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no supplemental feed? anyone?

 
John Kitsteiner
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Location: East Tennessee
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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? 

Thanks!
Doc K
 
Franklin Stone
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People used to do this, so it must be possible. But expectations might need to be adjusted.

Majority of animals slaughtered in late autumn, leaving only minimal breeding stock to feed over the winter.

Enough land to raise the food to feed over winter. Root vegetables - feed animals tops in autumn, dig up roots and feed during cold months. Land for hay.

Larger animals will need much more feed than smaller animals. Consider smaller breeds. Be careful with goats. They are very destructive of trees.

This might be easier in the PNW with its mild climate than in much of the USA.
 
John Kitsteiner
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Just to clarify my question a bit more...  I mean NO supplemental feed, including hay, of any type.  Even if it comes off my land. 

Is there a way to design paddocks and/or cold hardy grasses and forbs so that I need to do no hay-making... letting my animals do all the harvesting and all the work?

I am plus/minus about goats.  I love that they eat ANYTHING, but that is also their drawback.  I am leaning toward smaller cattle (Dexters and maybe Highlands) and sheep, maybe pigs, and definitely chickens.

I think this would be much harder for chickens, especially in areas that snow (since chickens are originally tropical birds), but I think it could work with the other animals even with snow if designed right and with the right breeds.

 
Franklin Stone
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If you leave animals in a field during the cold/winter season, they may damage it so badly in their quest for nourishment that it will be severely damaged and unable to produce food in the proper growing season. I have seen this many, many times, with animals that ARE fed supplements such as hay and grain. Without supplemental feed, the damage might be even worse.

Raising animals of any kind is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. Animals need daily care. Exceptions may be sheep/goat/reindeer/cattle herds that can travel over great distances, but historically there have usually been shepherds/goatherds/cowboys traveling with them, keeping watch. With a large tract of land, and multiple (or mobile) paddocks, it would be theoretically possible to emulate this - but then there is the labor of moving the animals from paddock to paddock, and the need to monitor the animals to protect from predators so far from the homestead.

I think it might be theoretically possible to design a chicken system using multiple paddocks planted with various fruit trees, grains and birdseeds - fruit trees providing fruits and insects all summer long, and then letting the chickens harvest their own wheat or sunflower seeds in the winter for instance - but keeping wild birds from harvesting the food first might be an issue.

What about leaving the land mostly wild, and trapping/hunting game for protein? (Of course, this doesn't provide milk.) That's the least effort of all.
 
Ken Peavey
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I have 7 chickens running around freely, I offer them some stale bread, leftover popcorn, food scraps now and then.  They have no regular feed offered to them, foraging for their needs.  I get 2-4 eggs/day of various size, usually Medium to Large.

A bull takes care of the back field.  He's a Lowline Black Angus, so the 3 acres should be plenty.  Due to the drought, he has a round bale of hay back there.  I have been running a water sprayer to try to keep the grass growing.  Last winter he went through 2 round bales in about 5 months.
 
John Kitsteiner
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I know that this is possible... I think it is just a matter of designing the right system with the right animals.

I have read about year round grazing in Ohio in Gene Logsdon's book, All Flesh is Grass.  He was talking about Bob Evans - yeah the guy who owns the restaurant chain.  He is also an unconventional farmer.  I've also seen mention of something similar in the movie "A Farm for the Future".  They specifically address the winter fields (in the wet UK winters) and how their fields have almost no damage at all, while sustaining grazing, due to a very diverse and healthy mixed pasture of grasses and forbs.

I believe, but I am not positive, that they are raising full-sized cattle on year round grazing, with minimal, if any, supplemental feedings.

Frankenstoen - I kind of agree.  Raising animals is a huge responsibility, but I don't know if it has to be a huge commitment... especially of time. IF we design things right.

I know there are potential issues to overcome.  I figured this would be a great place to brainstorm around these issues.  Maybe develop a new system entirely.  Who knows?

Doc K
 
Abe Connally
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pigs do this all over the US, they are called feral pigs.

If managed a bit, I think goats, pigs, and chickens would be super easy.  All of my neighbors free range their chickens in our village, and I don't see anyone feed them anything intentionally.  The hens always have a group of 10 chicks around their feet, and I know everyone gets plenty of eggs.  I don't know how anyone keeps track of which chickens belong to whom....
 
