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Guide to calulating how much land?

 
ryan112ryan McCoy
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So I have been trying to determine how much land I really need when purchasing land.  I would like to figure out how much land I'd need to be mostly independent of external sources (but not completely). Obviously there are a lot of factors involved and I was wondering if anyone had a good way to calculate this, perhaps a guide or worksheet/spreadsheet?

I guess I'd need help on estimating: how much land to garden, how much land to graze, how much land to keep wooded


Location: North Carolina
Rainfall: 42" per year
# of people: 2 right now (possibly 10 later)
# beehive: 3
# chickens: 30
# quail: 30
# goats: 10
# rabbits: 4
# dexter cows: 2
# horses: 2

Features I'd like to have:

  • [li]3 acre forest garden[/li]
    [li]nut trees[/li]

    [li]pasture to feed the cows, horses, goats (ideally without having to supplement their diet)[/li]

    [li]pasture to move chickens and rabbits around in tractors[/li]

    [li]water source[/li]

    [li]water catchment[/li]

    [li]Wooded part to supply 2 cords a winter sustainably[/li]


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    Tyler Ludens
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    You need to find out what the carrying capacity is of the land you plan to buy.  Carrying capacity is expressed in Animal Units.  And Animal Unit is a mature 1000 lb cow.  Other types of animals are calculated in Animal Unit equivalents.

    Here's an animal unit calculator:  http://66.173.241.168/nmp/calculator.cfm

    You should be able to find out what the carrying capacity of the area where you plan to buy is through the state agriculture extension service.  But carrying capacity is very dependent on the condition of the actual piece of land you plan to buy.  Rocky, steep, eroded land is going to have a lower carrying capacity than a dense pasture, of course.

    Depending on how you plan to manage the land, either with set stocking or managed grazing, you may be able to stock more animals on a smaller piece of land.  Set stocking, which is just putting livestock on a piece of land with a perimeter fence and not moving the stock or increasing or decreasing the numbers depending on the condition of the land, is the least efficient way of using the land, but probably the most common.  Some form of managed grazing or integrated land management such as holistic management with managed intensive grazing, is likely to be much more efficient and allow you to raise more livestock, but it is more work than just tossing the animals out there with set stocking. 

    From my own personal experience, if you like privacy away from the neighbors, 20 acres is the minimum size.  If you get a 20 acre parcel in a square shape, you'll still be able to hear the neighbors if they talk loudly on their porch.  So if you like more privacy, you'll want a larger parcel! 
     
                            
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    g'day ryan,

    there may not be a difinitive calculation, as though the rainfall you mention is good you may have drought times as well or wetter time. for animal grazing it will come down to the grazing rate of the property ie.,. 1 cow per 3 acres? so that means you need 6 acres to graze that one animal and need to go for more land to cover in dry times. why 6 acres that is so you can have ratational grazing, a 2 paddock system.

    this will also be determined byt he quality of the soil, and the sub aquafa if the aquafa is fresh and high then the property will produce well, if it is salty brackish and lower then the property will be poor.

    read our land baron dreams essay there may some clues for you there. someones land may be good land and next door or across the road it maybe poor land, learn from farmers what to look for before you buy anything. we had 70 acres in similar rainfall to you and felt that would feed us, you can never be totally self sufficient or self reliant, you might need 100 acres + for that to be more possible.

    when we bought it was rated at 1 beat to around 7 acres out to 10 acres in a drought we were able to improve the rate to 1 beast to 4 to 6 acres.

    len
     
    ryan112ryan McCoy
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    Ludi Ludi wrote:
    You need to find out what the carrying capacity is of the land you plan to buy.  Carrying capacity is expressed in Animal Units.  And Animal Unit is a mature 1000 lb cow.  Other types of animals are calculated in Animal Unit equivalents.

    Here's an animal unit calculator:  http://66.173.241.168/nmp/calculator.cfm



    So if I came up with 6 A.U.  That means....what?  6 acres, or    carrying capacity  x  6 = number of acres?
     
    jacque greenleaf
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    Can't speak to the animal units.

    John Jeavons says that if you plan to grow your own plant materials for compost, you need about 3 times your garden area. He also has methods for calculating how much garden area you need per person for an annual supply. This will of course vary by what you like to eat, but it's a starting point.

    For an inspiring example, look at http://urbanhomestead.org/

    Your state forestry department can give you some pointers on how much woodland you need. You may have a county forester as well.




     
                              
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    Carrying capacity times six = needed acres.
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    ryan112ryan wrote:
    So if I came up with 6 A.U.   That means....what?  6 acres, or     carrying capacity  x  6 = number of acres?


    It means you have to take the carrying capacity of your land - say it's 1 AU per 3 acres - and multiply it by your animal units. 3 x 6 = 18, which means you would need a MINIMUM of 18 acres of grazing land to support your animals.

