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Pasture Critique  RSS feed

 
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Hey Everyone,

I'm starting my planning for fencing on my 5 acres my wife and I recently purchased.  Looking to have Sheep, American Guinea Hogs, and Chickens on the land.  Currently it's just a flat plot, I just had it root raked to remove the cacti infestation and plan to reseed for pasture tomorrow.  I am going to be building a home this year, but I am fencing the property off first and wanted your input on best fencing configuration.  I plan to use a mixture of permanent fencing and temporary electric fencing to use rotational grazing techniques.  I will start out with chickens and slowly move to sheep and then decide if I want to jump into pigs.   
My goals are:
1: Minimize the need for additional water outlets for watering bins/garden(future cost)
2: Ease difficulty of establishing electric fencing/moving sheep on a weekly basis
3: Have enough time to eliminate parasite cycle (21 days from my understanding) in between paddock rotations

Here is what I have currently come up with:  I'm definitely putting a fence on the perimeter, black lines are for the permanent fencing: I'm looking at 4x4 field fencing for permanent fencing.  I'm thinking this will keep in sheep/AGH and coyotes out.  Planning on having a permanent sacrifice area right by the house so I can run a hose out to the water bins and still reach the garden, and I'll rotate between each paddock. 

Any thoughts, suggestions/critiques or something I'm completely missing as a potential problem? 
edit: looks like the pdf didn't remove the first garden area, ignore the grey garden, I moved it near the house to help with goal 1
landplan.jpg
[Thumbnail for landplan.jpg]
 
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Posts: 4871
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I would first decide the number of animals per type that I want to end up with.
From there you can lay out so the animals can be rotated through with a minimum of E. fence movements.

AGH need to be moved at least every other day, three grown AGH will need 1/2 acre of lush grassy pasture per day. (this will keep them from rooting to much)
Sheep (I've heard) need about 1/4 acre per day per animal.
Goats are similar to sheep but they want browse not so much grassy pasture.

Next is to determine the pasture recovery time period since overgrazing will mean reseeding and then waiting for the pasture to re-establish before it can be grazed again.
My pastures take 4 to 6 weeks to recover from a one day grazing (3 full grown AGH) and are paddocked into 1/2 acres each.
Our chickens go along after the hogs are through (cycling through the paddocks)
Since we now have a free range donkey, I have to add 2 more acres to the system.

AGH hogs will rip new grass out by the roots if it isn't well established before the first grazing.
 
Carson Albright
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That may change my goal of getting AGH, I assumed a 1 acre pasture would last a week for them.  My goal was to have 2 AGH and eat their offspring and 4 sheep, also eating offspring.  I had expected to graze 4 sheep and 2 agh together on pasture 1, and rotate each weekend to give 4 weeks inbetween pasture rotations.  I planned to have the chickens follow the sheep/AGH.  Would 2 AGH and 4 sheep really decimate 1/2 acre within a day or two?  I am completely ignorant on this, but from the guidelines I read online it seemed that 1 acre should last a week of grazing from my planned stocking.  Each pasture is roughly 1 acre(give or take) in my plan.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Have you found a breeder of AGH that you intend to buy your stock from?
If you have, go take a look at their setup and ask them how their hogs are on the land.
That will give you far better information than "guide lines".

I have watched ours for three years and we have had 4 litters of babies.
AGH are lard hogs, they pack on the fat and that means they eat quite a lot, especially a pregnant sow.
The AGHA says they get up to around 300 lbs. My Boar is more like 450 lbs., one sow is around 300 and the other is around 275.
On the other side of the coin, they are very tasty and worth the trouble to us.
I watched our three breeders one day when I put them on a temporary 1/2 acre plot I had used cattle panels to make, this was so I could build two swales in the pastures, they had that area nearly bare in three hours and were starting to root.
They will also make at least one wallow big enough for them to all lay in at the same time. These are social animals and just like goats, donkeys, sheep, they want to all be together all the time.
They like to eat until they go into a food coma.
But as I say, I've only been raising them for three years, I'm still learning.

In our area most of the hog growers end up with dirt lots but that is because they don't move them around.

I make sure all new pastures are well established with good root systems on all the plants in the pasture before I put any animal on that space.
I then move them through so they don't have time to eat the pasture down real low, it recovers faster that way.
 