John Kitsteiner
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I hope people are not getting the wrong impression.  I am not talking about getting animals and just abandoning them to a large paddock.  Maybe, if I had a ton of prairie land, I might consider doing that with Bison, but even then I would still likely do rotational grazing.

My main goal is to figure out a way to eliminate raising hay on my own or needing to purchase supplemental feed.

I plan on incorporating intensive management/rotational grazing, access to clean, pure water whenever wanted, and likely multiple checks per day... I am only talking about a few animals per household to provide meat or other products for that one home.

I believe it will require a very diverse pasture (but what kinds of grasses and forbs?), a good rotation system (how should this be established?), and good foraging stock (what species and breeds do best?).

I also believe it will take many years to develop good stock for this.  Pioneers in the U.S. had a phrase: Root hog or die.  They would let pegs run free most of the year to fend for themselves, and the ones that made it at the end were used for food and for breeding stock... it was a form of natural selection.

I don't intend to let any of my animals die of starvation, but I think we can select for breeding the ones that perform the best on the least amount of extra input (i.e. supplemental feeds).  I know that there are organizations in the U.S. that are doing just that on grass-only systems.  I just don't know/remember who they are.  But I am sure I have read about them in the past.

Doc K
 
                                
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I currenstly raise goats and have been for the last 12 years since I was 14. I have studied and observed them all this time and have looked very much into this subject. and I would say the easy answer to your question at least for goats is no (in my climate zone 5a). Most of the winter forages that are used to feed animals in the winter should be planted with cultivation for success. the more cultivation, more chance for erosion. Your just trading a mower and rake for a plow and seeder. A cover of grass even brown and withered is a very passable cover for soil.
also, palletability comes into play, your animals may eat it, but just because they have nothing else they like. Animals desire the most densely nutritous food they can get. would you rather eat potatoes and carrots all winter or dried fruit, vegetables,grains, and other reserves you have in you pantry.
Pugging as mentioned above also comes into play. during freeze and thaw cycles hooved animals make deep pierced holes in the soil compacting it and if severe enough can damage pasture. my neihbor leaves his cattle out to fall through the sod and it is nearly impossible for me to walk on. This can also interfere with the heaving of the earth when it freezes. freeze and thaw make your soil airy and crumbly in the spring.
During the winter months  your soil organisms are mostly inactive to break down manure. when you animal deficates its poop dries up and most of the gasses escape into the atmosphere, this leaves you with little value going back to the field.

you also get into other difficultys like what type of temporary fence to use and move, moving water barrels every few days with de-icers, and the obvious, there is snow covering all the forage!
my conclusion was it is more of a hassle then anything else. Your money is better spent on a well built shelter for your climate with a covered exercise yard where the animals can get plenty of fresh air, sunlight, accessable water, poop in a small area with carbon added to make great fertilizer for your fields come summer. Keep as few animals as you can in winter to keep you feed bill/ labor down.
Winter forages are better used as a supplement to winter feeding of hay.
Buy the best hay you can buy. I do and my animals look great and are very healthy into early spring and with zero grain!
Yes no supplementation is possible but it is not worth it.
 
John Kitsteiner
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This is not directed at any one person in particular, but I am surprised at how many people keep giving me reasons on why it cannot be done or done well or that it is not in the best interest of the animals or the land.

My thought was that Permaculture was about finding solutions for human-run systems by modeling natural systems.  There are animals that survive all winter in very cold (artic) climates without destroying the environment or starving to death or dying from infections (i.e. musk-ox, caribou, reindeer, etc.).

And I am talking about fewer animals in much milder climates with close supervision.

As I have said, I know there are solutions that have been worked out in part, but I don't know if anyone has assembled them into a true working system yet...

Maybe I'll just have to do it myself.
 
John Kitsteiner
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Here is an article about Bob Evans and year-round grazing.  Still not 100%, but getting really close.

And here is another article from Iowa State University on year-round grazing... again not 100%, but if they can do this in Iowa with really cold snowy winters, a more mild climate should be able to achieve 100%.

I'm going to see what I can find on New Zealand.  I know they do this quite a bit.

Doc K
 
Abe Connally
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read up on Allan Savory and Holistic Land Management.