    Real-life example:  My carrying capacity here is 1 AU per 20 - 25 acres.  I have 5 sheep which is one animal unit.  I have 20 acres total but only about 5 acres of grazing land.  So I am grossly overstocked in sheep, and have to purchase hay.

    Hope that helps. 

     
                            
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    ok here goes,

    carrying rate is eg.,. 1 beast per 6 acres, so if you buy 6 acres then there is only room for that beast nothing else. so then you need 12 cares for that one beast so yu can have rotational grazing and allow one paddock to rest. so then if you were going to carry 3 beasts you then need 36 acres in total. you need to be sustainable in on site stock feeding buying stock feed for the long haul is not sustainable. so teh natural pasture then needs to be of suficient nurient and this is where land quality and aquafa quality come into it.

    in this you need to allocate between 5 and 10 acres for you own infrastruture, so say 36 acres becomes up to 46 acres, which for us would be a minimum starting point.

    like i said each block will need to be considered on their own merits there is no blanket.

    did you read teh essay yet?

    good points ludi

    len
     
                              
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    Of course if you purchase feed for any of the livestock the percentage of purchased feed should be used to reduce the number of AUs.

    Are you planning on raising grain for the poultry?  If not you can subtract them from the equation.
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    jacque g wrote:
    Can't speak to the animal units.

    John Jeavons says that if you plan to grow your own plant materials for compost, you need about 3 times your garden area. He also has methods for calculating how much garden area you need per person for an annual supply. This will of course vary by what you like to eat, but it's a starting point.


    Jeavons gives a minimum of 4000 square feet of garden per person to allow for sufficient room to grow compost ingredients.  But this is under ideal conditions using Biointensive techniques. 

    http://growbiointensive.org/

     
    Tyler Ludens
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    The Complete Diet Garden thread has extensive discussion about how much land might be needed to grow all one's food.

    http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/5785_0/permaculture/complete-diet-gardenfarm
     
                            
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    running poultry not needed in the equation as you say very little opportunity to grow a variety of grain for them so we just take it that you need to feed poultry, but then they don't take up much room which will be in the space i suggested for the owners infrastructure, without saying too much horse won't enhance the productivity of you land if they are being considered.

    keep the thinking latteral and outside the square/comfort zone.

    forgot to mention as pemaculturists we are supposed to develop and manage habitat on our acreages.

    len
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    gardenlen wrote:
    without saying too much horse won't enhance the productivity of you land if they are being considered.


    In my experience horses are very hard on the land, though this may mostly be the way they tend to be kept (set stocked). 
     
                            
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    they ahve many down sides ludi,

    soil compaction, in a mixed pasture suitabe for meat animals beef, sheep etc.,. they will eat out the best grass first and generally to a degree it won't recoupe saw a paddock next door reduced to woody weeds.

    also areas with too much moisture can be plagued with ticks, they reduce productivity and need intervention, we looked for and found land that was free of ticks, a friend of ours lost his bull even though it was a tropical X breed. wth cattle you need to keep a calf coming to replace the one that goes to the chiller. so a bull can be handy but then he does take up grazing land so may artificial incemination or put your cows to a neighbours bull. once a cow births she can supply the milk for a time.

    much in it.

    len
     
                              
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    gardenlen wrote:
    ok here goes,

    carrying rate is eg.,. 1 beast per 6 acres, so if you buy 6 acres then there is only room for that beast nothing else. so then you need 12 cares for that one beast so yu can have rotational grazing and allow one paddock to rest.


    No, you just cut that one 6 acre piece into several paddocks.
     
                            
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    the equation doesn't change tinknal,

    would mean a lot more fencing then that one animal need access to water in all paddocks, plus shade, and animals like to sleep under some sort of shelter, you may have to provide enough food for the night time plus water, a sleeping area secure from ferel dogs and other maurauding critters might be the go.

    they do need shade to lay under and chew their cud, we also had app' 20 acres of treed habitat with light grazing, good for permaculture.

    in good wet season you can graze more but you need your finger on the button to knw ehn to cull, turn some into food or sell some, check agricultural rules on selling animals often testing needed. also if you are going to rely on buying weeners to replenish you herd you may need permit so being friendly with a farmer and getting him to buy waht you want may be necessary.

    len
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    In anything but set stocking you are going to need lots of fencing of some kind.  This is a big expense of good management.  Some animals such as cows and horses can be easily controlled with electric fencing but sheep, goats, and pigs can be more difficult and may require expensive permanent fences. 
     
