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Permaculture for farmers

 
Emil Spoerri
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Not all industrial scale agriculture is detrimental to the environment or your health! Many crops are not grown in inhumane conditions like a factory pig farm, dairy farm, etc., as far as I can tell unless we directly feed animals, the growing of commodity crap crops is often easily and much more inexpensively grown by using organic methods with a much higher flavor and nutritionally superior food...

The question is, for the sake of sustainability is how do we produce foods that people will eat that will nourish them the most, that is most easily produced in your area, for the lowest amount in cost to you, highest amount in cost to consumer and greatest volume of production. : )

Clean food faster and faster is becoming big business.

The ultimate question I am groping at is how to make a 200 pasture based 90 cow dairy sustainable hahaha!

One daunting figure is the sheer amount of minerals that are needed, what is the best way to provide minerals that are a sustainable resource? Pat Colby talked about natural rock salt, all I can find on the internet is Redmonds salt which comes all the way from Utah to here in the North East. How do I get loads of minerals without getting reamed in shipping costs?

How about the sustainability on feeding kelp?

I met a french man who owned a farm where they pastured 100 cows and they fan dried their hay loose without crimping or crushing the hay at all so that it had the highest nutrient values. I cannot really find information about this online.

I have also heard of new fangled pit silos that somehow do not require heavy machinery to operate, does anyone have any idea what a good method to chop haylage without heavy machinery, for instance perhaps with draft animals?

I detest haylage bags and all  that awful plastic. I also don't like the ten thousand dollar price tags on the machines that make them!

Oh remember when I made that thread "sustainable silage?", well this is basically that again but for 100 cows!

How can a modern grass fed dairy in the North East survive the modern economy in a sustainable way? People who are making real food, in old fashioned grass based methods, which is most often sent off to dairy distributors for barely more than a buck a gallon. What do you tell these old timers who are usually about read to tank? A lot of them really are trying to do a good thing... some are doing so much right, I think that it wouldn't take much to make them sustainable and of the highest quality.
 
Alison Thomas
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Location: France
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Emile, I'm not actually going to be much help here but I'm thinking about it.

We live in France and yes, interestingly a neighbour farmer brought some of his hay for a sick sheep we had (he wasn't sure if we had any).  And it was a lovely pale green colour as if it had been air-dried so now, after your post, I'm making connections.  I'll ask him about it and see if I can find out more for you.  Our hay was sun-dried and is the traditional brown colour but nevertheless still as nutritionally rich I'm assured.

Also, somewhere recently I've read about the pit-silage that you mention.  I'll try to find it.  Here in France they feed cows through the winter on maize silage.  maybe you guys do that too?  They chop it all up (admittedly with a big machine) then lay it out in enormous piles, put a tarpaulin over it and weight that down with tyres.  So yes, it uses a plastic tarp but the same one is used year in year out so loads better than those awful wrap arounds (though I appreciate it's a different crop).

I'm interested in what you have to say as we're trying to make this place sustainable when all around us is conventional farming.  We have 17 acres and yesterday I planted up 2 with wheat without ploughing the pasture - fingers crossed.
 
Brenda Groth
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I guess my way of thinking is why  have so many cows?  To make it more permaculture friendly couldn't some of the cows be replaced with other meat producing or milk producing animals..chickens, geese and ducks would roam in the cow pasture and clean up a lot of the bugs and seeds and things that would be left by the cows..Maybe eliminate more than half the cows and free range some birds in the pastures with them? Maybe off in a corner of the pasture put in some pigs, they would also provide some good meat..could a few sheep be put on the pasture too or some goats?

I guess for me thinking 80 or 90 of any one animal is a bit MONOcultureish..
 
Paula Edwards
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Traditional farming in Europe often included dairy and it is not more or less unsustainable than other animals. Chicken need grain that's not very sustainable too and they tend to scratch everything back to earth. Unfortunately, geese are a bit out of favour, however they may make a comeback. Dairy products have always been a part of our diet and you can't simply change this.
The problem is not the animal the problem is the sheer number of human beings. 7 billion is more than unsustainable and factory farming is one of the outcomes. Either we reuce this or nature will do it for us.
Sorry, none of the answers were helpful for you!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Chickens don't really need grain. 

 
Emil Spoerri
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Ludi wrote:
Chickens don't really need grain. 




Which chickens? Or rather the question is how do they survive the winter. Amaranth seeds and dandelion roots cheer the crowd.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I guess it depends on where you live! 

 
Alison Thomas
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Sorry Emile, I've asked my neighbour and it was just sun-dried and turned lots.  Mine apparently is too dry now (well actually mouldy and useless as the tarpaulin was a rubbish woven one that said 'waterproof' on the packaging but lied  )

I do think quite frequently about having animals on the farm and how they fit in with 'natural' farming.  I mean, here's me sowing our wheat into undisturbed pasture grass as I believe in what Fukuoka an Emilia Hazelip say, and yet we have pig 'tractors' who are turning over the soil (we got them before I read Fukuoka).  We have goats, hopefully for milk, but they are nibbling off lots of young trees and eating some of the plants before they have set seed so aren't we are reducing biodiversity?

It's an odd place to be at - maybe there is no 'perfect solution'.  Maybe we just have to be ever mindful of what we're doing and try to do it as kindly as we can with regards to the natural world.
 
