First of all, should I cross-post this in the Pasture forum?
I want to put my elderberry orchard to multiple uses. Bees, chickens... What about Fraser's? Is there a particular animal that does well for grazing *under* the trees without really attacking the leaves and branches? I want the fruit and flowers for my family and guests, not to ne used as forage.
Also, what about pigs?
P.s. > I'm thinking of more of a rotational / mob grazing system, not a constant presence of animals in the orchard.
I would suggest birds. Chickens would love to work among elderberry bushes. They would keep things fertilized, debugged and not overgrown. The bushes would provide hawk and owl protection. The elderberries would be too high up for the birds to get much. Anything that hit the ground though would be theirs. You might need to move them around a little so that the grass and clover could recover some. Fencing for birds is a lot cheaper also. Fencing ducks are easy, since they don't jump that well, trimming a wing helps keep them on the ground.
Ducks would work well also. They are less destructive, less like small velociraptors. I like their personalities a little better. For either bird, I find things work better if you have a male in the group. He keeps an eye out for trouble and the girls just seem happier. Too many males is a problem with ducks. They are way oversexed and will just wear out the girls if you have too many. 1 drake for 8-10 girls is good.
I haven't kept many turkeys. I think they would work well also. They would have a higher reach than a chicken and might get some elderberries, but probably not too many.
Geese are another possibility. Once again, low hanging fruit might be taken, but elderberries are mostly up high. Geese are grazers and if you only have one they will adopt the chickens or ducks as their flock and help protect them. They can be aggressive though and that can be a problem if you have smaller children. I had a friend who raised geese and he told me the answer for an aggressive goose was to hold it's body and neck to immobilize the head and have whoever was being hassled by the goose would stare it in the eye and repeatedly peck it with their nose, establishing dominance over that goose. He claimed it worked like magic. I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but am looking forward to trying it because it sounds hilarious and makes sense to me.
Location: Southern Oregon
posted 1 month ago
Chickens are in the plans already. I like your idea of ducks, too. We hope to get guineas if for no other reason than to control the ticks. I'll consider those turkeys. Anoher related thread also had turkeys as a suggestion, and Joel Salatin speaks highly of them, so I guess I need to start researching! Thanks!
If the plants get established large enough (5+ft) they will do good. I have several elderberry plants that get grazed by cattle every year. The cattle will eat every leaf and berry that they can reach, but can’t touch the taller portions. Bears tend to get around that limitation by tackling the entire bush and snapping the limbs. Despite all this, the bushes don’t mind. They remain incredibly productive and resprout from the roots every year. Once established, plants can easily put on 3+ ft of branch a year.
Daniel Bowden wrote:Also, what about pigs? P.s. > I'm thinking of more of a rotational / mob grazing system, not a constant presence of animals in the orchard.
We have old, well established elderberry trees inside some of our pig paddocks. Based on 4 years experience the low fruit is not particularly interesting to our pigs - our chickens will graze on low level fruit/leaves, our ducks eat the fruit on the ground and of course our sheep and goats decimate them. Pigs might not be a good idea for young trees as they will likely be more interested in rooting close to them or pushing them over when they attempt to scratch on them - even young pigs can bend/break young saplings. Our 3 year old boar (about 300kg) decided one day to root up and push over a 10 year old elderberry - thankfully not too much of a loss as we let our two sheep go at it and didn't feed them, the chickens or the ducks for a week!
Our ducks, chickens and geese all do well grazing/feeding under our trees -the ducks and chickens are always particularly active during autumn/spring with all the bugs in the leaf-fall.
Nick & Jane
Location: Southern Oregon
posted 1 month ago
Great info! I think I'm leaning more toward various birds combined with pigs. It will be a U-pick orchard, and I'm adding in a few camp sites to rent out. The birds might stay year-round while the pigs would likely overwinter and then rotate out.
Also, I'm leaving some mature high oak canopy, so the pigs would really enjoy the acorns.
Oh, plus pigs love to eat poison oak, which is currently our main crop. :\
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