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November 4, 2010


I’ll get down to it straight away, manure management is pretty important on a farm, whether it is a small holding or a mega farm.  Since I know nothing about mega-farms, I’ll just talk about small farms and maybe even urban farms where livestock are kept.  From most places I visit either in person or via blogs and websites, I get the impression that manure is, as we’ve long been told, a liability or something to be rid of.  It’s probably one of the most wasted resources we have today, but no one pays any attention, either being stuck on free-range as the end-all for keeping animals or that poop is icky.

There’s tons of information out there on how to capture all the nutrients that come your way on the farmstead by the way of manure and urine, even some on this here blog.  But one thing I see quite often overlooked in the way of farm planning is that most of the livestock is running willy-nilly together on even “ecological” farms.  Most cite that nature has all the animals mixed together.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, the big deal is that there isn’t too much nature abounding on most small farms or in urban yards – since farmers and fences began confining animals, things are not the same.  It’s natural, but it’s not nature… .

There is so much E-I-E-I-O in all of our childhoods that we think nothing of having all our livestock together or free-ranging all over the place. There is an order to things, and all manure is not created equal in terms of who benefits from ingesting it and who doesn’t.  For instance, there are many enzymes in cow or ruminant manure that are good for poultry and pigs.  But despite modern practices of feeding chicken manure to feedlot cattle, it isn’t good for cows to eat chicken manure even when it has been cooked into a Swanson dinner for them.  Yuck!  Chickens roosting on hay and in feeders is not good for cows.  No manure is actually beneficial for a cow to ingest, even cow manure.  It’s easy to get lazy complacent when we have wormers and antibiotics at our disposal to make up for our bad habits.  But just a little change of management on our end will allow our animals to be healthy without pharmaceuticals.  Imagine that.  Livestock that we eat not getting sick before we eat them.  It doesn’t get much more nutrient dense than that.  Don’t get the wrong idea, pharmaceuticals have their place, but if we use them too much, we take the risk that when we really need drugs, they will not be as effective because we have relied on them too much in our management plans.

Still confused about who follows who and why manure isn’t all the same?  Think about your freezer that you have so carefully stocked all season long.  Hopefully you read a post I wrote in 2008 about the order of things in your freezer.  If you didn’t, here is a brief overview that is a perfect analogy of the order of manure and the order of freezer filling.  I freeze berries, vegetables, beef, pork and chicken in my freezers.  If the freezer thawed out for some untold reason, I would really be upset if I got berry juice on my steak packages, but I could rinse the purple off and cook the meat without a second thought.  However, if my meat packages leaked on my berry packages and blood got mixed in with my berry juice, I would throw away the berries and not eat them.  Same with the meat, I don’t mind eating raw beef that I raised, but I would never eat raw pork or chicken that I raised, so if the chicken thawed and blood leaked onto my beef packages, I would be leery of the beef and make sure it always got cooked.  I would not be so worried if beef blood got on my chicken or pork.  So you see we can’t just lump all manures  and all foods together in their own groups, but while they are all manures and foods, they should not be treated the same.  Many disorders in cattle are caused by manures (their own or other species) coming in contact with their feedstuffs, or their housing.  These conditions, while common these days, are not the way it has to be.  If you’re seeing chronic infections, such as scours, mastitis, coccidiosis, e. coli, salmonella or even parasite infections, look to your manure handling or lack of handling practices.  Many times illnesses such as these cause people to draw the conclusion that the manure has to “go away” because it is causing the problem, when really it is the management of the manure RESOURCE that is causing the problem.

Deep bedding – cow feeding shed.

Deep bedding with the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio does not smell  and poses no threat to livestock.  During the normal winter feeding period, our bedding may be anywhere from 2′ to 4′ deep.  Instead of daily cleaning, we do daily bedding.  A lot less work, and it ties down the nutrients.  For the record, I am against outside sacrifice areas without a deep bedding system in place.  Build a shelter and design it for the ease of cleaning with equipment in mind.  If you don’t own heavy equipment, you can rent it by the day and make your life easier.

