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Clearing Scotch Broom with Pigs?

 
Derek Noble
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Does anyone have any experience with clearing old scotch broom stands out with pigs? While broom is a nitrogen fixer with bright golden flowers here in the PNW (Yelm WA specifically) it can overpower large acres of once pasture land turning it into a mono crop over 5ft tall. I wish to help someone with about 3 acres of this mono crop of broom turning it back into pasture. It happens I am also planning to get pigs this year, and see a mutually beneficial possibility.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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Bored pigs will root up anything that's not poisonous to them. If you pen pigs in a small area and plan to feed them grain/hay/whey, etc. then they probably will clear the area. Throwing handfuls of corn at the areas you want them to root helps, too. Then you can move them and repeat. Once they destroy the scotch broom your friend may want to plant something to smother any that tries to come back - like buckwheat or another good smother crop, and/or keep it mowed for a bit to keep the remaining broom from coming back. There's a great window of opportunity with pigs where they've destroyed the plants and trampled them into the soil but haven't yet compacted it, that's the best time to move them, even if it's only 90% cleared.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Scotch broom is such a prolific seed producer, you really need to watch that the disturbance doesn't just cause twice as many to sprout. You need to sprout those seeds or they will come back whenever (they say they are viable for 50+ years) but it is a real process to stay ahead of them.
 
Derek Noble
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I am a bit worried about the toxicity of the plant, I read that it is toxic but goats can still eat the bushy part. I believe if it was a problem for pigs they would not eat it, but I will be penning them up in a mono culture of the stuff.
Post pigs my plan is to follow up with chickens in hope they will reduce the seed bank and clean up after the pigs. Then my thought was replant it into pasture and apply compost tea. I was surprised to read that even some of the local counties use compost tea to control blackberries and scotch broom along road ways, and I thought they only knew how to apply poison :p
After that grazing with goats, or sheep would be in order to eat any of the new broom starts. The neighboring property has a 35 acre field of solid scotch broom so my friends will never be rid of the stuff or their offspring, follow up management will have to focus on making the environment more friendly to the new desired ecosystem.
 
Brian Kerkvliet
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Location: Bellingham
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I have not personally dealt with a lot of scotch broom but here is what I know. It is a nitrogen fixer and is there trying to repair and prepare the soil. Usually it dies back once over story trees come into play. It is what is called a pioneer species. You are hoping it will pioneer a pasture though. Have you checked the soil in that area to see what it is like? It usually grows in rocky sandy compacted or bad soil then it tries to make it better for the next secession of plants.

Pigs are usually pretty good at telling if something is toxic or not. If they don't think that it looks like food they will just leave it alone if there is something better offered. If it is a thick stand I would think that you would want to send in goats first to clear it out of leaves a bit first. Then send in the pigs and see what they do. You may need to help them out by cutting out the over story brush so that they can get to the root mass. Then encourage them to root by sprinkling grain where you want them to work. For the first several months they wont root a lot but they get into it more as they size up. All pigs are not created equal, we have had some pigs that were not interested in rooting much at all and others of the same breed totally were. 3 or more work better then two makes them a bit competitive. If you are going to get pigs anyway give it a shot. Sounds like a project. Good luck with that and let us know how it goes.
 
Jeremy Newell
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Hi, I'm just starting a farm in PNW and have asked the same question of some of the established farmers in my area. Some have indeed used pigs, successfully, to deal with scotch broom infestations!

As has been said already, the pigs are smart enough to know not to eat the broom.
Get a rooting breed, not a grazing/browsing breed as you want them digging up the roots. Use grains around the base of the broom plants to direct the pigs' rooting.

Best time to attack broom is when it's in full bloom (that would have been May this year). The plant has moved much of it's energy from it's roots to it's blossoms. After that point it is making seeds (undesired) and photosynthesizing to start putting energy back into it's roots for next year (also undesired). You may want to chop them down before much of the regenerative part of the cycle happens.

As for using goats to nip broom sprouts, I've also heard from the local farmers that goats will eat the broom, but only if there isn't much else to chew on so I'm not sure if it's all that good for them to eat. More research required, I think.

Also as was mentioned, scotch broom is a pioneer plant trying to improve poor/damaged soil. After a good rooting/chopping, might be good idea to sow some clover (or your preferred substitute) for nitrogen-fixing, ground-covering goodness to reduce both the footprint for the broom to grow back in and the need for it to grow back.


Please keep in mind - none of this is first hand experience for me, just information I'm getting from the experienced locals. If you try any of this out, I would love to hear how it goes. If I get to if first, I will let you know how it goes!
 
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