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changing woodland to pasture

 
E. Barker
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I 'd like some suggestions on changing woodland to pasture. our homestead currently has chickens, geese, rabbits, fruits, and vegetables. l'd like to add more...specifically meat and milk.
I have a smallish property -3acres- 2/3 of it slopes down northward toward a beaver pond.The whole thing was densely forested until the beavers moved in a few years ago and took hundreds of trees. the Flooding killed the largest trees that were left. Next, the town put in a beaver resistant drain and the water level dropped six feet, almost to the pre beaver level. I've cleared away most of the dead brush, leaving a few snags as habitat. now I have 2-3 inches of dry rooty peat, some gravely soil and lots of boulders. My goal is to make it into good grazing for a cow-I'm hoping for a mini Irish Jersey. I don't have easy access by machine, and parts of it are impossible to drive fence posts into (ledge.)

I'm looking for suggestions on how to go about getting pasture established. Right now it is mostly bare peat. Some catbrier and wild blackberry shoots are growing, but not much else. I need ideas that don't require a big outlay of cash. I'm still saving for the cow.
I'm also wondering if anyone has fencing suggestions for pigs on land such as this. The last time we had pigs they found a weak spot to get out and wallow around in the swamp. (Which doesn't belong to me) Their return involved hours of chasing annoyed pigs up and down the hill, calling my husband and sons home from work etc... Not something I ever want to do again.
If anyone has done something like this, I'd love to hear what worked and what didn't.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Q: I don't have easy access by machine, and parts of it are impossible to drive fence posts into (ledge.)

A: I would utilize an above-ground basket/cage full of rocks as a brace point to anchor modified plastic fence posts for electric fencing. I would modify my poly-posts by removing their metal spike(s), and drilling a hole at the bottom to run some rebar through for horizontal bracing under the rocks. As soon as you've cleared the rock you can use the step-in posts just as they come.

Q: I'm also wondering if anyone has fencing suggestions for pigs on land such as this.

A: Yes, electric! I prefer electric rope as it is white and easy to see, but you can use any of the options such as electric tape, wire, etc.

The last time we had pigs they found a weak spot to get out and wallow around in the swamp.
Their return involved hours of chasing annoyed pigs up and down the hill, calling my husband and sons home from work etc... Not something I ever want to do again.

A: Answer is to feed by hand and use a certain call that you only use for the pigs - we use pig pig pig pig.... you get the idea. I let my pigs out twice a day for 30 minutes feeding time and call them back to their paddock with a feed bucket. Their paddock (home) changes as they are rotational. This works so well that when they want to go back home they come and find us in order to start the routine that ends in their getting a treat. We do this 'training' with all our animals so we can catch chicken's, ducks and sheep in order to get our hands on them when needed. When I move electric fencing for the sheep, alpacas and chickens they are all set free until we get the netting back into the ground in the new location. I just start calling and they come running to the feed bucket and their new home - easy.

Sorry I have no specific ideas about your grass growing except for you to wait until just before Spring and throw out seed. All other options would involve much more expense.



 
E. Barker
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Thanks for your reply. On the first point I don't quite get what you mean.

A: I would utilize an above-ground basket/cage full of rocks as a brace point to anchor modified plastic fence posts for electric fencing. I would modify my poly-posts by removing their metal spike(s), and drilling a hole at the bottom to run some rebar through for horizontal bracing under the rocks. As soon as you've cleared the rock you can use the step-in posts just as they come.

I'm picturing structures full of rocks holding the posts holding the fencing. How do you get the fencing tight to the ground around the rocks?

As far as calling and hand feeding, I do that with my chickens and geese, I just never thought it would work with pigs.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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First, location? (consider adding your location to your profile).

Second, I have very ledgy land and fencing has been problematic. Pigs have been the easiest to contain by far. They did get out the day of slaughter which was in January about a month after the electric stopped working due to low light (I'm off grid). I called them and shook the food bucket and amazingly they came running down the hill, and came back into the paddock the same way they escaped. I put them in a small, very secure paddock I use for piglets and the slaughter went fine.

