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Adding Lime to my Pasture  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 156
Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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I asked about spreading manure in backyard herds.com. By spreading the manure , I mean spreading out the manure that is already on the ground. I have three cows. Scottish Highlands. We have 12 1/2 acres, mostly grass. The grass mostly grows very well. Somehow or other, The thread got turned to spreading lime. The people think that I probably have acidic soil because I mentioned Pineneedles, and because they talked about spreading manure. They say I need to have my soil tested and it will probably need Lyme. I’m not sure this is the best way to go about things.  We do live in the middle of a vast Pine Forest, so I’m sure the soil is likely to be acid. Nevertheless, the grass grows very well as long as there is rain. I should know. I’ve been mowing it for many years. We just got the cows, about a month and a half ago. So I was wondering what to do about all the little cow patties laying around in the grass. They’re frozen now. So I guess I won’t do anything at all at least until spring.  Still, I’m wondering whether spreading lime is anything I need to be concerned about. What do you all think?

Sorry for any weird spellings, punctuation, capitalizations. The iPad did that, not me. I’m sure I probably missed some.
 
pollinator
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Lime does make a big difference, and there is a saying in farming, "It is only a guess unless you test."

Testing is NOT so much about whether you need it or not, but about HOW MUCH you need. 12 acres is not a big area so if your soil is as acidic as mine, and you are growing grass which can tolerate acidic soil down to 5.9 PH anyway, you are not looking for many tons to the acre.

The right lime concentration however unlocks your soils fertility, so do not think of lime as being JUST about PH levels, think about all that potential manure not being able to be used because the PH level is so low, the soil cannot uptake the nutrients in those cow pies. Leave them there, spread them around, it does not matter if the PH levels keep them from being absorbed into the soil no matter what you do.

Soil testing is $12 so its not a huge cost, but if that is too much for you, you can walk around your pasture and see what you have growing for sward. If you have smooth bedstraw, your PH is really low and needs lime. If you have milkweed you need potash. If you have queen anes lace you need phosphrous. And of course, if you have inverted yellow streaks on your blades of grass you need nitrogen.

A $12 soil test will tell you exactly what you need of all of that though. That is why they are handy.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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It is very likely you don't need any lime but just as likely that you do. So go ahead and test it.
Also a 'pine forest' on the west coast or south west or mid-west or texas does not mean acidic soil, in fact the soil is most likely the very opposite.

I would also recommend that going forward you use rotational pasture grazing to 'spread' your manure.
Divide the 12 acres into 30 sub-pastures (0.4acres) and move the 'herd' once a day.
If you are overstocked you can move them in the morning(sunrise) then add 'hay' in the afternoon(sunset).
This 30day/pasture will allow the grass to grow back and the cow pest to die off too.
If you need to reseed to get a better blend of grass broadcast it, then send the herd in to trample it into the soil, while grazing.
I like a pasture of 40% legume, 40% grass, 10% medicinal (mint/thyme family, garlic/onion family, carrot/dill family) and 10% weeds (daikon radish, dandelions, comfrey,etc)

You can also add rockdust (azomite/etc) or sea90 in addition to possible lime.
Don't forget to add inoculates/probiotics to your pasture/grass too.
Homemade Worm Tea, water kefir, milk kefir, mushroom slurries or premade ones like https://fungi.com/collections/mycogrow/products/mycogrow_soluble?variant=12125274472560
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Cindy Skillman wrote: I asked about spreading manure in backyard herds.com. By spreading the manure , I mean spreading out the manure that is already on the ground. I have three cows. Scottish Highlands. We have 12 1/2 acres, mostly grass. The grass mostly grows very well. Somehow or other, The thread got turned to spreading lime. The people think that I probably have acidic soil because I mentioned Pineneedles, and because they talked about spreading manure. They say I need to have my soil tested and it will probably need Lyme. I’m not sure this is the best way to go about things.  We do live in the middle of a vast Pine Forest, so I’m sure the soil is likely to be acid. Nevertheless, the grass grows very well as long as there is rain. I should know. I’ve been mowing it for many years. We just got the cows, about a month and a half ago. So I was wondering what to do about all the little cow patties laying around in the grass. They’re frozen now. So I guess I won’t do anything at all at least until spring.  Still, I’m wondering whether spreading lime is anything I need to be concerned about. What do you all think?