                        
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I live in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and I have no trouble getting Redmond salt or kelp or other minerals locally.  I don't know where you live, but check out your state's organic grower's association.  They will have a list of suppliers for you.  Also, check out Acres magazine.  They have lots of creative ideas, some of them quite "out there".    If you go to their website, you can read articles from previous years.  Worth a look.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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This may be more anecdotal then hepful but...

I live in Michigan and feed a small herd of Colonial Spanish horses a beautiful first cutting grass hay that is green, soft, sweet smelling, and dust free.  Our hayman (a spry 80+ years on earth) has advised us cutting the hay after the dew was off but before the heat of the day is imperative to the nutritional quality.  The reason for timing the cut is to ensure the plant has not, yet, pulled the available nutrients back toward the root (which he believes they will do when under heat stress).

He dries the hay in the field and it is as beautiful as the day it was cut.  My horses do not waste a leaf.
 
                              
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I dont think all systems can be made sustainable.  The amount of meat and dairy humans consume (at least in the western world) is simply to much.  People actually have to change the way they eat, not just change the way they produce things they eat.  Hey, just my opinion.
 
                                  
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Are you familiar with Allan Nation and his magazine, The Stockman Grassfarmer?  You probably are, but if not, I would super duper strongly recommend that you do get familiar with it.    http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/
 
Tyler Ludens
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We could grow enormous amounts of meat sustainably.  Think of the bison herds - that was a lot of animals living sustainably. And they were only one of the several kinds of meat animals on the prairie.  If we emulate productive ecosystems, we could eat meat in a less harmful way.  Vegetarianism as usually practiced isn't sustainable either.
 
Emil Spoerri
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Make no mistake, I have thought about this subject quite a bit, read many magazine articles, yes acres, yes stockman, several basic livestock books from the library, several permaculture titles, much information from joel salatin (who is at least participating in some sort of grass fed jersey herd), several websites boasting to have grass fed genetics (semen) for sale...

Legally the barn has to be concrete, whitewashed and cleaned constantly, you need to have some kind of grit or mulch on the concrete or it's very easy for them to slip... we use sawdust from a local lumber mill. We filter the cows through a 8 stall, 4 claw milking parlor, 55 cows ATM. We feed 10 pounds of bought feed per jersey, 15 for holstiens. There is little paddock shifts happening, the boss is busy constantly harvesting hay and claims to have no time for fooling around with fences, which by the way if I am going to keep working for him has to change next season! The mad dairy man who works from sunlight til 1 in the morning every day!

Wish I could figure out a good way for this farm to produce haylage without using bags. There is this gigantic mud pit area, I wish we could turn it into a bunk silo and a pond haha.

See I have been thinking about raising cows for years and years, but never 55 or 100 dairy cows, never more than 30 but as little as 15, 10, 5, or 1... all those heifers and old cows boggle my mind, he already is drastically overworked and every year you get more cows! He doesn't seem to know what to do with them!

My idea is to switch them all onto intensive grazing grass fed diets... use AI from New Zealand bulls and 100% grass fed american jersey bulls.

Ok so well corn can be grown here, but who wants to eat corn? No other grain is practical to grow in this area, no tree will reliably set fruit unless in a prime location with these late frosts we have. That makes me say grass is what we got so grass is what we will make it out of! When I say "it" I mean life itself, it's really the best producer of nutrition that can be grown in this climate and it is what must be utilized. If I can't do grass fed only milk then I will have to switch over to grass fed only beef.

They talk about how you can raise a cow to forage better by keeping it on the udder for 8 months, so it learns with the cow what is good to eat and how to eat it. A cow easily can produce enough milk for 4 calves. As they age one or two might become veal. Jersey meat is delicious!

It is really important for the future that mineral supplements can be available for livestock. There is a lot of poisoned land and it will be hard to heal that land without supplements for the animals that live off of it. Goats need even more minerals then cows and they seldom occur in humid climates where there isn't salt deposits or sea coast.
 
Emil Spoerri
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Eherm this kind of requires another post as it is of a different grain...

Yes as I was saying, I have been thinking about this for years and years... My intent is to start a small herd perhaps around ten cows, produce cheese, cream and butter, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, eggs, honey, minor in fruits, nuts and root crops... from my experience, this seems to me to be a realistic and probable figure for myself.

I haven't asked myself the question "how will these cows be milked?" a lot or should I say enough? Supposedly someone who is good at it could milk all ten by hand, taking 4 hours a day, or 2 hours twice a day. Gosh some people, especially grass fed people, milk once a day. Or what if it was 4 hours a day, once a day, looking very doable and realistic from here.

Making hay... Well honestly the plan is to buy hay, at least for now. Yes I have done reading, looked at tillers internationals videos about making hay with oxen and I am really interested in that, but let's see if I can sell the damn stuff before I pull all the stops!

I keep thinking "how odd you goof Emile, you worship the dairy cow and are uninterested in the day to day life of the modern man" or "Emile you silly twit, you actually think that a diet of mostly raw milk and raw eggs would be good for you". I feel good. I think I am going in the right direction. God help me haha!

Anyways I am going to own 4 bovine next spring. Where I go with them exactly is still a bit up in the air. I feel like I should buy even more. Perhaps 2 more calves and another cow. And I still have my goats to worry about. And I sure would love to own sheep as well.

Many sleepless nights until I own my own Jerseys!
 
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