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Question for Shawn - soft fruit

 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Hi Shawn
I am thinking of setting up a soft fruit operation - strawberries raspberrys blackcurrent etc etc what animals could I include without them eating or otherwise damaging the crop . I would have happy goats and chickens quite quickly I suspect .
David
 
Shawn Jadrnicek
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Location: South Carolina
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Hi David and good question. I only have experience with chickens so I'll talk about them and offer some advice from what my goat herder friend has told me. Chickens will eat almost anything they can reach. That means that strawberries are probably out of the question since the chickens will always have access. Blackberries and raspberries are susceptible to damage from chickens when small and when the primocanes emerge but they eventually grow up above the chickens so excluding them at certain times of the year would be a good idea. I haven't grown currant with chickens but they're probably similar to blueberries. With blueberries the birds will eat the plants when young so you have to protect them until they get up over the chickens. I use little circular cages made from poultry wire. If your rows are spaced far enough apart you can always fence the animals into the between row areas with electric fence and grow forage for them in these areas. Another consideration, if your planning on selling the fruit, mixing animals with the fruit opens up a lot of problems regarding food safety since the manure and animals could potentially contaminate the crop.

Goats I've heard are difficult since they browse on a diversity of vegetation and have more height and the smarts to push things down and stand up tall to reach things. A stout electronet fence would probably be best to keep them away from the fruit. I've heard ducks are a little gentler on vegetation and may be a better mix with the soft fruit.

We reduced our acreage of blackberries in part because of spotted wing drosophila. Happy Berry Farms nearby has developed a bait concoction to help with them using entrust (spinosad), molasses, beet broth, vinegar and water. I'm going to wait and see how things work for him before expanding our soft fruits. Chickens might help if they clean up the fallen fruits but we can't have them at the University farm so I'll have to see if they help with my raspberries and blueberries at home.

 
David Livingston
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I did wonder about guinea fowl ( pintard as they are called here in France - taste much nicer than chicken) or runner ducks . We dont have that fruit fly either ( yet )
Also I was thinking maybe Josta berry being taller than Blackcurrent might be a good bet . Have you tried it ?
Was also thinking Red current ,gooseberry, Rhubarb. Although the latter has leaves that are quite poisonous. Have you integrated rhubarb with any animals ?
I did wonder about Cloud berry but I think we are too warm and also not acid enough for Blueberry either

David
 
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