                              
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    gardenlen wrote:
    the equation doesn't change tinknal,

    would mean a lot more fencing then that one animal need access to water in all paddocks, plus shade, and animals like to sleep under some sort of shelter, you may have to provide enough food for the night time plus water, a sleeping area secure from ferel dogs and other maurauding critters might be the go.

    they do need shade to lay under and chew their cud, we also had app' 20 acres of treed habitat with light grazing, good for permaculture.

    len


    Then why did you double it?  One AU is one AU.  You don't need 2 AUs to support 1 animal.  As far as fencing, internal electric is cheap, easy, and effective.  Pastures can be laid out so that the different paddocks can use the same barn, water, shade, etc.  Think of the spokes of a wheel with the barn being the hub.  Each section touches the hub, which represents the barn.  You can also do it off a common lane. 
     
                            
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    i doubled it because the factor is 1 beast to 6 acres, what do you fall back on when the beast over grazes teh 6 acres? so bare minimum would be 2 X 3 acre paddocks for one beast, 2 X 6 acre paddocks would build in some margin for drought. then if you are going to use them for beef you prob' need to run 3, and if you add a dairy cow in then calculate that in as well.

    fencing is another story as is preparing fencing for sheep or goats. they may require less grazing ground but they require dearer fencing. beef only need a 4 strand barbed wire parameter fence and 3 strand internal fencing, with some hot wire use if needed. dams and creeks ahve to be fenced off and over here we need to take into account kangaroo's and wallabies as they pass through on their grazing trails.

    len
     
                              
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    Len, if 1 cow overgrazes it then obviously the AU calculation is wrong.  Bear in mind that AUs are figured on conventional grazing practices.  Intensive management should vastly decrease the needed acreage.  Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with having more land than you need.
     
                            
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    some explantation on the AU factor please i have been letting slide a bit. i missed it somewhere.

    i'm talking sustainable natural pastures, in permaculture i would see improved irrigated pastures as not being desirable, no one should ever water grass, a waste of a valuable resource. so we rely on rainfall and build in margins to cope with less of it when those seasons occur.

    len
     
                              
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    gardenlen wrote:
    some explantation on the AU factor please i have been letting slide a bit. i missed it somewhere.

    i'm talking sustainable natural pastures, in permaculture i would see improved irrigated pastures as not being desirable, no one should ever water grass, a waste of a valuable resource. so we rely on rainfall and build in margins to cope with less of it when those seasons occur.

    len

    Len,  generally an AU doesn't consider irrigated land, unless it is irrigated when the calculation is made.  An AU is the amount of land (including hay ground) that it takes to safely support the animal(s) for one year.  It should be based on sustainable grazing levels and should be on the liberal side to account for dry years and short summers.
     
                            
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    thanks tinknal,

    if making hay to carry over winter needs to be factored in then that means even more land, that would be calculated at a rate detemined by how much hay you needed for whatever period. changes the whole formula. down here we don't need to do any hay making though the grass growth slows through winter.

    len
     
                              
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    gardenlen wrote:
    thanks tinknal,

    if making hay to carry over winter needs to be factored in then that means even more land, that would be calculated at a rate detemined by how much hay you needed for whatever period. changes the whole formula. down here we don't need to do any hay making though the grass growth slows through winter.

    len
      No, the calculation includes any needed hay ground.
     
                            
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    i'm just dealing with teh grazing rate on pasture that ryan asked about he gave an av' rainfall, so that is all the data i have to work with, we over here don't produce any hay in our grazing rate factor we don't need to. ryan has many plans that take up land ie.,. 3 acres of food forest i would suggest this fit in his 10 acres for their infrastructure so that qauntity of land needs to be added on. i don't realy know what climate zone carolina is in we are sub-tropical or USA speak about 11+?

    the rainfall av'i don't know how that was determined, you need to work on mean averages but then they are still only an idea and over a couple of ranges ie.,. 10 years and 20 years. then over here rain comes in corridores, so the rain guage was 6 kilometers from our property, after we bought we then found we were in a better rain corridoe to the degree we averaged about 10% more rain that the official station. as part of your weather forecasting you need a good rain guage.

    ryan has much to work out, all i can do is give it the way i see it then he needs to adapt any of that to his plans. finding the close to right block of land then becomes another whole issue, refer to our essay. those who grow fodder hay's have dedicated land for that purpose, it would be above what they need for their grazing animals.

    at the end of the day you take what help comes factor in your needs and work out if it is a viable plan or not and go from there. you might only be able to find land that grazes at 1 beast to 10 or more acres?? dunno? land that grazes down to 1:1 or 1:2 is usually very expensive, and can be full of ticks.

    might be time for ryan to chime in again, we're all friends here.

    len
     
                              
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    Len, lets say that the land requirement for a cow (and her calf for 6 months) for a given locale is 4 acres of graze, and 2 acres of hay.  The AU is six acres. 
     
    Walter Jeffries
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    What ever number you come up with, multiply it by Pi. Use that as your base number. Then buy as much as you can possibly afford. They're not making more land. Neighbor's, regulators, zoning, etc are encroaching. Once you're in a location it is a pain to move. Better to start with more land and sell some than have too little.
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