They are working on breeds that are able to thrive as they did originally.
I'd love to find some good hardy breeds. Someday I hope to get some Milking Devon Cattle. They might be a hardy bunch. I'd love to know more.
I wonder how hearty Sumatran chickens would be. All I know is they are close to the original wild breeding stock. Would they do good in the dessert area of Idaho? Can I even catch the damn roster. Dad told me I could have them if I can catch them. I can't! Any other hardy types?
I read this entire thread and these are my comments:
I raise beef cattle, hogs and chickens on my five acres in the Pacific Northwest, on the rainy side of the mountains. At the stage I'm at, raising these animals without supplemental feed would be unthinkable.
The beef cattle are for me and my family, but if I butcher one steer every fall and replace it with a new calf the following spring, and if half a full-grown steer lasts my family two years, that means I sell 1 1/2 beef every two years. That's about what my pastures can take -- as presently constituted.
I raise hogs for profit. I do 16 at a time, from fall to spring, keep the smallest one and sell the other 15. I have five large fenced pastures, and if I rotate the hogs into a different one every year, that's still not enough forage in the winter to provide for that many animals. Even with purchased feed and what I can scrounge, which is considerable and of very high quality, I need to buy bagged grain by the ton to produce high-quality animals for my customers, so my plan for hogs is different than yours is.
I keep chicken in the cattle pastures, in moveable chicken tractors that put the hens on fresh grass every day. That fertilizes the pastures considerably and supplements the bagged feed, which I ration. They forage the rest.
I look at permaculture as an iterative process, and not as a set of strictures, or something you can toggle on and off like a light switch. Your goal of raising meat animals without any purchased feed is admirable, but not necessarily realistic at the start.
Notice that I said "not necessarily" and "at the start." Does that mean that I think your goal is unattainable, or less than worthwhile? Not at all. Do I think you might have to make some compromises before you get to your goal? Almost certainly. Is this a bad thing? Certainly not. Would *I* like to raise my meat animals without any purchased feed? Absolutely. Am I going to have an attack of the vapors if I can't? Certainly not.
Permaculture, as I understand it, requires close observation. You will need to observe what works and what doesn't work. The Maritime Northwest has a "Mediterranean climate," meaning that despite constant or frequent rain nine months out of 12, in July, August, and September, we have near-drought conditions. Pastures dry up and turn brown.
I noticed by observation that during these dry months, my cattle would stick their heads over the fence to browse my Weeping Willow tree. Come to find out these leaves are 16 percent protein. So guess who's going to be rooting 15-20 willow cuttings this winter.
Tagasaste won't survive the frosts here. Tried that. But we know willow will. But it takes time to learn this stuff by direct observation. So please do not expect to start out raising your animals with no purchased feed. And do not worry if you can't. As I see it, doing so is a worthy goal, and I encourage you to pursue it, but for the sake of your animals' health and well-being, please do not consider it a realistic starting point. If you apply yourself, watch what your animals eat and under what conditions, the knowledge will come to you, and you will be able to make the necessary adjustments -- constant pasture, tree, and shrub forage improvements -- that will get you closer to your goal.
In my opinion, the three best books you could possibly read that would change the entire way you look at this issue are "Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture," by J. Russell Smith, who preceded Mollison and Holmgren by decades, "Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable," by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, and "Fertility Pastures," by Newman Turner, available in full online. I consult these books almost daily, and expect to be applying their lessons for the rest of my time here.
Good luck to you, and I hope this is helpful.
What it boils down to is the most out put for the least input. You find the best plants for your area. In WA I will grow apple trees not pineapple we have American Guinea Hogs. Do I buy feed for them yes but only because I want to give them treats. That is when I don't have something from the garden to give them. I may give extra something to moms and babies. However that is short lived. I do believe that they will do just fine out and about. I do keep feed on hand just in case we get a snow or ice storm. Personally I do not like to keep animals out in sever weather. Especially the ice storms! When things are frozen solid and you have freezing rain for 2 days it is very easy to have inches of ice in the trees. When those trees / ice start to thaw you can have football size chunks of ice falling onto the ground your head car animal. During a ice thaw when we have to go to the barn yes we do run and we do wear hard hats!
The idea is minimal intervention. Not no care. Big difference. In my research looking for good matches. Kiko goats seemed very good the american guinea hogs muscovey ducks ( I was told the turkeys would not do so well in the rain) I would love to have dexter cattle but my pasture is not that great yet so we will hold off on that. Sheep could be good. See it all depends on what kind of plants you have growing naturally on your property. You may have pasture but if it is north of a forested area your pasture actually may be full of moss. YOu have to look closely at what you have. Cows and sheep and goats can work well together. They all forage but they forage on different plants. Good pasture management along with companion grazing is key.
You also will want to take a look at the property and know what can happen. Example if you live in Tillamook Or well they get frequent flooding there. Great pastures for dairy cattle but when the flood hits and it will will you be able to get those animals out in time. It may be easier to get a few goats or rabbits vs cattle.
I would advise that decide what kind of meat you want to eat and then research breeds that fit your needs then visit farms that have these animals so you can see first hand how people have things set up. We thought we wanted Boer goats but after reading they can have hoof problems and do not like to go out in the rain and we saw evidence of that at 5 different farms we decided that they were not for us. In southern Or there is a farm that raise Kiko an they are doing just about completely hands off. They breed for sturdy goats that don't need the intervention. So their stock may be harder than that of others. But their weather is way different than mine so it would take more research and thought. Then at some point you just have to jump in and be willing to learn lessons through the doing. As you will find there is more than one way to do things. Just hold fast to your ideals and you will find that perfect fit or next to it.