Deep bedding temperature – cow feeding shed.

Deep bedding – laying hens.

Capturing chicken manure is a little easier than with larger livestock.  Lightweight and easy to clean by hand, no equipment needed here except a 5 tine pitchfork, wheelbarrow and faithful companion.  Most people only think of eggs when they are contemplating chickens; please consider that they can provide you with enough fertilizer for you garden too, but not if they are free ranging all the time.  Garden not lush and productive?  Confine those chickens a little.  Don’t want to confine them?  Then don’t complain about environmental problems when you most likely are bringing in compost or fertilizers for your garden that comes from somewhere else when you have the means at your pitchfork tips to make a difference.

High Density – Short Duration Grazing.

During the grazing season, we make the cows deposit their manure where we want it.  In the pasture.  Not in the woods, or in the same place all the time.

If you’re just in the planning stages for adding livestock or if you are having mysterious illnesses crop up now and then, maybe some of these tips will help.

♣  Design mangers and feeders for eating, not sleeping.  Meaning cattle should have only head access to their feed manger.  No calves, goats, sheep, chickens,  etc., should be able to sleep or walk on the feed area.  It works the other way too – don’t let cattle have access to low sheep or goat feeders either.  And if you’re feeding on the ground, pick a clean area each day.  Every day you throw hay or grain out in the same old place because it is convenient, you’re risking the chance that your stock may ingest some manure with their feed, and then pretty soon you are relying on medications to pull you back out of the abyss.

♣  Don’t allow poultry to roost in the haystack – while a little bit of chicken or turkey manure may not hurt, clean feed is important; it was clean when you put it in the barn, keep it that way.

♣  Water systems are important too – with animals all confined Old MacDonald-style, you have to have low water troughs for the shorter animals and this makes it much easier for manure from taller animals to make its way into the water trough.  Not good.  Put your mind to work, and think of clean ways to deliver water to your stock.  And as a side note, a hose hooked to a water trough float is a quick way to contaminate your house water supply.  Install a backflow device to alleviate that.

♣  Have separate tools for cleaning and feeding.  Pitchforks and shovels should be designated for feeding or cleaning, not both.  Besides, a manure fork is near impossible to use to pitch much hay and vice versa for a hay fork in the manure pile.  Most people would never dream of using the toilet brush to scrub the kitchen sink, it’s the same in the barn.  Right tool for the right job.

♣  The most susceptible to parasites and/or illness are the young stock, make sure they have clean places to be born, and clean places to sleep and you can avoid many problems.

Hopefully, this isn’t too confusing.  Manure is the asset that is the most overlooked on farms large and small.  The more you have, the better, but in the wrong place it can be a liability and it doesn’t need to be.

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48 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue Fearon permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:59 am

    Thank you for the reminder. Question for you: what are those flies on the cow pie in the photo? I have seen them on our cow’s manure for the first time this fall. I’ve never seen them on horse manure or even around the ranch before this year.

    • November 4, 2010 8:26 am

      Sue, thanks, you know, I don’t know what type of fly that is. I will assume since I never see them bother the stock and I only see them on fresh cow manure, not chicken, pig or horse manure they are probably just one of the many insects that make up a biological farm, not all flies are bad, we just don’t know how what role they play. A neighbor who used to have cows and now only has horses doesn’t see them anymore on her farm. Hopefully someone will enlighten me and let me know just what they are.

  2. November 4, 2010 8:02 am

    Great post. Also, underneath my chicken roost, I will place a large piece of cardboard from a box that needs recycling. The chickens poo right on it and I can just pick up the cardboard and place or bury it into the compost pile.

  3. November 4, 2010 8:28 am

    Thanks so much for this post. I love reading your blog and always feel like I learn a lot.

  4. michelle permalink
    November 4, 2010 8:32 am

    very informative… I will be rethinking my livestock yard now.

    • November 4, 2010 1:14 pm

      Michelle, thanks, we’re always tweaking too – some times you have to do something the wrong way to see how to make some changes towards the right way.

