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Evaluating a potential property  RSS feed

 
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My husband and I are considering a 12 acre property in New England zone 6a. The property is wooded (mostly red and white oaks) and sloping (apparently that's what we can afford with large rocks/boulders. We have chickens, ducks and (Icelandic) sheep that would be on this land as well as getting some pigs to help with establishing pasture in the forest. We'd be doing silvopasture, thinning out some of the trees in the area for pasture to open up the canopy so we could establish edible forages. The potential pasture land is drawn out on the photo below on the left side of the property with six, 1/2 acre pastures. That area is sloped (east facing) ranging from 7% slopes at the northern-most pasture and increasing with each pasture to the southernmost pasture which has 14% slopes. That seems to be the only area that might be suitable for pasture. It is at the top of a ridge that slopes down to the pond and many parts of the ridge are at 75% sloped so those will have to stay forested. The lower areas adjacent to the pond are a different soil type and we noticed many waterloving/wetland plants down there so I think it stays pretty moist.

There is probably enough open area around the house for my annual gardens and we'd hope with some thinning of the forest we'd have some areas opened enough to plant our choice of nut and fruit trees. There are areas that look good to me for berry bushes, and of course with all that oak we'd definitely be doing mushroom logs. We have some pretty specific house needs due to needing a separate inlaw apartment or area for my mother who will be living with us and wants her own space. We've been looking for almost 2 years and this is one of the first places in our price range that ALMOST fits the bill (would prefer some more open areas or already established fruit and nut trees and a little less slope!).

We are new to silvopasture and a property this size (we currently have 2 acres of mostly open land) and want to make sure we won't be getting in over our head or making a choice that we'll come to regret with respect to not being able to meet our goals with this particular piece of land. We were hoping to have a final flock size of 10-12 ewes, which is doable with 3 acres of OPEN pasture but I'm guessing in a silvopasture that number will be reduced. Then 7-14% slopes on pasture - how much is too much?

Tips, advice, experiences welcome. Thank you!

 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Leah,

Nice piece of property! First off I'd decide if you plan to have an In-law house or if you are going to all be under one roof.

Silvopasture is cool, but you want to keep the older trees, I'd get some rolls of surveyor tape in different colors so you can mark trees as you walk the land.
We are doing ours by first taking out dead trees, junk wood type trees, then obstructed trees (usually small trunks with high branches only).
Once these are down and out of the way I go around with my red tape roll and mark undesireable trees left from the initial thinning.

I take down red oaks, We have a mixed hardwood forest of Hickory, White oak and Red oak along with a smattering of birch, slippery elm and Hawthorne.
small bushes (which I could leave for fodder if we had goats) get removed as do wild black berries. This gives me "dappled" shade over much of the Silvopasture spaces, with plenty of open soil for planting fodder.
I use a wide variety mix for pasture, grasses, brassicas, root vegetables such as tall fescue, timothy Bermuda, seven top turnip, purple top turnip, rape, squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, oats, barley, alfalfa, side oats, etc.
This keeps our hogs happy (American Guinea Hogs) and keeps us from having to spend a lot of money on feed. We are setting up to be able to only use a paddock every three months, we probably won't get there but if we can do two months between grazings, I'll be very happy.
With your mix of animals, you should be able to graze all of them in one paddock instead of segregating them all the time.

When I thin the forest, I put as much thought into the future look as possible. I also allow for a wallow in each pasture since the hogs are going to make one.
I keep all white oaks and slippery elms. I thin the Hickories since the forest is mostly Hickory. The birch and hawthorns get to stay for the critters they house.

By systematically thinning the woods, I can leave the forest mostly looking like a forest and still have plenty of fodder for the hogs.
when we add the new chickens, guinea hens, ducks and geese we won't need to build any extra paddocks since everyone will be able to forage together.

We allow 1/2 acre per paddock and graze for one week before we move them. Once the new paddocks are ready I'll be able to move them every two or three days.
We are setting our spaces up in a 1/2 wagon wheel style with the hog house and farrowing hut at the center, this makes moving them around very easy, all I have to do is open the gate to the selected pasture and they come and go as they want.
one of the advantages to this set up is they don't go rooting out a wallow in their paddocks, they just come back to "Hog Central" to do their wallowing, drinking, sleeping.
As we add more paddocks, I will set up a temporary travel avenue to keep them going where I want them to graze. Fruit trees will go on the outside of the permanent perimeter fence so they can have the drops but not harm the trunks.
Also, since we do have some "yard" we give them most of the clippings when we mow (a weekly chore) the hogs love the fresh cut grasses.

You can utilize those areas that have more than 14% slope by turning them into food forest, squashes don't mind afternoon shade here, as well as things like brassicas, cucurbits, some tomatoes, tomatillos, etc. We have high humidity, high heat for summers and rarely get below 0 f.

As far as numbers go, I would think 10-12 ewes would require around one acre per every three days to allow the pasture to recover after they have been moved on.
We have three breeding hogs (plus babies) and we have to move them weekly to not have to reseed once they are moved. (I do always add seed to the previous pasture but that is more for diversity of fodder building than recovery of the pasture as it stands).
 
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