• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Pasture generation/improvement for sheep

 
R. Morgan
Posts: 22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a hard white clay subsoil with a small amount of dusty brown soil on top. Grass struggles and is slow growing. Soil is acidic.
I am thinking of adding lots of horse manure to improve soil structure , moisture holding capacity and fertility. This is a smallish area
of irrigated pasture (in South Australia) which I need to establish. I need to find out what deep rooted plants to put in the mix, where to get the seeds for
it in small enough quantities and really.......... everything



All ideas appreciated.
 
Sherry Jansen
Posts: 59
Location: Southern MN
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi R. Morgan-

I was just watching soil restoration by Gary Zimmer, author of The Biological Farmer. He practices the Albreit method of soil restoration.

According to his theory, green manures are one of the fastest way to get soil humus. The most common used is rye, but peas, beans and alfalfa add nitro for what-grows next. Adding horse manure can't hurt, but Adding balances of minerals and microbes will build fertility. This is something that isn't done once, it's practiced yearly to constantly replenish the soil. Once the soil gets primo, keeping it that way with minerals, microbes and green manure becomes natural.

Some deep rooted plants can include alfalfa, clovers, vetch and tall grasses.

There are also farmers who intensively graze areas just to add to the manure factor.

Finally, look in permies forums on soil. There's a lot of great info there.
 
R. Morgan
Posts: 22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the tips Sherry.
I have continued this thread in the goats, sheep @alpacas section of critters

Cheers
 
Joseph Fields
Posts: 170
Location: Berea, Kentucky
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just like Paul in the Back To Eden film. The grass on the down slope side of my back to garden grows like crazy. I am planing on putting in some wood chip swales on contour that will be only wood chips. As the water flows down the slope it will wash nutrients out of the swale and fertilize the pasture.
 
Patrick Rahilly
Posts: 7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mr. Morgan,
I realize your post was made last December, sorry if this gets to you late, however, I hope to give you some thoughts to think about prior to this coming Aussi Summer.

South Australia. I don't intend to second guess you, but are you certain the soil is acidic? Do you happen to be in the Murray-Darling basin? East, West? Climate type?

you should look at the surrounding Veg on the adjacent parcels/ hillsides? Other crops in the area.

I would guess with the white clay sub soil you are probably dealing with a very old soil potentially in a very high moisture area or perhaps now dry, with a historically wet history/ancient flood plain/wetland (billabong) which has leached out all the irons and metals leaving essentially a clay/silicon matrix which can be acidic. the dusty top soils darker color from organic matter (OM) from what plants have grown there recently (last couple hundred years). The dusty-ness makes me think it is more alkaline or sodic in nature, and if you are in a flood plain/historic lake/billabong this is more likely the case than acidic. Its hard to say without knowing climate and spatial proximity in Auz.

My best suggesting to you, regardless of further details, is to look around at the adjacent veg, bushes, shrubs and trees especially. If you are not opposed to planting these in your pasture (with a little more info I can offer some help/suggestions) in broadly spaced rows (trees and shrubs) (think silvo-pasture) this may be the best way to to add OM to the sub-soil, add soil structure, increase grass rooting ability, increase water infiltration/percolation/holding capacity, decrease ET associated with wind, perhaps even build soil by collecting soil that blows off your neighbors lands. Trees/shrubs not only can access deep nutrients that have leached out of surface soils and deposit them on the surface through litter drop and shallow root turnover, but they can also bring deep soil moisture to the surface (a plant phyx anomaly).

Also, where is the water table? shallow? Water quality of the table, salty?

Anyhow, more info would be good to better ascertain your situation.

kind regards.
Patrick.
 
R. Morgan
Posts: 22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Patrick Rahilly wrote:Mr. Morgan,
I realize your post was made last December, sorry if this gets to you late, however, I hope to give you some thoughts to think about prior to this coming Aussi Summer.

South Australia. I don't intend to second guess you, but are you certain the soil is acidic? Do you happen to be in the Murray-Darling basin? East, West? Climate type?

you should look at the surrounding Veg on the adjacent parcels/ hillsides? Other crops in the area.

