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Sheep and Bamboo

 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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I'm wondering if anyone plants bamboo in their sheep pasture? I just have two ewes, and three acres on a ridge. I've been raising the sheep for meat for about five years. I typically get three lambs a season. I'm trying to eliminate any external feed, like alfalfa, and they do great for most of the year eating the lawn (chained to dog-run stakes in the ground), orchard prunings, fruit falls, kitchen garbage, and old bread from a nearby business.

I've just finished planting a steep fenced area 50'x50' with our (Santa Cruz, CA) local hardy, invasive fescue-type park grass, which my hair sheep love, and comfrey, which they also love. (I don't believe the rumors that comfrey is poisonous.) Since we have zero rain in the summer and the area faces south, I had to put a drip system in, perpendicular to grade to keep the grass and comfrey alive.

As a permaculture follower, I'm wondering if bamboo, which is considered an "invasive pest" by many, might be an addition to my "Lambchops from Sunshine and Water" project. Of course, the area has plenty of sheep manure to fertilize the bamboo, grass and comfrey.

Actually, after reading about sheep and bamboo on the internet, I'm going to do it. Of course, planting bamboo (at least the local "invasive" kind") is as simple as dipping a cutting in B-1 and sticking it in the ground. From my research on the Bamboo People Website, it seems like the major issue would be keeping the sheep out of the area during "corming" or something, which is when the new shoots come up. This shouldn't be a problem since I plan to intensively graze the area and then move them to another paddock.

This brings me to another issue: overeating. I lost a ewe last year, I believe to overeating (yes, vaccinated). (It could also have been from eating chicken feed, which contains copper, but their livers were fine). I am a little concerned about turning sheep into what will eventually be a very lush area. Give them some of the future food ahead of turning them in?

Don Eggleston

 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
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I think the plan would work just fine, if you can keep the bamboo happy through the dry summer. That's the main reason I don't have any now. When I lived in GA, bamboo was a big hit with my goats. Mostly too tall for them but whenever I'd be harvesting any I'd bring them the leafy tops and they'd go to town on it.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You don't have to let them in to the whole thing at once, you can use rotational grazing methods and only introduce them to a few square feet per day of new growth. The sudden change in diet could be pretty hard on them.
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Thanks guys!

I don't have any cross fencing in this pasture. I guess I can just chain them to the fence so they don't overeat the first day. I presume the overeating problem with sheep is based on switching them to new feed suddenly. If, after limited consumption on day 1, they should be able to be released on day 2, right?

Don
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You can use temporary fence and move it daily or every couple days, like mob grazing. One roll of netting and a basic electric charger.

http://www.kencove.com/fence/detail.php?code=NSGG2

plus

http://www.kencove.com/fence/Kencove+Strip+Grazer_detail_EAK.php

Just an example, many sources for that kind of gear. I would probably get the longer fence so you could set it up as a self-contained area anywhere.
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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I actually have an electric fence I'm not using, but I find chaining the two ewes out is simpler for most situations. I'm definitely going to plant some bamboo in with the grass and comfrey.

Thanks again, R and Alder.

Don
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 208
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Hi Doug,

I think Bamboo is an excellent and underutilized general forage for animals. Way more productive than most grasses.

I am currently implementing a 10 acre pasture/hedgerow system and will be propagating a lot of bamboo for it. The system is intended to be multispecies. Sheep, goats and pigs mostly. With Guinea fowl, and chickens in the mix at times.

The way I have the system set up, there will be hang over forage of bamboo in most of the paddocks.

And in the winter, when we are under a load of snow, the animals will have a loafing pen that is wind sheltered by tall, evergeen bamboo (and other evergreens hardy to zone 6) which can be cut and fed as live green forage over winter.

Bamboo Species I am sourcing include
Phyllostachys nuda
Fargesia nitida

Other forage trees which will provide cut foliage into the colder months include:
an indehiscent form of Honey Locust (the pods stay on the tree to be harvested whenever)
Willows
Eleagnus spp.
Figs/Mullberries

and of course the native Oaks and Pines which are pretty good mast and evergreen forage.
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Andrew: Similar to what I'm trying to do. Have you considered fruit trees along the hedgerow or inside the pasture? My plan is to put a couple of maintenance free, heavy bearing persimmon and mulberry trees on the edges of the fence. I think if done right, much of the year the sheep/chickens could feast on the fruit drops.

Don
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 208
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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forest garden goat hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees woodworking
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Don Eggleston wrote:Andrew: Similar to what I'm trying to do. Have you considered fruit trees along the hedgerow or inside the pasture? My plan is to put a couple of maintenance free, heavy bearing persimmon and mulberry trees on the edges of the fence. I think if done right, much of the year the sheep/chickens could feast on the fruit drops.

Don


Hi Don, Yeah. The plan is to have ~160ft wide paddocks between ~50ft wide contour-swale hedgerow "exclosures" which also provide car/tractor access.

The vegetation at the edges of the hedgerows will be primarily hang over forage and nitrogen fixing support species, and coppiced fencepost timber.

The trees/shrubs/bushes/forbs on the interior of the hedgrows and on the swale mound will be a combination of fruit trees for human use (standard apples, pears, plums. semi-wild, mainly for cidering or animal feed. quantity over quality since the paddock system is in our zone 3-4 and we have loads of other fruit trees elsewhere), fodder root crops for in-the-ground winter storage (turnips, mangel beets, sunchokes...), and mulch/emergency forage sources in the understory (alfalfa, comfrey, chickory, fescue...)

Plants such as the honey locust, bamboo, black locust, eleagnus, and Willow will all be near he fence lines where they can easily be cut and tossed over the fence.
The fruit trees will be closer to the swales where they can easily be harvested by car driving along the swale.

I am thinking of having Locusts be planted in parts of. more open pasture.

However, my long term goal is to be able to also do some broad acre cropping in the fields too, as the soil becomes better conditioned. So I have to be conscientious about where I put the trees.

The swales are also hooked up to a seasonal stream so they can be filled continuously when the creek is running.
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Whoa, Andrew! You're way ahead of me. Sounds like an amazing system.

Don
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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I maintain several groves of running bamboos in my sheep pastures. I keep the sheep fenced out of the grove during the spring shooting season, but they have access to the groves for the remainder of the year. The sheep eat any shoots coming up outside of the fenced area and so keep the bamboo from spreading beyond the fence. The bamboo provide food for the sheep in the form of the shoots coming up beyond the fence during the spring shooting season. It provides shade during the hot summer. In late winter, after the sheep have eaten down most of the pasture grasses, I progressively cut older culms to feed the sheep, once the sheep have eaten off the leaves, I use the culms for garden stakes and other construction. The sheep fertilize the groves when they linger in the shady groves during the heat of the day. The groves are also fertilized by the 1000's of common grackles that overnight in the grove during the winter months.
 
Don Eggleston
Posts: 40
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Thanks, Mike. Just what I have in mind.

Don
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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