Carson Albright
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I have found a breeder, they are a little far for us to make a visit, but they travel to north tx rather regularly.  I have corresponded with them over email, and they seemed to think the pasture rotation plan was enough space for 2 breeders, with the intention of eating offspring and 4 sheep stocking.  I've never done this myself but 1/2 an acre a day seems pretty extreme.  If that stocking recommendation was accurate you would need five 5 acre lots to rotate 3 guinea hogs between on a weekly basis to meet 4 weeks in between grazing.  Is that right? That seems very excessive, but again that's why I'm asking. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I use 1/2 acre, pie shaped paddocks and move them around a lot, mostly because I can and that way they don't root much at all.
I use what ended up working for me through a lot of trial and error.
I use a "wagon wheel" setup, I have a central space that has their house, water and wallow, the pasture is laid out like the spokes, I just open the gate to the pasture space I want them in.
In the evening I give them some non gmo feed to draw them home.
Then I can shut the gate to that pasture space and open the next one the next morning.

I know folks that use electric tape for fencing, they don't even bother with hooking up an energizer now since their hogs know those wide white tapes will shock them so they don't go near them.
I know other breeders that always have their tapes energized too.
There are lots of ways to go and I do think that no two groups of hogs will be near the same.
 
Posts: 25
Location: northern Arizona, USA, 6,000 feet elev, zone 5b
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" I'm looking at 4x4 field fencing for permanent fencing.  I'm thinking this will keep in sheep/AGH and coyotes out. "  I would not be comfortable counting on 4"x4" fencing to keep coyotes out.  I watched a neighbor dog, about the size of a coyote, go through a fence that size.  He had to work at it and it took a few minutes but it was possible. We use 2"x4" field fencing with barbed wire on top, for coyotes and neighborhood dogs.  We lost two milking does (goats) and two goat kids to dogs before we put the barbed wire on top.  Saw one dog climb the fence (before the barbed wire was installed in loops, like you might see in prison pictures) on his way out after taking the tail off of one of our next batch of does. 
 
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I highly recommend only permanently fencing the perimeter and using temporary electric to slice up the pastures. What you will find is that whatever configuration you use to begin with will have problems and you will need to make changes. Even if it seems you got it near perfect in the beginning, rotational grazing requires constant adjustment based on the growth rate of forage, weather, and the performance of the animals. If you can I would even avoid perm perimeter fencing and run several lines of permanent electric o, the perimeter. The electric will more effectively deter predators than field fence if installed properly. This gives you even more flexibility in configuration because if you need to change it is much less work. You can always put in field fence later once you have the most efficient design worked out.

Another recommendation is to go ahead and spend the money to run pex pipe under ground to your troughs. You will spend less this way long-term. Garden hoses freeze, get chewed into by mice or dogs, or just simply wear out in a few years and good ones are not cheap.
 
Carson Albright
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These are all awesome responses, thanks everyone.  I have not considered electric fencing over everything, I'll look into that.
One of my fence bidders said the same thing about 4x4 and recommended 2x4, so I think I am going to go smaller.
I thought splitting the land would make pasture rotation easier, but I will keep that in mind, it would lower the fencing cost.  Bids have been a lot higher than I expected for fencing and I may need to wait till summer to do some erosion control around a creek to keep fencing up during flooding, so I'm still figuring it out
 
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I have read the replies with interest.. with some giving advice on how often thing need moving, right down to the fence type and size... I guess advice was sought.  And will toss in a bit.
The very first thing that caught my attention was the already done practice of raking out cacti   Now I doubt that land that was raising a lot of cacti, would NOT be the same productivity as say some land in Iowa.. But then again, I can go 1/2 mile from me, and go up or down in production amount, by 50 to 100%

So without some kind of estimated carrying capacity known, as well as many other things, it would be useless to suggest when something should be moved.

Other facts,  "sheep and worms"  If you have land that can carry sheep to the amount of 10 sheep to the acre vs 1 sheep to the acre the difference in worm problems is HUGE  (moist vs super dry conditions)

By the way, electric fence works great on moist soils, if built right, and might not work at all on super dry soil, if also built correctly.

So what I am saying here to answer your question,  "it simply depends on so many things, that you have not stated-- and that to get a correct suggestion or answer, would require a lot more details.

Scott- I used to build commercial fence,  400 sheep, 600 goats and a few others things..but did so on land that could carry far more than grazing land. And done so, far differently than then next guy...mostly dealing with what we had.
 