It can and is being done all around the world.  But, it will require some planning, management, and modifications to make it work.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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One of the advantages that goats have is that they not only survive on, but thrive on, rough forage such as tree branches and brush.  IMO, if controlled so they don't destroy plants you don't want destroyed, goats are probably the most suitable type of livestock for a forested permaculture system, because they can do well on what grows in that environment without planting annual crops.  However, in a deep-snow climate, they will need to have feed brought to them, or trails tramped down (think deer yards) so they can reach the feed for themselves.  Deer can starve to death en masse in deep snow when it gets to where they've used up all the feed in their yards, and they can't get out to get to more feed, so goats would require careful management to avoid the same fate. 

In deep-snow climates, grazing animals like cattle and sheep will have more trouble finding food under the snow, and so will chickens.  Using migratory herds of caribou/reindeer as an example isn't really appropriate, because these animals have HUGE areas of land to roam over -- in the millions of acres.  None of us can supply that much land to our domestic livestock.  IMO, part of the 'contract' between man and domestic animals is that they provide us with some of our needs in return for our providing them with some of their needs.  Like most people, I'd like to keep my animals as simply and easily and as naturally as possible, but for both our sakes, there comes a time and a place where they are going to need some extra help from me in order to survive on the amount of land I can afford to own!  I don't think it's a fair or right solution to say that only a few rich people with huge amounts of land should be allowed to own and benefit from livestock, so some of us are going to have to do the best we can with what we have available!

Keep in mind in your experiments that there are a lot of people just watching for a chance to accuse someone of animal abuse, and make sure you don't allow your animals to go down in condition to a point where you make yourself a target for them.  It's not worth it for the sake of an experiment (not to mention the cruelty to the animals!).

Kathleen
 
Jordan Lowery
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of course it can be done and its just silly to think it cant.

what kind of ecosystem are we talking about? fields, forests, mixed, mountain, valley, etc...

each would most likely have a set of livestock that would do best there. no one place will have the same answer to the problem.
 
John Kitsteiner
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
of course it can be done and its just silly to think it cant.

what kind of ecosystem are we talking about? fields, forests, mixed, mountain, valley, etc...

each would most likely have a set of livestock that would do best there. no one place will have the same answer to the problem.



THANK YOU!     I finally found a yes! 

For me personally, it will likely be Pacific Northwest, coastal region, USDA Zone 8-9, mix of fields with light forest access, and preferably with a mixed variety of livestock.  However, I am looking for information on ANY climate.  Ideas and designs from any place and with any type of livestock will give me a place to start designing my own personal version.

I am going to take a look at Allan Savory's stuff.  I have definitely heard of him, but have not read much by/on him.  Thanks, Velacreations!

And, please let me be very clear... I love animals.  If I wasn't a physician, I would either be a vet or a field biologist (I have a degree in biology).  My entire life, I have been the one kid in the neighborhood who always was tending a bird with a broken wing, or a lost duckling, or a baby raccoon whose mother was killed, and (much to my mother's fears) many types of snakes and frogs.  I have no intention of sacrificing my animals in the pursuit of proving an experiment correct, and I don't really know how anyone would think so. 

The stuff I am talking about is truly not off the wall, just because some people may have never heard of it before.

I'll keep updating this thread with the information I find.

Please, if anyone (like Velacreations!) can point me to information, I would greatly appreciate it.

Doc K
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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If you are looking at the coastal PNW, then of course the answer to your question is yes!  Knowing what climate you are looking at helps immensely!  But that doesn't mean that the answer would be yes for someone living in an area that gets lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes, for example!  If you have six or eight feet of snow, you are going to need some stored feed no matter what kind of animals you have (unless someone has developed miner cows that can burrow through the snowbanks and eat the stockpiled grass underneath, LOL!). 

No offense was intended in my warning about experimenting with animals.  We don't know your background, and sometimes people do rash or thoughtless things in the pursuit of knowledge.  Besides, someone else reading this thread may have needed the warning!

However, even in the relatively mild climate of the PNW, there is an issue you'll need to consider.  I'm sure there's a way around it, but in the winter, the constant rain causes what grass is left in the fields to be quite low in nutritional value.  Not too long ago I was reading an article about how many horses in the Willamette Valley suffer in the winter because they are left out on what appears to be adequate pasture.  Farmers in the Willamette Valley often buy hay from the dry side of the Cascades because it has far more nutrition in it for their animals' winter feed.  I suspect that browsing goats, eating from deep-rooted brush and trees, would still have an edge in this climate.  However, there are very likely some things you could grow that would provide better feed for cattle or other livestock than what has traditionally been grown for them.  Some judicious experimenting in this area might do a great service.

