Basically we are in the process of trying to setup a hobby-farm with about 6 acres of usable pasture. We are in the currently planning the fencing and what livestock we are going to be able to support with such a space with the overall goal of having as much diversity as possible while we try to produce the majority of the meat we consume as a family (2 adults and potentially up to 6 children).
I am not a farmer and thus a lot of this planning is being done without experience and leaving me very confused about the best way to approach such practices as multi-species rotational grazing. If for example I wanted to setup the farm so that I could have cows (at least 1 for milk and 2 or more for meat), pigs (4-6 or how ever many we can sustain), chickens (perhaps as much as 50 for meat and eggs), geese, etc - how does one plan to run them through the different paddocks?
Ideally I can pasture feed the majority of these critters so that we don't need to rely on external inputs, but one thing I am struggling to find is a book, website, or document that explains exactly how to rotational graze them... Who can go with who, how long between movements, etc. I would really appreciate some guidance or being point in the right direction with this one.
Thanking you all in advance for your wisdom,
Joseph Cim wrote: I am struggling to find is a book, website, or document that explains exactly how to rotational graze them... Who can go with who, how long between movements, etc. I would really appreciate some guidance or being point in the right direction with this one.
hi joseph -
i dont think there exists a book like you are looking for, or at least i havent found anything even close.
that said, you location will make a huge difference in the holding capacity of the land. where abouts are you located?
my advice is to start slow/low on animals. maybe a cow and a few sheep - get them on the land and start rotating them around. add 25 chickens and slowly move up from there.
for what its worth - in my area (high, dry, irrigated desert) i am able to keep 1 dairy cow, 16 sheep and 55 chickens. i do have to buy in chicken feed, but my pastures feed all of the other animals during the growing season (we are actually produce enough hay to sell)
i graze eveyone in the same paddock and do daily moves.
not sure how much this will help - and some info on your place will help narrow the answers - but its a start.
On Buzzard's Roost we rotate our guinea hogs on a monthly basis at the moment.
Once I get the other paddocks fenced in and gated, they will be moved on a weekly rotation with enough paddocks for a 3-4 month resting of each paddock for rejuvenation.
Here is how you could calculate it in an good scenario. I don't make any guarantees on the soundness of my math, and how well things work depend on a lot of variables due to your climate, season length, and pasture health. It's simply an example.
Lets start with 6.25 acres, since that results in rounder numbers.
If you took a 25 day rotational cycle between grazing days,
You'd split that pasture into 25 sections of 1/4 acres each. You can make a permanent fence for each of these paddocks. Or you can mark the corners of each .25 acre section with a flag or something, and use electric fencing for your animals, moving them to the next markers each day.
Assuming your pasture generally has 2,000lbs of forage per acre(this depends on how good your soil is and the growth habit of the grasses and plants there) and
60% average feed use(40% being patches being trampled on by animals, pooped on, or simply avoided)
you should get 300lbs of forage eaten by the animals per paddock.
Taking the general rule that an animal eats 3% of it's body weight each day, you should be able to stock animals that weigh up to 10,000 lbs combined, or rather 10 Animal Units on the pasture.
Animal units are 1,000 lbs each, so 1 cow or 1 horse, 10 sheep, 150 chickens, 65 geese etc... are all one unit each. Generally, just look up what the average adult weight of the animal is and divide by 1000 to find out the Animal Unit.
These links should help.
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2007/10/12/how-much-land-per-pig/ This site caters only towards pigs, but has a large amount of information in general about rotational grazing.
The main problem with muti-species grazing is water. You need something large enough for a cow to drink from, small enough to stop a duck from making a swimming hole out of, shallow enough to stop a chicken from drowning, and sturdy enough for all the abuse pigs give them. Standard stock tanks just don't work.