I would guess with the white clay sub soil you are probably dealing with a very old soil potentially in a very high moisture area or perhaps now dry, with a historically wet history/ancient flood plain/wetland (billabong) which has leached out all the irons and metals leaving essentially a clay/silicon matrix which can be acidic. the dusty top soils darker color from organic matter (OM) from what plants have grown there recently (last couple hundred years). The dusty-ness makes me think it is more alkaline or sodic in nature, and if you are in a flood plain/historic lake/billabong this is more likely the case than acidic. Its hard to say without knowing climate and spatial proximity in Auz.

My best suggesting to you, regardless of further details, is to look around at the adjacent veg, bushes, shrubs and trees especially. If you are not opposed to planting these in your pasture (with a little more info I can offer some help/suggestions) in broadly spaced rows (trees and shrubs) (think silvo-pasture) this may be the best way to to add OM to the sub-soil, add soil structure, increase grass rooting ability, increase water infiltration/percolation/holding capacity, decrease ET associated with wind, perhaps even build soil by collecting soil that blows off your neighbors lands. Trees/shrubs not only can access deep nutrients that have leached out of surface soils and deposit them on the surface through litter drop and shallow root turnover, but they can also bring deep soil moisture to the surface (a plant phyx anomaly).

Also, where is the water table? shallow? Water quality of the table, salty?

Anyhow, more info would be good to better ascertain your situation.

kind regards.
Patrick.


Hi Patrick,

I am in the Adelaide hills in South Australia, rainfall about a metre per year and a mediterranean climate. The soil is acidic and tests have confirmed that. I believe that all soils in the area are similar, unless people have added lime. I am building soil by allowing builders to dump good topsoil on the surface, and adding horse manure too. The water table is good quality water, the depth is unknown, but neighbours have bores from 35 to 60 metres deep. Once I can get things to grow faster, I will add some deep rooted pasture plants, such as lucerne (alfalfa). Once this happens, I expect that the grazing of it by sheep will slowly build up deeper and richer soil and I will have what I want. Damn slow business this soil improvement (on a low budget). I guess I need good ways to raise soil ph and keep it that way. Wish I could do it with plants alone.

Thanks for your input, much appreciated


 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What I've heard repeatedly is that the soil pH will take care of itself once you get the humus and organisms growing in it. I had clay subsoil on top after they built my barn foundation and pond. White clover and weeds were able to grow in it (after repeated seedings). IMHO weeds are good if they can grow where nothing else can! If you mow the roots die off and roots are what you want so anything that CAN grow, let it grow for now - if some of it is undesirable plants you can take care of them after they've mended the soil (unless they are REALLY Bad Plants). Adding topsoil and manure is good, it should help *something* grow to get things started. While it is bare/dead it's a good time to make swales and ponds - you won't be killing anything and digging them later would mean starting over again.

If you can get cheap straw, wood shavings or chips then you could do a chicken tractor - using the straw as bedding and leaving in their wake some fertilized areas with plant matter waiting to turn into humus.
 
Patrick Rahilly
Posts: 7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Free soil helps. One thing to caution is to look for any noxious/undesirable weeds that may come in with the soil and treat those immediately. Horse manure is probably the the manure you can add in this situation, as it breaks down slowly allowing nutrients to leach out over a longer time period, and also contains organics that have a longer residence time than say steer manure.

If your sub-soil pH is above 5.2 I wouldn't be concerned about it; 5.5 and above is more ideal. Below 5.2 you are going to have problems with nutrient availability, primarily phosphorous. Some toxicities with soil below 5.2 can occur and include aluminum toxicity which will disappear once pH is brought up above that point. I am not a big fan of lime-ing soil, however, some situations may dictate, just make sure it gets incorporated and that you don't add any nitrogen fertilizer at the same time as the lime as you will volatilize the nitrogen.

I concur, soil organics can help regulate/raise pH. Also, some microbes (primarily endo-ecto mycorrhizal fungi) can help alter the pH as well (there has been quite a bit of research on this regarding plant invasion biology). Building organics is certainly going to help but I think the bigger issue is getting that carbon into the clay sub-soil. Are these heavy clays, >50%? There are some soil hand texturing methods that can be found online to estimate clay content. Is the clay deep or is it a clay strata in the soil profile where there is lighter texture soil say at 1-2.5 metres below?

