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thoughts on liming pasture or biodynamic approach

Posts: 3
Location: Snohomish, WA
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Hi Adam -

It's great to have you on the forum and I can't wait to read your book (already ordered it)! We live in Snohomish, WA with fairly acidic soils. Your soils probably aren't but I was wondering what you think about liming cattle pasture, or if there is a different biodynamic approach?

On slightly different note, I put a mix of dolomitic lime, sulfur, kelp powder and copper sulphate in with the alfalfa pellets I feed my dairy goats and dexter cow as advised by Pat Coleby in her books on natural goat and cattle care. Do you have any thoughts or experience with this? What minerals do you give your dairy cows?

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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Good questions Jenni, and thanks for ordering the book!

I think liming may be appropriate in certain contexts, but it is difficult to justify the costs of lime application on cattle pastures in all but the most extreme circumstances. You are right, I have a calcareous soil, so I do not apply lime to my pastures. Although, as an interesting side note, I do apply gypsum to my market garden, because the cost-benefit ratio is so much more profitable.

The only supplemental feeds/minerals that I give my cows are high quality alfalfa hay, redmond real salt, and kelp. I am fortunate to have volcanic soils that are generally mineral rich. If you are short on minerals, using a buffet feeder approach where the cows can free choice their mineral needs is the most effective way to go. I discuss this in my book, although I do not practice it myself. Guys like Greg Judy are pros at this technique, and have found that it is much cheaper to let the cows choose what they need, and allow the cows manure to distribute these minerals onto the pastures.

As far as the biodynamic approach, I am a big believer. Biodynamics utilizes microbes to make previously inert soil minerals biologically available. It is much cheaper to work with biology than with chemistry; that is one of the foundation ideas of biodynamic soil fertility. Regular application of soil microbes through biodynamic compost application allows our plants to access previously unavailable minerals directly from the soil. This is the best approach, in my opinion. 'Soil Fertility' by E. Pfeifer is the book to look at for understanding this concept in a practical way.

Good luck!
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