• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Trying to turn 8 acres of brush into cattle/sheep pasture

 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 102
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm trying to figure out the cheapest method to turn 8 acres of moderately heavy brush (no trees or stems over 1-2" in diameter) into a healthy pasture. I don't have a tractor, and I don't want to buy one. My goal is to use animals to do as much work as possible upfront, as well as for maintenance. Long term, I plan to raise cattle and sheep on this pasture. Currently I have 2 sheep, obviously not enough to make a dent in the overgrown pasture I have right now. I just got them so that I could get started learning more about them, and trying not to kill them.

So now I'm trying to figure out my next steps. I posted an ad on craigslist to have someone come bush hog the brush, which someone will come do for $250. Is bush hogging necessary before seeding? Could I seed in the fall winter for next year, then manually scythe and chop the dead brush throughout the winter instead of bush hogging? If I do bush hog, when is the best time considering it's August now?

Then comes seeding. I'm planning to talk to the local extension office and NRCS for recommendations on what to plant for pasture, but I'm assuming a mix of perennial grass, legumes, and clover. When would you all recommend I seed considering it's August now and I would like to get this show on the road? Also, is there a good broadcast seeder I could pull with my truck, since I don't have a tractor?

When should I plan on ramping up my herd of sheep? I don't want to do it too early, before I have better grazing pasture than the weeds and brush I'm feeding my two sheep now. But I don't want to wait too long either, since the pasture will just get out of control again. I'm new to this, and just not sure about timing.

Overall, I'm brand new to farming and I've only owned sheep for 2 weeks. I've never owned pastured land, and so I'm probably skipping important details. I want to get this right, so please tell me anything I'm not even considering as well. And if ya'll know any good books on pasturing/grazing/land-management, I would love it if you'd point me to those too.

Thanks!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sheep will avidly browse the regrowth of the woody material in your pasture.

Let the sheep into a small area of the pasture (not all 8 acres!) and give them a week to forage - they will strip bark off trees, eat any leafy material they will reach and generally clear up a lot.

Then come through the area with a saw and cut all the stems down to ground level. Again, the sheep will likely eat all the leafy tops for you, leaving you with thin poles you can chip, make bio char with or burn in the house in the winter. The bare earth thus exposed will quickly sprout lots of different species, including grasses. The woody stems will also sprout new leafy shoots.

Move the sheep off for a month to work on the next section then let them back in for a few days. They will hit the regrowth from the trees and their browsing of the other species will encourage a transition towards grasses. Repeat this cycle a few times and the tree species will likely die right back.

Your problems are likely to be due to insufficient animal density - you want them grazing hard on a smallish patch, then rotate them off for a month or so.

 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 102
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting, that's essentially what I'm doing. I have the sheep moving through 50ft x 50ft paddocks that are fenced off with polywire. I've had them in each section for 3-4 days. They eat it down a bit, but it's still pretty heavy in there afterwards. I'm attaching pictures of their current paddock (which I was planning on moving them from tonight after 3 days), and a picture of the paddock I'm moving them into. You can see the improvement, but you can also see it's still pretty dense. Should I leave them in longer? I thought 3-4 days was the longest you want to leave them to avoid parasite problems.

Do I need to be concerned about nutrition? I'm not supplementing their feed now because I wanted them 100% on pasture. I know this is possible, but since I don't realy know what all their eating in that brush, it's hard to say what I'd supplement. Plus, anything I feed them from the store is grass and brush they're not eating down in my field.

I'm ready to get more katahdins, but I didn't want to do it until I have the confidence that I'm doing this right. I've got lots of books on sheep that I've read and continue to read, but none really talk about anything except a perfect pasture or feedlot scenarios.
 
Adam Hoar
Posts: 43
Location: NH
1
forest garden hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would bushhog first and then have them graze as it tries to regrow, that will kill the growth a lot faster.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We let 40 sheep into an area approx 20m by 60m... they eat it down in about a week. Like yours it is mostly brush but over time more grass is developing. If you only have two sheep you will never graze it all sufficiently heavily to make an impact.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 398
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Michael Cox wrote:Sheep will avidly browse the regrowth of the woody material in your pasture.

Let the sheep into a small area of the pasture (not all 8 acres!) and give them a week to forage - they will strip bark off trees, eat any leafy material they will reach and generally clear up a lot.

Then come through the area with a saw and cut all the stems down to ground level. Again, the sheep will likely eat all the leafy tops for you, leaving you with thin poles you can chip, make bio char with or burn in the house in the winter. The bare earth thus exposed will quickly sprout lots of different species, including grasses. The woody stems will also sprout new leafy shoots.

Move the sheep off for a month to work on the next section then let them back in for a few days. They will hit the regrowth from the trees and their browsing of the other species will encourage a transition towards grasses. Repeat this cycle a few times and the tree species will likely die right back.

Your problems are likely to be due to insufficient animal density - you want them grazing hard on a smallish patch, then rotate them off for a month or so.



http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/60564-reforesting-with-goats



Here's the video of geoff lawton doing that with goats, the idea being to speed up natural succession in a direct we want.
 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 102
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Michael Cox wrote:If you only have two sheep you will never graze it all sufficiently heavily to make an impact.


I understand. I plan on maxing out my stocking density for sheep on all 8 acres, but I first wanted to make sure I was doing this right. I was planning to increase the size of my temporary paddocks as I had more sheep and/or goats.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
personally, i would put sheep and goats in these paddocks, as both animals together will eat 95% of what you say you have on your land.

you can do the allan savory trick of throwing the salt block in the brush you want to be trampled - that would help but i dont think would knock it all back.


i would let the goats/sheep into the paddock, once they have eating enough, move them on to the next paddock. after you have a patch large enough to make it worth someone driving a tractor over, have them come brush hog it down.
see how this works with the hopes of winter seeding.
adjust as needed.


you can also lease this area to others with sheep/cows/goats in the event you dont want to buy the animals.

hope this helps.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Goats will make a bigger impact that sheep, if you decide to get goats. They preferentially eat the bark and leaves of shrubby bushes, effectively ring barking them. A few cycles of them hitting the smaller patches hard and they will kill most of the stems, but leave them standing.

With the area thinned it will be much easier to come through with hand tools and cut/snap remaining stems down to ground level.

As soon as the shrub canopy starts dying back the light will reach the floor and your grasses will start to regenerate. I would be hesitant on getting someone to come and mechanically clear it with a brush hog.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic