This topic straddles many categories but since it had to go somewhere I guess my main query is on Dogs
I have several acres on my property of woods which I would like to convert to silvopasture/pasture. The plan as it sits in my head is I will save all the healthy larger maples. Most of the large softwood will become lumber on a small bandsaw mill which is soon to be one of my next major build projects. The rest of the smaller wood and non maple hardwoods will become firewood. I do not have a real time frame to complete this, as much as I can push the woods line back per summer will work. The land is steep and soft and getting any larger machinery in there makes a mess and is beyond the limits of what I own myself. I do have a mini excavator which works well for building roads but certain areas are soft and steep enough to push past the safe working limits of that machine. The wood will largely have to be hauled in small batches by atv and logging arch. I believe a yoke of oxen is in my future which I think may be the ideal tool for working these woods but until I get the pasture in place feeding them is problematic. It is a real catch 22. Anyway I would like to do the majority of the work with animal power.
Next week I pick up my first goats. For now just a pair of Nigerian Dwarfs to break me in with goat care. I don't yet have a concept of how much brush a goat can clear per day I plan to take notes learn care and scale up accordingly. I am also interested in some small scale meat farming with Chevon as an offering but that's a topic for another day...
I wasn't really planning on doing pigs this year and taking a summer off but as I look at my freezer, pork supply is getting dangerously low. So I was thinking about doing as follows.
With portable electric fencing:
1. Move goats to brushy woods. Try to limit paddock size to what can be adequately cleared in 2-3 days time.
2. Follow goats with pigs to turn over ground
3. Wait a couple days and follow pigs with chickens to break fly life cycle.
4. Cut down and harvest trees 5. Seed with whatever blend I decide I want to include in new pasture
6.Repeat and push on.
It is possible the pigs and goats could simultaneously occupy the same pen and combine steps 1 and 2 but I would have to experiment with this. I picture moving everything within Premier1 electric netting paddocks. While this netting is great I still wonder if a LGD is in my future especially if I scale this idea up to more and more animals. But herein lies the question, Even if I did a perimeter fence around the whole pasture area the animals would still need to be penned into much much smaller paddocks in order to rotationally graze them and get them to do any real clearing work. This electric netting would also keep the dog out of direct contact with the animals.
How do those of you that mob graze or rotationally graze and have LGD manage this. Are the dogs happy to patrol outside the pen inside the larger fence?
A LGD is NOT happy unless it is in with its flock mates. That is its whole purpose in life and it needs to really bond with them.
Every dog is different, but mine patrols mostly at night keeping the Coyotes and Fox at bay, while she sleeps during the day knowing the sheep are pretty much safe. Even then she keeps a very good eye on them, sleeping 99% of the time with one eye open. In other words, the littlest disturbance and she is up and chasing whatever is a threat.
I am not one to dissuade a person over doing something the way they want, but I am surprised your land is too steep for your excavator. With the exception of a bulldozer which is almost impossible to flop over, next would be an excavator. I do land-clearing for profit, and once cleared 18 acres on the side of a mountain. It was so steep that I had to hook my excavator bucket into a crack in the rock and drag myself up the mountain to get where I needed too. It was just too steep for the tracks to get traction on the ledge rock. That is steep, but it did it, and I was not logging, I was removing the stumps. I am not encouraging you to go outside of your comfort zone, but excavators are known for working in steep terrain.
As far as the excavator goes I just run a small rubber track mini about 8500lbs I am no expert with it either but I am learning. To be fair there has been no where I could not get it yet although I have had to use the bucket to climb a few times but working somewhere comfortably (for my skill set) and just getting somewhere are two different things. Digging out stumps on flat ground gets it tipping fairly easily so doing so on steeps does not sound like my cup of tea I will leave that to you pros for now. A couple weeks ago I cleared a large area on level ground of brush and small trees/ old stumps in order to bring in and unload a semi truck with a metal building kit and have room to work. We made pretty short work out of this area but still this was maybe a 150' foot square patch on level ground there are a lot of patches this size on much steeper terrain to deal with also a few springs to contend with one of which tried its best to swallow the excavator about a month ago...
this is exactly the kind of place to get a bunch of opinions. Travis is a rock star, he is actually doing this full-time with a couple income streams, and he is a great source for bootstrap information. We are always better informed by your location/climate/soil type, so absent you will probably get boilerplate answers.
