw a tarp over. Yes it will be a mouse hotel. Yes it's quite a bit of work...not a problem in itself, but there is a narrow time window and it seems like everything needs doing at once.
I'm thinking the quinoa and amaranth would have heavy seed losses if they were ripe. Not sure what feed value they have if you put them up while they are still doughy, I've always thought of them as people food. I am also scything some hulless oats for people food and I'm losing some...I think I'll stick to hulled varieties for feed.
Have you grown flax? I tried this year and it was a disaster...my fields are not nearly clean enough to even consider it yet, they came with a crazy weed seed bank and the flax can't handle it. Oh well, lesson learned.
Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote: How much land, how many animals?
We are still looking at land, planning, and learning what's feasible and not feasible. I am wanting to eventually transistion from city job to a goodsize holistic farming enterprise. I'm targeting land plots b/t 60-120 acres - much of what I am looking at has been used as pine timber stands and just not replanted after the last clearcut. To start, I'll have 2-3 sows with a boar and breeding stock for duck, geese, laying hens, and turkeys (maybe 30 birds total).
Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:On a smaller scale a scythe would be a lot simpler and more economical than the italian machines.
If I were just thinking of homesteading, I would totally work it manually. But I don't think its feasible to work that while scaling up a pork and duck operation. I can see how good pasture management can lead to zero off farm inputs for grassfed beef and lamb; I'm trying to see if that same level of independence can be accomplished for the animals that don't get 100% of their food from pasture.
Many large-scale farmers did this this year because of the drought, get some feed value out of it even though the cash crop was a loss (insured or not)--corn, beans, wheat, oats, milo were all done this way around here. I remember farmers doing this a lot more when I was growing up. One interesting thing I saw last night--one of the corn fields that was cut and baled actually started to regrow after the rains came last month--it is now knee high again. They won't get a corn crop but it will make a lot of forage before the frost.
If you could figure out the timing, you could mechanically harvest a polyculture. You wouldn't worry too much about minor seed loss because you would be re-seeding the field in that case.
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R Scott wrote: You wouldn't worry too much about minor seed loss because you would be re-seeding the field in that case.
And I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as syncing the harvest. Which probably means that polyculture may not be feasible, but some things undoubtably have sufficiently similar timeframes (say corn and sunflowers).
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