Pigs will rip up an area pretty good, especially if you keep them in for that reason.

You will probably have to take down some trees to let light in, or at least girdle them. If the trees are ones cows like (there's a long list) you might want to pollard or coppice them. I have a thread on Feeding trees to my cows.

You might want to take a look at my project thread (see link in my sig).
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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E. Barker wrote:Thanks for your reply. On the first point I don't quite get what you mean.

Q: I'm picturing structures full of rocks holding the posts holding the fencing. How do you get the fencing tight to the ground around the rocks?


A: With electric (and pigs) you can start the line off the ground 6 - 8" your rocks shouldn't be higher than that. Or if you have someone around who is good at construction they could build you some wooden stands to attach your poloy-poles to, large rocks stacked on the base would help secure it. I'll look for some pics and try to post them when I can.... but the idea is to create something easily moveable and yet secure enough to stand up to wind and other stresses. Your electric should be stout, with enough shock power that the pigs (dogs, etc.) do not want to test it a second time.

Regarding piglets: I make a cattle panel paddock with temp housing for sow/piglets (I have one set up now), so no worries about electric being low enough for wee piglets. At about 2 - 3 months of age (depending on breed size) add one electric line 4-6" off the ground inside the panel paddock to train the piglets. I'll take a pic and post in a couple of days. In no time they are ready to join the others. I make my paddock using one T-post per 16' panel (centered); I use clothes line to tie the panel to the post and to tie the panels to each other. It's fast and easy to set up and take down for two people. With piglets I add a couple of feet of stiff plastic netting along the bottom to keep them inside until they have grown to big to fit through the panels. Works great for me.

E. Barker wrote:As far as calling and hand feeding, I do that with my chickens and geese, I just never thought it would work with pigs.


Yes, it works for pigs.... pigs are easily trained, much faster than birds.

Regarding physiology: Pigs will do less damage with plenty of land to forage over. The condition of the land (soggy with rain or water) and amount of interesting things to eat will impact the damage or lack there of. Some breeds seem to route more than others, but all will plow a place up if confined in to small of a space. Pigs need interest, think habitat enrichment, keep the pigs busy moving over land finding food and they route little. My pigs do no damage while the acorns are falling and the grasses are growing. In winter I move them off the fields and extend their territory 10x into my forest brush, damage is done but with moving them the land recovers.

Check out www.http://sugarmtnfarm.com/ Pastured Pigs.

Let me know if you have any more questions ~


 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
25
books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Some pictures may help

The Hog Fence Example pic gives you an idea of how high and how far the spacing is for the electric pig fencing.

The other pics are of my temp-paddock for training pigs to electric line.

After piglets are trained to electric you can remove the cattle panels and add two more lines for a electric only hog fence.
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Standard Electric Hog Fence Example
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This pic shows how I tie my panels together, and to the T-post
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Here is a close up of the electric training set up. Panel is on the outside of the T-post with the electric line on the inside.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
25
books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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A couple more ideas for electric above-ground, semi-permanent or temporary fence posts on rocky ground -

1. Use one of those round concrete forming tubes cut into 6" lengths. Stand a T-post, Rebar or Plastic Post in the center and pour concrete inside around the post of your choice. Roll and stand these where needed. FYI - Rebar will last much longer than plastic or fiberglass and is lighter than a T-post.

2. Take a 5 gal bucket, and place a plastic step-in post near the side of your bucket, with the hooks facing out, and secure to the side with duck tape in several places. Next add enough rock or sand inside to weight the bucket and support your post securely. You will need to attach insulators as needed for the lower electric line(s) to the outside of your bucket just under your post, with a good plastic adhesive. Place the buckets and run your wire.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
25
books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Just for fun.... Here are the piglets!

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