I have been steadily pushing back the woods (all softwood garbage trees) to make what I hope to be a savannah silvipasture kind of thing. This brings conundrums, you need the wood to build the barn to house the herbivores to keep the forest from coming right back. I feel like I have to do it pretty quickly, it takes about the same amount of time and infrastructure for ten or twenty animals as four. And a few animals need to be contained in a tiny area for Greg Judy-style total rehabilitation, and moved just as often. So I think that is a big decision point, whether your limiting factor is time (can you wait a couple years and see what four animals do?) or money. I am getting ready to hire out a part of the job, because I don't have any heavy equipment and I would kill myself doing what Travis does before breakfast. If you have the equipment and the expertise to use and maintain them, I think you can really make progress. I considered getting a skid steer or something used, but there is a learning curve and right now I don't have the time.
So that doesn't answer your question about the LGD at all. But the reason I am planning on hiring out a big clearing job is that I can get the fence in. This was not something I had initially considered important, if I planned on one at all. Turns out the deer are eating any forage I would have for the herbivores, and they refuse to do high-intensity grazing. And have crazy ticks. If I have a perimeter fence with a low electrified line, an LGD may not be that valuable, and I intend to paddock which LGDs don't really thrive in, unless you have 900 animals like Greg Judy.
So that changed my scheme in a hurry. Last year I just went on a rampage and cleared about an acre by hand, pulling trees into piles, and allowing light to the understory. This was pretty successful, and that area could probably be kept clear with goats or hair sheep. There is a kind of big pile of tree trunks (probably six 20" pines I felled on top of some 12" gums) that I am throwing more brush on top and it is rotting into the voids. Probably by the end of summer I will see if I can get some loads of free dirt and just dump it on there. It is a mass of vines, and goats would love it and trample the dirt in pretty well I think. Just an idea. I initially was going to mill the pines, but they were pretty bug-eaten and didn't look like a portable sawmill would make much sense. The board feet you get on a home mill with one operator are pretty skinny, even on flat ground, but if you are doing this full time it make be worth it.
Anyhow, one project tends to lead to another, so pick the one you can manage when the optional project turns into the fourth priority!
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
TJ you hit the nail on the head everything is a conundrum of timing and order, need the oxen to pull the trees to clear the land, need the cleared land to feed the oxen, to pull the trees to clear the land....Before someone brings it up I do understand draft power is probably far from my fastest and likely not even be my cheapest option here but I have always wanted the oxen and I think there are a great many tasks I could make them come in handy at. Equipment could clear the land fast but its also expensive and can make a mess in a hurry. I can still see the scars from when the previous owner had the land logged for softwood probably 20 years ago.
As far as soil type I could show you one place on my property where within a 150' radius I have a vein on pure blue potterys quality clay, nearly pure sand, and areas with so many stones you cant stick a single spade in the ground without hitting one. I also have many wet seeping spring areas. I have ledge in some places but its mostly farther up then I plan to clear and I have steep and I have steeper areas. In short I have just about every soil type and condition. I don't know the exact pitch but its steep enough that I hike it once or twice a winter for a back country ski session. On the projects list is a rope tow ski lift but thats another story.
I am in Central Vermont by the way. Anyway money and budget are low, I would not say time is high there are generally twice as many tasks as can be accomplished on any given day, but I can always make the time for what needs to be done.
"You will never 'find' time for anything. If you want time, you must make it" -Charles Bruxton
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