Kathleen
 
Tyler Ludens
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http://www.holisticmanagement.org/
 
paul wheaton
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The fact that deer, wild goats, wild sheep, bison, elk, reindeer and all sorts of other animals can pull it off is proof that it can be done.  The next step is to optimize the system.

But as with so many things, the "how" will get into details and depend on which animal and which location.  Even limiting it to one animal in one location, a proper answer can fill a book.

pigs:  fergal pigs are good indicators that most of the country can support this.  Sepp raises his pigs where they self harvest 100%.  He does harvest field peas and mix them with kitchen scraps to get "stinky peas" to throw to the pigs to encourage them to till a spot or get them to come to him.

chickens:  a tropical jungle animal that typically does not survive in the wild further north.  Although wild turkeys, quail and pheasant suggest that it should be possible.  Sepp sets aside food for chickens for 12 days a year.

cattle:  the concerns about ruining a plot of land are valid.  And I think this can be mitigated.  Sepp has a deal with a neighbor about hay.  I am really glad of the year round grazing link.  I've heard of folks cutting hay use down to two months, but this is the first I've heard of a year round operation in a cold climate.  Excellent!  One quick comment:  for tall fescue for ruminants, be sure to use tall fescue that has ruminant friendly endophytes!

 
John Kitsteiner
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Paul,

Thanks for the information and encouragement.

As I said, any information that I find on this topic will be posted on this thread.  I'll share what I find, so we all can learn about it.

Doc K
 
Tyler Ludens
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paul wheaton wrote:
Although wild turkeys, quail and pheasant suggest that it should be possible. 


I think turkeys would be an excellent choice for mixed open and wooded land.  I think a breed close to the wild type, such as the Narraganset, would be good, not a small or very domestic type (not Royal Palm or Broad Breasted White, for instance).  My Royal Palms are good foragers, but they are too small to eat acorns, as far as I can tell.
 
Michael Radelut
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DocK wrote:
Paul,

Thanks for the information and encouragement.

As I said, any information that I find on this topic will be posted on this thread.  I'll share what I find, so we all can learn about it.

Doc K


Here's my contribution:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6HGKSvjk5Q
 
John Polk
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I think pigs would be an excellent choice for such an endeavor.  In the spring you buy a pair of "feeders", and they will feed themselves into autumn.  Butcher after the first frost and winter feeding problems have been avoided.  Their greatest feed/gain ratio is 6-9 months.  After that, they will eat twice as much for each pound of weight gain.  Unless you are keeping them for breeding, they are uneconomical to keep after October.
 
Walter Jeffries
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I have raised sheep, ducks, chickens, geese and pigs without supplemental feed. With the pigs there is the issue that pasture is low in lysine, a limiting protein, so they take a few extra months to grow to market size and the pasture is lower in calories so the pigs are leaner. I did three batches of pigs that way. It works.

We now have about 300 pigs in our herds and we still don't buy grain or commercial hog feed. We get dairy from a neighboring butter and cheese maker - that provides the lysine and extra calories. Pasture is the vast majority of what our animals eat and in the winter we replace the pastures with hay - pasture saved over for the cold months.

See here:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/animals/pigs

and

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/tag/feeding

We sell pork to local stores, restaurants and individuals year round, making deliveries every week. Given that it pays the mortgage and is almost all of our income you might say we have a commercial operation. Oh, and we're building our own USDA on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop. Keeps me busy and out of trouble. Usually.

Cheers,

-Walter
In Vermont
 
Gord Welch
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If you're planning on the PNW you will need a lot of land and a good mixture of forest in with your pasture if you're planning on no other feed. The winter rain is relentless and gives the illusion that everything will continue growing - for all practical purposes it doesn't, and the ground is so soft that looking at it will cause a depression in the soil. Compaction is a huge issue and most pastures end up as mud pits if not very carefully managed.

My experience is that basically any advice that applies to farming does not apply to the PNW west of the Cascades - it's a different place.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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I am not raising without my animials without supplemental feeding... but, close.  Very close. 

I have a small herd of 3 Colonial Spanish horses in zone 5 (Michigan).  I have 8 acres of native grasslands pastured.    I do not feed any external inputs during the spring, summer or fall.  Last winter, with the extension of my pastures, I was able to bring my inputs down by 50% (from 300 bales to 150 bales of hay fed in winter).  I am hoping to do better this year.

Part of my success is breed selection, hearty heritage breeds are able to do very well with "less."  The native grasslands have helped tremendously in being resistant to drought, flood and the pressures of the grazing horses.  And, of course, the weather plays a large role.  Especially in winter when I need a good snow cover to protect the the grasses early in the season.  Otherwise, it will brown and not provide good forage for the horses (roughage, perhaps, but not nutrition). 

I always make sure the horses have access to water (at least 35degrees or better .. warm for a Michigan February!).  I keep my water warm by building a large....covered... compost pile around it. 
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Good question Dock, i'm particuraly concerned for chicken

But first you have to ne clear on what you want, for example i've understand that you don't want to buy, process or stock feed, but what about feed that hang on trees on winter and that you an give to your livestock (by cutting branches for example ?)

For pigs, maybe selected varaities of persimmon, and for poultry sea buckthorn ?

Here is a list of plant generated with the PFAF database, that have somewhat edible fruits or seeds for human, and whose fruit/seed ripen in harsh monthes, its a good list to star designing a winter/spring self forage for poultry
Filename: Species database.pdf
Description:
File size: 552 Kbytes
[Download Species database.pdf] Download Attachment
 
                
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I have seen animals raised without supplemental feeding.  These include goats, chicken, ducks and cows.  The one  thing all these situations had in common was mild climate (SF Bay Area/Napa Valley), large areas and few animals.
    In the case of the chickens and ducks there were no supplemental feedings but the people also raised rabbits so both had lots of access to worms, larvae, snails, feed that fell out of rabbit troughs and such.
    As for the cows, they had two large pastures and were moved half way through the year.  I think there were about four cows (angus) and each had one calf a year.  I am not sure if the calves were fed grain prior to slaughter.
    I imagine you are looking for  hard data on how much land and what kind of plants you will need to cultivate to go with exclusive grazers but I can't think of anything like that out there.  You may need to do your own math figuring how many calories your particular animal will need and then figure out the plants from there.  Of course this is going to vary greatly from climate to climate and animal to animal.  I think it is a great project though!
 
John Kitsteiner
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hügel wrote:
Here's my contribution:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6HGKSvjk5Q


This is fantastic.  Took me a bit to watch the whole thing (it's 90 minutes), but it is GOOD INFORMATION!

Thanks Hugel!

Doc K
 
John Kitsteiner
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permaguy wrote:
Good question Dock, i'm particuraly concerned for chicken

But first you have to ne clear on what you want, for example i've understand that you don't want to buy, process or stock feed, but what about feed that hang on trees on winter and that you an give to your livestock (by cutting branches for example ?)

For pigs, maybe selected varaities of persimmon, and for poultry sea buckthorn ?

Here is a list of plant generated with the PFAF database, that have somewhat edible fruits or seeds for human, and whose fruit/seed ripen in harsh monthes, its a good list to star designing a winter/spring self forage for poultry


Permaguy - This is great.  I am all for letting fruit/seed pods drop or for cutting branches, etc.  I am really trying to avoid making hay, purchasing hay, or purchasing other supplemental feeds.  I am trying to keep things as simple and low-cost as possible.  I want to develop a system that models nature... and making hay or feeding bags of feed doesn't happen much in nature.

pubwvj wrote:
I have raised sheep, ducks, chickens, geese and pigs without supplemental feed. With the pigs there is the issue that pasture is low in lysine, a limiting protein, so they take a few extra months to grow to market size and the pasture is lower in calories so the pigs are leaner. I did three batches of pigs that way. It works.

See here:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/animals/pigs

Cheers,

-Walter
In Vermont


Fantastic!  Thanks for the information.  Next time I'm up in Vermont, maybe 'll try to swing by.

Doc K
 
Pat Maas
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Nancy Coonridge has her dairy goats free range grazing in western NM. No grain, and organic hay when it's wet outside or winter. She has award winning cheese and is pretty well known here in NM.

Her goats don't have any fences containing them and go out with the LGD's daily to their favorite browsing areas. The dogs let her know when there is a problem.

 
Mike Turner
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I raise bamboo to get my sheep through the late winter after they have eaten down the stockpiled grass in the pastures but before the new spring grass has started growing.  I raise a 10 foot high bamboo (Hibanobambusa) that I give the sheep access to and they self harvest the leaves.  On the taller bamboos, I cut a few culms each day, let them clean off the leaves, and then I use the stripped culms for bean trellises and other bamboo construction.
 
John Kitsteiner
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basjoos wrote:
I raise bamboo to get my sheep through the late winter after they have eaten down the stockpiled grass in the pastures but before the new spring grass has started growing.  I raise a 10 foot high bamboo (Hibanobambusa) that I give the sheep access to and they self harvest the leaves.  On the taller bamboos, I cut a few culms each day, let them clean off the leaves, and then I use the stripped culms for bean trellises and other bamboo construction.


Brilliant... I love this idea. 
 
Dave Bennett
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I grow enough alfalfa and timothy to feed my rabbits for a year.  My only expense for them is mineral salt.  I raise Giant Chinchilla Rabbits.  When the kits are weaned at 8 weeks they weight close to 7 lbs. so they go from their "Mom" straight to the freezer.  I only ever have to feed 2 doe and 1 buck so my feed requirements are low plus I harvests lots of "weeds" to feed them.  I have a few Muscovy ducks that are extremely self sufficient except in the winter but I raise meal worms to feed them.  The only problem with raising meal worms for poultry is that it takes a lot of space for that many trays of worms.  If they transform into beetles the ducks like them even more. LOL  I am hopeful that when I add 2 Kinder Goats I will be able to grow enough for them too.  I am only farming to feed the animals to myself so it is easy.  My chickens are gone because I trade Rabbit meat for all of the chicken and eggs that I need.
 
Mike Turner
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DocK wrote:
Brilliant... I love this idea. 


This time of year, the bamboo groves in the pastures provide shade for the livestock.  So a bamboo grove provides winter grazing/browsing, spring shoots (both for the livestock and for cooking), summer shade, a year round source for construction materials, and develops a thick rhizome network that can stop erosion dead in its tracks.  And if you ever have an earthquake, a running bamboo grove is where you want to be since its intertwined rhizome network knits the soil together so it won't split or landslide, and if any culms are knocked down by the quake, they are light weight enough not to do you harm. 
 
Dave Bennett
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DocK wrote:
Brilliant... I love this idea. 

Have you considered Sasa Palmatta?  Huge leaves and it doesn't get very tall.  I considered it for when I get a couple of goats in the future but it doesn't do well below 20 F so we shall see.  I was damaged a little last winter but hopefully by next winter it will be better established.
 
Mike Turner
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magicdave wrote:
Have you considered Sasa Palmatta?  Huge leaves and it doesn't get very tall.  I considered it for when I get a couple of goats in the future but it doesn't do well below 20 F so we shall see.  I was damaged a little last winter but hopefully by next winter it will be better established.


I have Sasa kurilensis, which is closely related.  Sasa palmata is supposed to good to -5F once established.  Hibanobambusa is a natural hybrid between Sasa veitchii and Phyllostachys nigra henon and has hybrid vigor.  Sasa is shade tolerant, so you can grow it as an understory in deciduous forest.
 
Dave Bennett
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I lost some leaves last winter from cold.  It is doing well though.
 
Marissa Little
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I do think animals can be raised this way.  But I have a few comments.

Doc, you said:
Raising animals is a huge responsibility, but I don't know if it has to be a huge commitment... especially of time. IF we design things right.


But then said:
I plan on incorporating intensive management/rotational grazing, access to clean, pure water whenever wanted, and likely multiple checks per day...


I see these as contradictions.  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.

I don't know much about year round forage in colder climates, but even here in Texas, we can have issues.  We don't have our fields set up right for winter grazing but are working on it.  But we do hay them.  It only takes a day or two of work to put up enough hay for the entire winter.  So for us, a day or two in the summer is no big deal for our over all plan.

I've done a lot of reading on dairy animals with no supplementation of grain.  Even grass fed cows and forage based dairy goats are typically given some grain during milking.  Some recent research is pointing out that this may not be necessary and you won't even get a hit on production.  But I think it also shows that the body condition scores of the animals do go down.  So then you are fighting to get them back up to weight during the dry period.  So it may shorten life spans with the extra stress.