Don't be afraid of shrubs. Sheep love leafy/woody plants and their diet (depending on the breed) can be made up of 25-40% browse and woody plants. These shrubs (pea shrubs or others, careful with the pea plant type for toxic alkaloids; my sheep love locust) will help penetrate the clay soil building deep organics and structure which will eventually help the grasses break through. Your rain quantity should be adequate to support these. Alfalfa can also help this process (make sure your seed source contains inocculant) but depending on when your metre of rain comes, it may require irrigation. Alfalfa can be grown in dryland situations where precip allows, if not, look into PA Yeomans (one of your countrymen) work and book "Water for every farm", (you may already be familiar with him) where he outlines methods in irrigation or hill slopes. If you go with planting shrubs, be sure to plant them in rows following contour lines, contour furrows could help slow down water. A local soil conservation office can help you with spacing and depth of the contour furrows so that you won't cause an erosion nightmare. With your clay sub-soil, the furrows might not be the best idea as the water will hit the clay, not infiltrate, but run on the surface down slope causing erosion problems, but still worth investigating. Nonetheless, the shrubs on the contour will eventually (decades) create their own.

Also, as suggested by Renate, caution with adding too much wood chip/straw without a heavy nitrogen supply available. As Renate mentioned, Chickens (more importantly their excrement (90% plant available in the first year)), should be adequate N supply, but then you would be a chicken wrangler and not a shepherd. High carbon materials such as these without adequate nitrogen can screw with the C:N ratio of the soil essentially/effectively tying up all soil nitrogen to a non-plant available form.

When thinking about your pasture, think three dimensionally, trees/shrubs/grass. This will increase your lands carrying capacity when compared to a two dimensional grass field.

Keep up posted and have fun.
 
andrew curr
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Shade will be beneficial!
Rotational grazing is the cheapest and most immediate solution! plan to fence on contour if possible;;;aim to leave over 1000kg dry matter on the ground at end of grazing session!
Robinia ,carobs,oaks
You really get 1000mm of rainfall?
 
Sherry Jansen
Posts: 59
Location: Southern MN
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R. Morgan wrote:I have a hard white clay subsoil with a small amount of dusty brown soil on top. Grass struggles and is slow growing. Soil is acidic.
I am thinking of adding lots of horse manure to improve soil structure , moisture holding capacity and fertility. This is a smallish area
of irrigated pasture (in South Australia) which I need to establish. I need to find out what deep rooted plants to put in the mix, where to get the seeds for
it in small enough quantities and really.......... everything
All ideas appreciated.


Hi again, The hard sub-soil can be broken up by planting deep rooted plants. Alfalfa, crown vetch, clover (get a tall kind and the roots will correspond to do the breaking up the sub soil).

If you can't get grasses to grow there now, you will shortly after those nitrogen fixing plants have established themselves and the grasses and other plants will be ideal for pasture for your animals. They will also help the grass get deep roots.

I prefer using crown vetch because of how deep the root system is. I stay away from alfalfa because I have to keep replanting it. The other benefit to the crown vetch, IF it is legal to grow in your area, -it doesn't cause bloating in runimant animals. IF you are in a restricted area who does not allow crown vetch, hairy vetch might be an option.

If you have a problem getting the nitrogen fixer started, then you may have to dig in some plants of them first. As the plants establish, you won't need to add manure to the area again.
 
Lisa Paulson
Posts: 258
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Would establishing dung beetles be possible to sequester manure underground and aerate the soils , maybe even allow them to hold moisture and have many long term benefits ?

http://www.shellybeachfarm.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87:stuffconz-aussie-dung-beetles-are-coming&catid=46:in-the-news&Itemid=88
 
andrew curr
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
they are good
varietys of dung beetles are quite site specific ie some prefer clay subsoil etc
 
stephen sinnott
Posts: 25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How much land are you talking about? and how many sheep? i would buy hay and start mobbing your sheep or ideally a herd of cows on it and moving them every day if not twice a day, feed them hay on the bare ground by rolling out the bales and let them sow the grass through their manure and the seeds in the hay, nasty cheap hay with lots of seed is fine, you wont need expensive gear just keep the stocking density as high as you can make sure they graze or trample the standing grass and allow good recovery time before you rotate the ruminants back in.

steve.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic