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What To Plant In Pasture

 
Brandon Greer
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I'm getting some land cleared out this weekend which will be converted into pasture. I want to get something planted in it fairly quickly since spring is already here.

Can someone please tell me what grass or plants I should be planting? I want to get it started quickly so I will plow, fertilize then broadcast some seed. I just have no idea what to plant. I plan to have either some sheep or half sized cows. Goats are also on the list of options too but I have more than enough browse for them outside of the pasture.
 
Leila Rich
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Brandon, I'm not familiar with your climate, but lucerne/alfalfa is extremely drought-proof, high-protein perennial with an enormous root system.
I don't know grasses, but clover, forbes, vetches, dandelions are good tough pasture plants.
Some NZ farmers incorporate comfrey as a forage plant; usually the high-protein, sterile 'Bocking 14' cultivar.
There's an eternal debate about the possibility of stock developing liver problems from eating comfrey,
but I've never seen any evidence of that actually happening.
 
S Bengi
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Here is a pasture list too.
The main thing to remember is that you want 4 types of plants 1.N-fixers, 2.Drymass, 3.Pest control/medicine, 4.Aerating roots
I would plant 7-12 plants in each category.
mustard
burdock
alfalfa
lamb's quarter
fava bean
sweet clover
lupine
landino clover
buckwheat
hairy vetch
daikon
black-eyed peas
comfrey
sun flower
yarrow
borage
chamomile
dandelion
turnip
bee balm
lavender
mullein
pea (pisum arvitiuse)
stinging nettle
chard
maximillian sunflower
sorghum
 
Dan Grubbs
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What a great list of plants, S Bengi. Would you say that customizing that list down to localized growing environment and method of planting is the next step? If Brandon is running goats, would you recommend a controlled area of sericea lespedeza for one component of his parasite management program?
We're experimenting with planting it this year and will test it by adding it to my neighbor's small goat herd. We're planting about 1/2 acre of the sericea lespedeza onto an area of mixed grasses. I was inspired to plant sericea lespedeza from the research conducted and collected by the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control. Here is a webpage with quite a few resources on the use of this forage: http://www.acsrpc.org/Resources/sericea.html
 
Cj Sloane
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Consider Poplar & Willows as part of a drought resiliency plan as per this pdf

The planting of palatable trees for fodder should form part
of a farm drought resilience plan. In a drought often the
only sight of green on parched farms is trees
, particularly
poplars and willows. Some farmers are using this resource
as a feed source for stock, while other farmers are ignoring
this fodder supply on their own farms.
 
Kelly Smith
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i recently asked about planting a [irrigated] pasture, with an eye towards feeding a dairy cow, maybe something in that thread will help.
http://www.permies.com/t/33453/plants/irrigated-pasture-planting-suggestions

i am planting:
a variety of grasses (orchardgrass, brome grass, fescue and ryegrass)
a few varieties of chickory - tap rooted
dandelion - tap rooted
red clover - n fixer
sainfion - non bloat n-fixer
i already have vernal alfalfa growing, as it was the only thing that survived our recent drought.

hope this helps.
 
R Scott
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I am going to include poplar and/or willow in some of my swales for that reason.

Back before I knew what permaculture was, I overgrazed some cottonwood and willow. It got my goats through a drought with no hay, but if I would have known proper coppicing and grazing I would still have the resource

Google Gabe Brown seed mix--Gabe is a no-till farmer in North Dakota that plants a huge polyculture, usually over a dozen and sometimes up to fifty varieties at the same time.

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs144p2_042083.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKjX3UdVDFU

He has a lot of info on how to choose crops to do what you want. Use that info for the annuals/support species to plant, then add the perennials you want on top of that mix.
 
L. Zell
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Dan--where did you get the lespedeza seed. I got birdsfoot trefoil seed locally, and asked about the lespedeza. There was nervous laughter, shifty eyes, and a whispered, "I can't sell you that, the local farmers would kill me!" The trefoil was another plant that came up several times for controlling worms in goats/sheep, so I'm going to try it. Even though the local feed store caters to a a more hippy type croud, I think they still think I'm crazy...
 
Dan Grubbs
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L Zell
I purchased my sericea lespedeza seed from Lawson Agri Services ... but I believe they ordered it from some place in Rolla. So, depending on what part of the state you're in, one or the other will serve. I also got an uncomfortable chuckle when I first called to order the seed. Once I explained it was for goat forage, the agronomist understood. Some states won't let you plant it at all. There are several varieties of lespedeza, so you have to specify sericea lespedeza. I'm told the cattle in our parts of Missouri won't touch it as it gets woody stems if left to grow too tall. I plan to mow it down while still tender and shock it up for goat forage. It is baleable, but I haven't found anyone who is ensiling it. I don't know what the fermination process might do to the beneficial tannin in it, so I'm going to bundle it into shocks. If you need the name and phone number of the agronomist I ordered it from, send me a message (purple moosage).
 
Kelly Smith
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L. Zell wrote: Even though the local feed store caters to a a more hippy type croud, I think they still think I'm crazy...


i know that feeling, and my local feed store DOES NOT cater to the hippy crowd.
our local feed store thinks we are nuts. the owners cant understand why we dont want to feed a cow grain! "thats what they are designed to eat" he tells me.

should have seen the look when i asked about planting dandelion in the pasture
 
Renate Howard
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You can also go to a bulk store if there are any in your area (or ethnic store - Indian stores are great) and pick up some herb seeds like dill, fennel, mustard seeds, etc. They are vermifuges/medicinal, and feed good insects. I planted garlic bulbs in my pasture and the cows LOVED them, they grazed them down so much they didn't grow much but I see them coming up again this year. Others in the family are chives and garlic chives. Also look for some artemisia seeds, the other name for that plant is wormwood and it is a pretty good vermifuge. Only plant a few, tho, because it can take over.

Chicory, dock, dandelions and some other really good ones are colonizers that will probably show up on their own.

ETA: You can also divide the pasture with a double-row of fencing (maybe 4 feet apart, depending on what kind of fencing you use) and in the middle transplant any wild blackberries or raspberries you have on the land as well as rugosa roses, fruit tree seedlings (from fruit you're eating), pine trees, and some of your willows and poplars. As they grow toward/through the fence they can be browsed, but the main plants will be safely protected behind the fence. This can provide a wildlife corridor and shade for hot days.
 
L. Zell
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Location: Missouri
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Thanks Dan, message sent. I explained why I wanted it, and they still looked at me like I was crazy. I try to tell people around here (central MO) who complain about the s. lespedeza that they merely have a shortage of goats, but they don't believe me...
 
Brandon Greer
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S Bengi wrote:Here is a pasture list too.
The main thing to remember is that you want 4 types of plants 1.N-fixers, 2.Drymass, 3.Pest control/medicine, 4.Aerating roots
I would plant 7-12 plants in each category.
mustard
burdock
alfalfa
lamb's quarter
fava bean
sweet clover
lupine
landino clover
buckwheat
hairy vetch
daikon
black-eyed peas
comfrey
sun flower
yarrow
borage
chamomile
dandelion
turnip
bee balm
lavender
mullein
pea (pisum arvitiuse)
stinging nettle
chard
maximillian sunflower
sorghum


Thanks for the list. I can easily look up which of the listed items are N-fixers but can you tell me which of the other items listed fall into the other categories?
 
S Bengi
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N-fixers (50% of pasture/food forest)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabaceae
maybe Adler too, I have no idea what the protein content is for Adler


Drymass (25% of pasture)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poaceae grass/rye/grains/etc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosaceae fruits/brambles
And trees in general (willow, polar)

Medicine (12% of pasture)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium onion family
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamiaceae mint family
Other human herbal medicines work similar in cattle.

Aerating taproot (12% of pasture)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_root_vegetables#True_root
Carrot family
Cabbage family
Any veggies with long roots.
Mineral miners like comfrey.
I sometimes just like to include hyper nutrient accumulators in this group.
Think super veggies like kale, mustard green, spinach etc even though they dont technically have a taproot
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks for the detailed explanation! I'm curious how these plants are applied to the pasture. My neighbor (who likely doesn't have a permie bone in his body) is the one clearing out some land for me with his dozer and he told me that when he's finished I should plow up the field, fertilize then broadcast bermudagrass. When first starting a permie version of pasture, do the same steps apply? Can I mix all these suggested seeds in a seed spreader and go to town with a tractor? Or is a permie pasture more carefully developed?

The root vegetables through me a bit because I thought those need to be hand planted in very rich garden soil which makes the plow and broadcast idea unapplicable in my mind. But I'm new to all methods in general, both permie and non-permie styles.

 
John Elliott
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Brandon Greer wrote:
The root vegetables through me a bit because I thought those need to be hand planted in very rich garden soil which makes the plow and broadcast idea unapplicable in my mind. But I'm new to all methods in general, both permie and non-permie styles.


Root vegetables (brassicas like turnips and radishes) are better planted in the fall. Planted now, they may just bolt and go to seed depending on how quickly the hot weather arrives. But comes fall, you want to be planting root vegetables in your climate because they will continue to produce during the winter (so will chicory and to some extent dandelion). If you are unfamiliar with this method, just google "forage turnip" and it will open a new world for you. Here in Georgia, when I plant collards in the fall, I can keep cutting them for chicken forage into May of the following year.
 
S Bengi
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Garlic or radish going to see is not really a problem.
That means that the cattle can eat the seed head and get more nutrients and the plants can self-seed for the next season.

You are going to have to overseed the area initially
And if you do rotational grazing every 30days or how ever often they return to an area. As soon as they leave the area to a new area.

I would also recommend testing the soil. And amending it with minerals if possible.
 
Brandon Greer
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I won't have any animals going on it for at least a few months, maybe longer, but I still want to get some good grass started there because now it's pretty rough looking and after having the trees removed it'll probably just be mud. With that in mind, what should I plant right away this Spring to get the pasture started?

Also, does my neighbor's suggestion of plowing and broadcasting seed sound ok? I mean is that how permies do it? All the advice I get locally are from poison farmers so I'm not sure what of their advice is acceptable for permaculture and what is not. It can get confusing and overwhelming.
 
Renate Howard
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Research the grass varieties - look for whether they are GMO/non-GMO (a lot of alfalfa now is GMO), and other issues particular to that kind. For instance, I found out the fescue in my pasture carries a fungus that makes a toxin in the summer months that's responsible for killing seed-eating birds and even cattle if they eat too much of it. People in different climates don't know which pasture grasses will do well in Texas where it's a different climate than ours - there are different grasses for different parts of the country.

In addition to the herbs and shrubs to round out the diet, you'll want to look at warm season versus cool season perennial or self-seeding grasses. For better gazing you need a mix of both warm and cool season plants and grasses, so in the winter when things are cooler there will be green grass and in the summer during the hot dry days there will be something there for them to eat as well. A mix of warm season grass, cool season grass, and clover that all do well in your pasture should be the bulk of what you plant, with the other things added in sparsely. Because grass and clover will be the mainstay of the animals diet, the rest is just for health and variety.

You don't want to have to keep replanting every year! Some, like some of the clovers or alfalfa will die out after just a year or two if the conditions aren't just right or if they are grazed too short, but still may add nitrogen and fertility in the meantime. So also look up how long they're likely to last.

I wouldn't add fertilizer - the organic is very expensive, and the chemical will set back the micro-organisms and earthworms that you need in order to build humus. If you really want to do things right and have the money, get a soil test done by Fertrell and use the rock powders, etc. they recommend, because balanced minerals will make healthier animals.

If the neighbor scrapes off the topsoil and doesn't re-distribute it then you may have problems in some areas, but hopefully he'll be aware and not scalp your land. Land that has been wild is usually very fertile until we mess it up.
 
Cj Sloane
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This would be the time to put in some swales. Make sure the non-permie guy with the dozer knows to not compact the swale.

Also, what trees are you taking out?

If the animals aren't going in for awhile, you can always mow.
 
S Bengi
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The strongest, healthiest, and most nutritious pasture/cows are grown in a soil where the soil's CEC is saturated to about:
65% Calcium,
15% Magnesium,
4% Potassium,
2% Sodium,
5%(Zinc, Copper, Iron, etc)
and 9% H+ (or free for a pH of 6.5)


You should post your soil test on here.
 
Brandon Greer
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I know there is a wealth of great advice here it's just going to take some time to let it soak in because it's pretty overwhelming!

The lady at my local ag extension told me the only way to go in my area is hybrid bermuda grass and ryegrass. What do you guys think about this? Does hybrid mean it's GMO?
 
Brandon Greer
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Cj Verde wrote:This would be the time to put in some swales. Make sure the non-permie guy with the dozer knows to not compact the swale.

Also, what trees are you taking out?

If the animals aren't going in for awhile, you can always mow.


I'd very much like to add swales but the pasture area is about as flat as it gets. The trees being removed are about 99% Eastern Red Cedar, the rest are dead trees and a few Mesquite Trees.
 
Cj Sloane
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Brandon Greer wrote:Does hybrid mean it's GMO?

Not necessarily.
 
Cj Sloane
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Brandon Greer wrote:
I'd very much like to add swales but the pasture area is about as flat as it gets. The trees being removed are about 99% Eastern Red Cedar, the rest are dead trees and a few Mesquite Trees.


Hmmm. How about using some of those trees for hugelkulturs? I don't think cedars are the best for that but maybe you've got enough other kinds. It be a good idea to plant a few shade trees in the pasture. They would still be a benefit from a swale or on the low side of a HK.

Also, while you've got a dozer handy, how about some of those log shelters like Sepp builds?
 
S Bengi
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Swales are perfect for flat lands. The simple allow water to soak in vs just sheeting and you can fill the swale with straw/hay to get the system off to a good start.
And in the dry season, the swale will have super green grass.

How about orchardgrass, wheatgrass, and ryegrass.

I also saw this, for your area, I think they would be awesome for your drymass mix.
25% Big Bluestem
20% Sand Bluestem
20% Sideoats Grama
20% Buffalograss
5% Blue Grama
10% Indiangrass
 
Brandon Greer
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Cj Verde wrote:
Brandon Greer wrote:
I'd very much like to add swales but the pasture area is about as flat as it gets. The trees being removed are about 99% Eastern Red Cedar, the rest are dead trees and a few Mesquite Trees.


Hmmm. How about using some of those trees for hugelkulturs? I don't think cedars are the best for that but maybe you've got enough other kinds. It be a good idea to plant a few shade trees in the pasture. They would still be a benefit from a swale or on the low side of a HK.

Also, while you've got a dozer handy, how about some of those log shelters like Sepp builds?


After he's finished I'll see what I have and go from there. I certainly don't want to just burn it as my neighbor suggested. I'll try to make use of whatever I can.
 
Brandon Greer
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S Bengi wrote:Swales are perfect for flat lands. The simple allow water to soak in vs just sheeting and you can fill the swale with straw/hay to get the system off to a good start.
And in the dry season, the swale will have super green grass.


Please point me in the direction of some info on flatland swales because I very much want to do that!

S Bengi wrote:
How about orchardgrass, wheatgrass, and ryegrass.

I also saw this, for your area, I think they would be awesome for your drymass mix.
25% Big Bluestem
20% Sand Bluestem
20% Sideoats Grama
20% Buffalograss
5% Blue Grama
10% Indiangrass


Thanks for this! So these grasses combined would make up the 25% drymass mix, right? So the Big Bluestem for example would be approximately 6% of the overall pasture?
 
John Elliott
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Brandon Greer wrote:
The lady at my local ag extension told me the only way to go in my area is hybrid bermuda grass and ryegrass. What do you guys think about this?


I think she has you confused with a golf course owner. Unless you want to open a pitch-and-putt, get some diversity in there -- legumes, deep rooted forbs, drought tolerant perennials, you know, prairie plants.
 
S Bengi
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Have you watched the greening the desert video, here it is, that is flatland, and it is desert, so it will work for your semi-arid area.
http://youtu.be/wTZ0LbvUoOY?t=2m51s

And yes it would be 6%
 
Brandon Greer
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S Bengi wrote:Have you watched the greening the desert video, here it is, that is flatland, and it is desert, so it will work for your semi-arid area.
http://youtu.be/wTZ0LbvUoOY?t=2m51s

And yes it would be 6%


I watched the video and saw the swales but he didn't say how they are constructed. Any other links or resources?

Also, according to Wikipedia, the Dallas area is in the humid subtropics rather than semi-arid. Would that change your suggested drymass mix suggested in your previous post?
 
Brandon Greer
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John Elliott wrote:
Brandon Greer wrote:
The lady at my local ag extension told me the only way to go in my area is hybrid bermuda grass and ryegrass. What do you guys think about this?


I think she has you confused with a golf course owner. Unless you want to open a pitch-and-putt, get some diversity in there -- legumes, deep rooted forbs, drought tolerant perennials, you know, prairie plants.


And my neighbor pretty much recommended the same as she did. That's why I feel like this site is my only hope at doing it right because the locals evidently cannot help me. But it's also difficult to know what parts of the conventional methods and the permaculture methods do in fact overlap. For example, would you plow the ground before planting the prairie plants? The locals so far are recommending I do but what is the permie take on it?
 
R Scott
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You can plow ONCE without major impact to soil biology. If your soil is dead, then you aren't killing anything are you? So if that is all you can get, do it.

The problem with normal plowing is it only works the top 6-8 inches and leaves a hard layer (plow pan) right underneath. Getting someone in with a subsoiler will decompact the soil and still leave the layers fairly intact.

A little surface disking is all you need to plant grass.

 
Brandon Greer
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R Scott wrote:You can plow ONCE without major impact to soil biology. If your soil is dead, then you aren't killing anything are you? So if that is all you can get, do it.

The problem with normal plowing is it only works the top 6-8 inches and leaves a hard layer (plow pan) right underneath. Getting someone in with a subsoiler will decompact the soil and still leave the layers fairly intact.

A little surface disking is all you need to plant grass.



Thanks!
 
Brandon Greer
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After doing some reading it seems like all forage legumes are cool season. Is that true?

Also, most sources are saying that even perennial legumes behave as annuals and so need to be reseeded every year. Is that true? That doesn't sound very permaculture.
 
R Scott
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Perennial legumes act as annuals because they are heavily grazed, hayed, or have too much competition from the other plants to establish. If you treat them like an annual, they will behave like an annual.

 
S Bengi
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Swales are nothing more than strips of depression.
So if you cut the land into 20ft rows and have ever other row as a 20ft wide, 2ft deep ditch/depression/swale then you are Ok.
You want the bottom to be level. And if possible have the row/ditch go from one side of the pasture to the next. But that is not a must.
The main goal is to have lots of holes/depression for water to sink into. You can call them ditch or swale or depression. It really does not matter because you are on flat land.

 
L. Zell
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For a warm season legume, I've been looking at cowpeas (annual) and sunn hemp (annual in my climate, may be perennial/set seed in yours, you'd have to check). I'm going to try some sunn hemp this year if I can get a couple of pounds.
 
Brandon Greer
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S Bengi wrote:Swales are nothing more than strips of depression.
So if you cut the land into 20ft rows and have ever other row as a 20ft wide, 2ft deep ditch/depression/swale then you are Ok.
You want the bottom to be level. And if possible have the row/ditch go from one side of the pasture to the next. But that is not a must.
The main goal is to have lots of holes/depression for water to sink into. You can call them ditch or swale or depression. It really does not matter because you are on flat land.



Thanks for the tip. Does the placement matter? For example are they cut on contour, or East to West or North to South? Or do you just pick a starting point and go every 20 ft?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Contour, otherwise they will turn into a wash.
 
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