Sorry for any weird spellings, punctuation, capitalizations. The iPad did that, not me. I’m sure I probably missed some.



Instead of "spreading" that manure you might want to try "mob grazing", where you section off the pasture land into one to two day paddocks, then you move the cows in a rotation just before there is actual damage done to the paddock's grasses.
(S Bengi laid out a good plan for the number of animals you currently have.)
This method does wonders for the soil and thus for the pasture and the animals. The method allows for trampling of the soil as the animals add their urine and manure while they feed, cutting the grasses down for new growth.
This is how the great prairie was maintained by the bison herds that would continuously travel along, eating down the grasses, trampling in their urine and manure as they moved from place to place, it works very well and is very easy to do with little input from the herd owner.

As Travis brought up, do get some soil tests done so you can see what is there and what is  missing or low in quantity, this gives you an educated starting point and will reduce the possibility of wasting money on things you don't really need for the soil.
Also there are, like Travis mentioned, more benefits to using lime than just pH adjustment, so even if your pH is pretty good, some lime can be used (light spreading) to release other nutrients that might be locked up currently.
Gentle liming also can benefit your soil by allowing the microbiome the ability to adjust organisms into better for your soil concentrations, without needing to use a compost tea spraying.

Redhawk
 
Cindy Skillman
pollinator
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Location: Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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Thanks guys. I appreciate your input. I do want to get the soil tested; I’m not sure exactly where to test though. We have bottom land along what used to be a creek before the forest grew up so much and slurped up all the water. It could be a creek again I think, if we dug it out a little bit, because now so many of the trees have been killed by pine beetles. Water sheets across much of the lower pasture all spring and it never did that before. I’m not sure it wouldn’t be illegal to dig that channel though and with satellite imagery it’s a little scary. I’m also afraid to ask anyone. Nobody wants to have bureaucrats notice them. Anyway, that’s one area. Then there are higher bits that don’t get wet and a couple of hilltops.  They are way different from the lower bits of course. I guess I’ll have to talk to the extension guy, and see what he thinks about where I should collect samples, and how to do it. The ground is frozen now. We’ve had some really cold days.

Red hawk, I’m planning on mob grazing. There’s not much to graze right now, though. We weren’t planning on cows, so the place has been kept mowed all summer. (I got chickens, and all of a sudden I just had to have cows. I’m told this sort of thing is a common complication of chickens.) I’d be interested to know what S Bengi has to say. I googled his name and came up empty. How would I find his system? Everything I’ve read so far has been targeted to many more cows than I will ever have. As for spreading the manure, I just figured it would need breaking up or the cows wouldn’t want to graze there on the next rotation. I do want to follow the cows with chickens, however people tell me the chickens don’t actually spread manures very far, especially if the cattle aren’t eating grain. I’m really new at all this. I’m probably overthinking.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Check with your state department of agriculture about your land rights, you should be able to reopen a creek that has been closed/silted in without needing any permit, but is always good to check before you start.
Most states will allow land restoration, and that is the approach you want to take when asking about whether or not you can bring back the creek (you should be able to do that).
Do not be afraid to ask government for answers, they really aren't as bad as most think, especially when you start bringing up land restoration, in fact most states will be happy to give you some ideas on best ways to do that.
If you mention that you have water issues that were not there previously, they might even have a hydrologist give you some helpful ideas on how to best handle the problem.

The correct way to take samples is to first decide what you want growing where, then lay out a grid pattern of each of these areas, from there you take samples from each square and  mix together for a single, overall sample or you can offer individual samples.
Be sure you make a sheet and mark each sample so you can relate any one sample to the exact area it represents, letters and numbers usually work great for this.
Sample size is usually a quart jar, this gives them enough for multiple tests just incase the first one is compromised by contamination at the lab.