In some parts of North America, I guess it can get to a point where there is too much snow for them do dig and get the nutrition they need. Maybe it has to do with effort vs. calorie value to dig through a lot of snow. I wonder if the historical range of the bison is an indication of where it would be possible to raise cattles without supplemental feed.
Cattle will 'rustle' through snow. It is part genetic, part learned, you can improve your herd's ability to do this over time. Not all forages have decent food value in the winter. When snow is so deep that no vegetation is visible through it, cattle sometimes stop trying.
Some snow conditions are impossible for cattle...ie an early thaw then hard freeze so everything is solid ice. This would be a famine situation in the wild, doesn't happen every year but it's possible.
Swath grazing makes it easier for cattle and is less effort and equipment than haying. Restricting grazing areas with portable fencing will reduce trampling losses and it's pretty much essential.
Cattle need to be in excellent condition off grass in the fall, and they will drop a few points in body conditioning over the winter. They are adapted to this and it's not unhealthy. Time calving to minimize nutrient demands and exposure in the winter (ie you should be calving on grass in the spring). In extremely unfavourable conditions they can drop too much condition and it is unhealthy. ie a prolonged minus thirty, or difficult snow conditions...
Have a back up plan. Have a plan to introduce supplemental feed if and when it's necessary. The welfare of your animals needs to take precedence over any ideological bias you might have towards what the Ideal should be. A minimal supplement seems to make a real difference and I think it makes sense economically and for herd health...it doesn't mean you have to go overboard and go to full confinement on a grain ration or anything crazy...
I'm already working on my chickens, and I think that a few miniature Jersey cows and the Kikos would round out the livestock. I know that it would be difficult to do in a lot of places, but I'm going to work towards a forage only system with lots of water catchment and emergency rations as backup, which I think I can pull off here in NorCal's mediterranean climate. Depending on how much room I have, I'd like to do pigs, too, but if I can only have one the family's voted that they want the dairy...
Trying to find a completely natural system that can support forage only would be very difficult, probably possible only in the tropics and certain micro-climates elsewhere. Using permaculture techniques, though, to maximize a given areas total year round food production should make it possible in many more areas, although even permaculture has its limits.
Marissa Little wrote:It's far less time to toss some hay into a dry paddock than to do rotational grazing. That's nothing about money or 'resources' as a general term. But to do this type of management will most certainly take more time than to feed supplemental.
Hmm... I disagree. We do managed rotational grazing. It's a lot easier than dealing with hay.
During the winter we have a few small winter paddocks and we feed hay to replace the pasture.
During the warm months the livestock are out on the pastures and to a very large degree they take care of themselves.
We work far harder in the winter when we must feed hay than in the warm months when the animals are grazing. Switching pastures is easy. Putting hay out is a lot more work. Especially on the mountain. Especially in winter. Especially in deep snow. Not things that probably come up in Texas but it all makes us appreciate just how easy grazing is.
Are you familiar with Joel Salatin's methods? He advocates the 3 Ms; Mobbing, Mowing, and Moving in his management intensive grazing system. The cattle are followed by poultry mimicking the birds that follow large grazing animals in Nature. He even times it so that the birds get maximum protein from the fly larvae as they spread and till the manure. Fascinating stuff that I think could help you develop your plan.
Icelandics use a fraction of the hay as goats and they are very fat from eating summers to store energy over winter. They also love the cold and are happiest in the freezing temps. However, we had a drought this year and hay went from$2.50 last year to $5 by fall. Our own 5 acre land only produced 40 bales so they have been in the hay field foraging until this week. They now get 1/3 bale a day but still forage.
IF you want to have animals forage year round- 1. Make sure you have the right animal (dexters, highlands, icelandics, there might be some hogs that forage, but only a handful). 2. You can bank fields by not letting them graze it in the fall for 8weeks, but figure you need 3 - 5 times the area depending on how long and hard your winters are and make sure they have access to plenty of water.
John Kitsteiner wrote:I know many people do this around the world in the right climate, but I haven't heard of anyone acutally doing this in the U.S. with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, or chickens.
This would not be for a commercial venture, but to provide my family with good quality food.
Is this possible? I plan on living in the Pacific Northwest in a few years, and I am trying to develop the conceptual framework now, before I am there.
What would it take?
this is because in the areas that people do this the animals are local breeds that have been bred to live that way for centuries. the US breeds have not. also, those people aren't getting excellent production out of those animals. they are getting whatever they can from what the animals can give on minimal food they have available.
put a US born and bred super producing lines out in those areas.... watch it shrivel up and die slowly of starvation. they just *cannot* live on that without the feed and supplementing and they've been bred to give milk ahead of everything else in life really.
I read that modern US coturnix quail you have to really keep up on the grit and calcium they get because they will literally lay an egg (or even two) every day no matter what that they can literally die because the insufficient calcium intake they put all towards eggs instead of their bodies.
meat rabbits are another example. on good feed you can have a litter of 8-15 that make 4-5lbs at 8-10wks old. and that mom rabbit can be bred two wks after she kindled for another litter just the same. and then do it again.
but you put those exact same rabbits on grass and hay only..... you will see litter numbers drop to 3-5 per litter or less. the young rabbits will take until 14wks or longer to reach 4lbs. your breeders will die or become unable to keep breeding at much younger age.
this is what you need to look at when thinking about this in my opinion. you cant cut off something without the animals having some aspect of productiveness go down.