Posts: 249
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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First off lets start with the creek.  I assume it is the blue line across the corner.  If so it should have at least a 20ft wide on either side of it riparian zone that that is fenced off and isn't grazed or a least isn't grazed very often.(there is some argument against never grazing it)  By the time you do that there isn't much of that corner left for grazing.  The bridge or pipe over the creek to let that corner be grazed without allowing the animals access to the stream is probably more work than it is worth.  So likely that whole corner of the property should be fenced out of your grazing plan and planted into an orchard or trees.

Now have you given thought to where the main manure is going to end up?  Ideally it should be as close to the garden as possible(unless you have big machinery to move it) and as far as possible from the creek for water quality.  Now if you are using a night time penning and day time grazing system you need to look at where the night time manure will end up.  Sheep it usually ends up where you bed or feed them mostly.  Now pigs are fairly hygenic and their's will usually end up about as far from the water and food as they can get or 50 to to 100 ft away which ever comes first.    Because of the sheep likely that means you will want a hay stack/straw stack area close to the garden as well.  Ideally its location should be such that it provides winter shelter to the animals and/or wind break for the garden.  And that will be decided by your prevailing wind directions.  Some thought on prevailing wind direction should also go into the manure location.  You don't want the house down wind of the manure.  So for example the wind basically never blows out of the east or north east in my location so ideally all manure should locate east of the house.

Question.  Seeing how close you are to the creek are you in the flood plain?  Can you even legally build a home there?  If so being that close to the creek I would likely be looking for the highest ground on the property for the home location.

Beyond that remember that every bit of drive way is land you can't use for something else.  While I would want to be farther from the main road for privacy reasons I would want to keep the drive way reasonably short too to avoid its using limited land.  So likely I would choose to put the home closer to the road and use trees to provide isolation from the road as best as is possible.

Now are you going to want to sell stuff from the garden?  If you want to do much that way, you want the drive way close to the garden to minimize the distance you need to carry produce.  Always plan for old age and lazy.

As for chickens something on my to try list is wrapping the chicken pen around the garden in an effort to control insects.  Off season the garden could all or in part become another graze area for the chickens.  If you are feeding grain how is it being delivered? If you have a neighbor bringing it in by the grinder mixer full is that in your plans?  If you are hauling pickup loads home is that in your plans?  Are you doing purely layers, purely meat chickens or some combination?  That will also affect your pen shape and size.  There again coup close to the garden for lazy man manure handling.  One word of warning here.  We had one winter that we got the seed cleaning residue for chicken feed.  It was really cheap and the chickens loved it and did well on it.  We cleaned the chicken house the following spring and put that directly on the garden and then spent the next decade fighting the weeds we brought by doing it.

Now other livestock.  You will likely want more at least 2 more pasture divisions especially with pigs.  Now lets look at what you will typically want with pigs,  Feeding area, watering area, dry dust area(likely under a shed), wallow area and manure area.  Now the manure area might not be needed if you free range to some pasture all the time.  But if you night time pen then it should be in your planning.  Pigs will typically locate it as far as possible from food and water areas.  A comment on sheds.  Having grown up around both pig sheds and sheep sheds with 4 foot ceilings at the back I swore I would never build a shed short enough to hit my head at its shortest point.  To allow for hay and manure build up I would say the shortest should be about 7 foot. Be aware you will likely need to separate sheds.  The pigs will pick their favorite and the sheep will be left with the other one if you graze them together.  Now how you handle the rotation will matter.  Do they have easy access to every pasture? or do you have to herd them?  Water central or water in every pasture.  Night time penning or free range.  Free range to avoid labor I would try for central water and one way gates.   Your pasture layout isn't conducive to that likely.  It will depend on how the fences are built.  There are again think lazy and can it be automated in your old age.

Fencing be aware it is hard to hold pigs with plain fence.  They will root under it and push under.  So plan on it having an electric liner fence.




 
Carson Albright
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C. Letellier wrote:First off lets start with the creek.  I assume it is the blue line across the corner.  If so it should have at least a 20ft wide on either side of it riparian zone that that is fenced off and isn't grazed or a least isn't grazed very often.(there is some argument against never grazing it)  By the time you do that there isn't much of that corner left for grazing.  The bridge or pipe over the creek to let that corner be grazed without allowing the animals access to the stream is probably more work than it is worth.  So likely that whole corner of the property should be fenced out of your grazing plan and planted into an orchard or trees.