Redhawk
 
S Bengi
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Which part of "my pasture system" would you like more info on.

Having the cows spread the manure by themselves by walking to a new sub-pasture every day? So less work for you, also daily sub-pasture is similar if not the same as mob-grazing.

Having 30+ sub-pasture so that they are only visited once every 30days so that we can have enough new grass growth, that is easy to digest without grazing too low and killing the "grasses". Thus keeping a more blanced pasture mix and with 30+day between pasture visits most of the cow parasites die due to the interrupted life cycle.

Is it the pasture mix of needing at least 40% legume (and 40% grasses) so that you don't have to add nitrogen fertilizer.

10% medicinal so that the animals can self-medicate when they need to, we can have a host of different worms and such that outcompete the ones that hurt cows and also have homes for the predators of the bad worms and other bad bugs/microbes.

10% weeds, that help bring up minerals with their 6ft to 18ft roots, and they are usually pretty nutrient dense and semi-medicinal. They also help to de-compact and aerate the soil. also a habitat for the "good bug".

It isn't really my system and you probably know all of these bit of info already, and maybe already use it. Just never thought of it in a holistic way. Here are a few website:
http://transterraform.com/permaculture-strategies-intensive-rotational-grazing/
https://equinepermaculture.com/blog/2016/03/16/paddock-subdivision-allows-more-strategic-grazing/
https://permaculturenews.org/2015/05/08/leader-follower-grazing-system/


As for the soil improvement suggestions of mineral fertilizer/lime/etc

Innoculants so that legumes can fix more nitrogen, and pro-biotic innoculants that kill/out-compete the "bad microbes" in the soil. They also help make what little minerals that is in your soil more bio-available.

And yes you can improve your soil some more by add more carbon (woodchip, dry-manure, hay, straw, biochar, compost, etc)

Swales and other earthworks can also cut down soil erosion and water loss, so that your pasture is greener for longer, with less need to irrigate, if any.



I don't necessarily think that the forest above you is making your pasture worse off. Without any forest above you you will have a flood in the rainy season, and then a drought in the other season. But with a forest it becomes moderated. The spongy forest soil store the "spring rain/meltwater' and then slowly release the rest of the year. The sheeting also cause soil erosion that is taking away the good soil leaving you with horrible soil and the eroded soil end up in the creek, destroying it. The flood water can even form gullies too. The trees can also serve as a windbreak allowing your pasture to do well in the summer and they also raise the humidity too so that your pasture need less water due to increase night time dew condensation and also decreased daytime transpiration of the pasture. The forest might even he a habitat for all the good microbes/critters that inprove the pasture.
 
pollinator
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Some awesome info above.

I would like to have some experts chime in here because I've been advised to look into any testing service provider carefully. Not all soil tests are the same. If I am going to pay for a soil test, I'm told that I want to know not only about the presence and levels of minerals, but also their availability. I understand that some tests only tell you the "presence" of a mineral but not if they are in plant-available form. This may be less important if you have a really healthy microbiology community in your soil to turn nutrients into a plant-available form. If nutrients are not in plant-available form and your microbiology is not healthy, you may have the presence of desired nutrients but the plants may not have access to them. It's my understanding you can talk to your lab to discuss this topic.  Redhawk? Travis?  Others? can you shed some light here?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Dan, Yes indeed, talk with the lab, explain to them what type of results you are interested in from their work, they will tell you if they can provide such results and even recommendations.
Ask if they have a GC with Fid (gas chromatograph with flame ionization detection) and if they do HPLC (High pressure liquid chromatography) These two will give you more mineral information than most other tests could hope to provide.
You also want to find out if they can do biological availability tests, this series lets you know about minerals and other nutrients. Then there is the microorganism count tests, this one lets you know what organisms are living in your soil and how many of each there currently are.

Redhawk
 
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