Which brings me to another thing you said:
I want to develop a system that models nature... and making hay or feeding bags of feed doesn't happen much in nature.


Keep in mind that many breeds have been selected based on supplemental feeding.  These breeds aren't "natural" in that they may not be able to survive in the wild.  Certain chicken breeds have been bred with almost no instinct to sit on eggs.  These breeds would be dead without human intervention.  Our dairy goats produce huge amounts and WANT to produce huge amounts whether they are getting the feed for it or not. 

If I was to be serious about not feeding a drop of supplements (minerals, grains, etc) then I would need to start over with a new herd and cull seriously for traits that allow the animals to live a more natural life.  We have bred a lot of that out of livestock!  So a breed like the Spanish goat that is more used to living on the fields.  Won't get near the amount of milk but would probably have healthier animals with the management attitude of low inputs.  So choose breeds carefully, like Mustang Breeze was saying.

And finally, the cycles of nature produce cycles in animal populations.  Will you be willing to watch half your herd die during a drought/particularly cold winter/etc?  It would be a waste if you simply let it happen so when conditions look bad, you will need to cull heavily and only keep the healthiest of animals and the minimum number for repopulating when things look better.  This is what used to be done over every winter like frankenstoen said.

It's an interesting prospect and I would suggest reading up on the folks that do something similar but may not be there all the way.  I haven't read 'Salad Bar Beef' (Joel Salatin) but it may have some useful information for this even if you don't apply his specific technique of super intensive rotation.
 
Pat Maas
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Location: McIntosh, NM
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I've been culling my dairy goats for years now. They have to make do on at very minimum decent forage. Last summer with no grain supplementation, but good quality dairy hay, they absolutely milked their hearts out. This is with mineral supplementation and a monthly dose of selenium. DE for worming.

In the next month, I'll be moving my little herd to a new place. Will have to feed for the 1st few years as the natural forage has been grazed off by cattle. The ladies will have several good sized paddocks at 20 acres a piece to start with and will keep them on just long enough to see some growth knocked down from our monsoon season-if it happens.

These 20 acre paddocks will be for 20 milkers and one or two small cows. Should be able to keep them on for a week at a time, depending on conditions. If ever any doubts, will have the dry pens to house them in until pasture comes back in. Just have a few of these paddocks to start with, but will do more as time and resources allow. May find need to make the paddocks bigger at first, so it will be trail and error.

There is only limited place for making hay and that only in a good year of rain, so very good range management will be  a must. Already know will have to bring hay in at this point for the time being and winter/spring.

I've done a lot of work with improving sandy soils to a point where grass root growth has noticeable nodules on it and , so am fairly certain can do what is needed at our new small ranch. 
 
Dave Bennett
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Pat Maas wrote:
I've been culling my dairy goats for years now. They have to make do on at very minimum decent forage. Last summer with no grain supplementation, but good quality dairy hay, they absolutely milked their hearts out. This is with mineral supplementation and a monthly dose of selenium. DE for worming.

In the next month, I'll be moving my little herd to a new place. Will have to feed for the 1st few years as the natural forage has been grazed off by cattle. The ladies will have several good sized paddocks at 20 acres a piece to start with and will keep them on just long enough to see some growth knocked down from our monsoon season-if it happens.

These 20 acre paddocks will be for 20 milkers and one or two small cows. Should be able to keep them on for a week at a time, depending on conditions. If ever any doubts, will have the dry pens to house them in until pasture comes back in. Just have a few of these paddocks to start with, but will do more as time and resources allow. May find need to make the paddocks bigger at first, so it will be trail and error.

There is only limited place for making hay and that only in a good year of rain, so very good range management will be  a must. Already know will have to bring hay in at this point for the time being and winter/spring.

I've done a lot of work with improving sandy soils to a point where grass root growth has noticeable nodules on it and , so am fairly certain can do what is needed at our new small ranch. 

What forage did the cows leave behind?  Much in the way of brush?  I had a place in Cal in the 80's that had been a sandy river bed.  It took a lot of effort but  I made it work for a variety of plants including some grasses.  I really hates the goats head though.  I always seemed to find it when wearing sandals. LOL
 
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