Now have you given thought to where the main manure is going to end up?  Ideally it should be as close to the garden as possible(unless you have big machinery to move it) and as far as possible from the creek for water quality.  Now if you are using a night time penning and day time grazing system you need to look at where the night time manure will end up.  Sheep it usually ends up where you bed or feed them mostly.  Now pigs are fairly hygenic and their's will usually end up about as far from the water and food as they can get or 50 to to 100 ft away which ever comes first.    Because of the sheep likely that means you will want a hay stack/straw stack area close to the garden as well.  Ideally its location should be such that it provides winter shelter to the animals and/or wind break for the garden.  And that will be decided by your prevailing wind directions.  Some thought on prevailing wind direction should also go into the manure location.  You don't want the house down wind of the manure.  So for example the wind basically never blows out of the east or north east in my location so ideally all manure should locate east of the house.

Question.  Seeing how close you are to the creek are you in the flood plain?  Can you even legally build a home there?  If so being that close to the creek I would likely be looking for the highest ground on the property for the home location.

Beyond that remember that every bit of drive way is land you can't use for something else.  While I would want to be farther from the main road for privacy reasons I would want to keep the drive way reasonably short too to avoid its using limited land.  So likely I would choose to put the home closer to the road and use trees to provide isolation from the road as best as is possible.

Now are you going to want to sell stuff from the garden?  If you want to do much that way, you want the drive way close to the garden to minimize the distance you need to carry produce.  Always plan for old age and lazy.

As for chickens something on my to try list is wrapping the chicken pen around the garden in an effort to control insects.  Off season the garden could all or in part become another graze area for the chickens.  If you are feeding grain how is it being delivered? If you have a neighbor bringing it in by the grinder mixer full is that in your plans?  If you are hauling pickup loads home is that in your plans?  Are you doing purely layers, purely meat chickens or some combination?  That will also affect your pen shape and size.  There again coup close to the garden for lazy man manure handling.  One word of warning here.  We had one winter that we got the seed cleaning residue for chicken feed.  It was really cheap and the chickens loved it and did well on it.  We cleaned the chicken house the following spring and put that directly on the garden and then spent the next decade fighting the weeds we brought by doing it.

Now other livestock.  You will likely want more at least 2 more pasture divisions especially with pigs.  Now lets look at what you will typically want with pigs,  Feeding area, watering area, dry dust area(likely under a shed), wallow area and manure area.  Now the manure area might not be needed if you free range to some pasture all the time.  But if you night time pen then it should be in your planning.  Pigs will typically locate it as far as possible from food and water areas.  A comment on sheds.  Having grown up around both pig sheds and sheep sheds with 4 foot ceilings at the back I swore I would never build a shed short enough to hit my head at its shortest point.  To allow for hay and manure build up I would say the shortest should be about 7 foot. Be aware you will likely need to separate sheds.  The pigs will pick their favorite and the sheep will be left with the other one if you graze them together.  Now how you handle the rotation will matter.  Do they have easy access to every pasture? or do you have to herd them?  Water central or water in every pasture.  Night time penning or free range.  Free range to avoid labor I would try for central water and one way gates.   Your pasture layout isn't conducive to that likely.  It will depend on how the fences are built.  There are again think lazy and can it be automated in your old age.

Fencing be aware it is hard to hold pigs with plain fence.  They will root under it and push under.  So plan on it having an electric liner fence.






The creek seasonally floods, but the house area is not in the flood plain.  I was hoping to graze the creek area as well, as it would be access to cooling water.  Why should you not graze by creeks?

My manure plan was to rotationally graze the sheep/pigs weekly and day range with chickens following behind to eat all the bugs in the manure and spread it around to fertilize.  I tested my soil and it is not ideal at the moment, hoping that the animals will contribute to the NPK it needs.  Any extra manure would go in compost bins/garden
The homestead would be more for a hobby, so I'm not planning on profiting any from the garden/animals.  My goal is to have animals that contribute to the farm(sheep mow lawn, pigs till gardens and both provide meat) and enjoy it. 

In terms or rotational grazing I was planning on that animal shelter being the sacrifice area that every paddock would have access to, and I would block off the other pastures with portable electric fences.  That way I could have a permanent shelter that I did not have to move that would have a watering bin located there.  I was planning on having 2 shelters, one for the sheep and one for the pigs. 

My goal was egg chickens that I would first run in tractors moving around the pastures to follow behind the sheep, and later on if it looks like it's safe enough day range, and coop them up at night. 

Currently planning on 2x4 fencing for the pigs around the perimeter, and electric fencing to separate pastures.  Considering cutting the perimeter fencing at the flood plain and running permanent electric fencing around the creek to give access to it when its running and hot for the animals, but be able to close it off, and not worry about flooding knocking it down when it rains heavily.
 
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