  5. November 4, 2010 8:45 am

    Hear Hear! I love my chicken manure and this winter I’m going to confine them more than I have been. Once I pull the tomatoes out I’m going to let them into the garden area but I think I’ll block them off from the little pasture they have all to themselves. I’ve got two roosters now but one’s going in the pot so at least there will be peace in the chicken yard while they’re confined. Thanks for the great post…I’m learning lots from you! Enjoy your day. Maura 🙂

    • November 4, 2010 1:19 pm

      Maura, sounds like a great plan, I am always surprised how much bedding I get out of a dozen hens each year with just a few bales of straw. Amazing!

  6. Jason permalink
    November 4, 2010 9:49 am

    Thanks for all of the great information! As a beginner, your blog is invaluable.

    I have a family milk cow that is due to calve in January (not my choice), and I want to capture manure this winter and give the pastures a rest via keeping her in the barn and using deep-bedding. Do you recommend allowing her to calve on her deep bedding? I want her to have a comfortable, clean environment for calving, but I’m not sure if deep-bedding qualifies as clean.

    Thanks again for being there for us beginners, dreamers, and vicarious farmers.

    -Jason

    • November 4, 2010 1:30 pm

      Jason, you’re welcome! I wouldn’t let her calve on deep bedding if I could help it. My favorite choice is outside on a clean pasture (weather permitting), forest floor (where our cows chose when they had a choice), or a clean, well bedded stall. And just a side note, you can introduce a lot of bacteria into an udder (depends on the condition of the udder, of course) of a dairy cow, due to the nature of the size of the udder. Remember too that the newborn calf will absorb it’s surroundings via tender hooves, umbilical and nose/mouth – making a clean environment a must. Not to say that cattle aren’t tough, they survive a lot of things we throw at them environment wise, but a family cow freshening is a big, anxiety ridden event, the less that goes wrong the better.

      But, I also understand that the calf may come when there is a blizzard and you can’t clean the stall etc., so just try for a clean as place as you can muster, and where the cow feels comfortable so things go smoothly. 🙂

  7. November 4, 2010 12:01 pm

    🙂 Love how you put it! (was this with me in mind? 😉 )We’ve been doing much better since you gave me this bit of info on the side. I’m much more diligent about who eats where and who sleeps where. Buddy still sleeps in the manger, but no one eats from it anymore! Once we get the addition finished things will work better….at least that’s what I hope for. Joy seems to be where ever Buddy is and since he’s penned up at night, she’s usually close by. And since the goats would prefer not to be with the cow, they are really looking forward to Joy having her own place!

    No deep bedding here this winter!! Last yr was a nightmare with no heavy equipment to remove it. Good thing I had a kid that needed to work off a debt!!! 😉 Beware Jason….if you don’t have a tractor, deep bedding is very very very heavy and compact!!!

    We’ve got those flies too. You’re right. They never bother the livestock. They are so weird looking and not your typical fly. Glad they hang around. Them and the dung beetles.

    Thanks as usual!!!

    • November 4, 2010 1:39 pm

      Diane, no silly, I had lots of people in mind with this one, some that live right near me and have had stock their whole lives. And some who no longer have stock because of the sickness they experienced. But anyway, glad Buddy is on the mend – he is so precious – at least for now 😉

      Yeah, I have to say deep bedding cattle is an equipment only proposition, due to the moisture content of the manure. Others not so much. Unless you have a great volume of material like we did with our laying flock. 800 chickens + daily bedding X 160 days and you have lots of “material,” that needed equipment too!
      ,

      • November 5, 2010 5:15 am

        Dad always accumulated the manure in a big pile, then in the spring load it into a spreader and blessed the fields.

        When he could, the tractor and loader made loading the spreader a chore. When not – you can work through a *lot* of stuff, working steady, loading by hand. It isn’t fun, you don’t have to feel bad for dreading the task. But you don’t have to consider a bunch of manure an impasse because you don’t have that spiffy Bobcat skid loader at hand.

        • November 5, 2010 5:37 am

          Brad K, great comment. I think the way manure builds up over time is a shock to some newer homesteaders. It’s just not what they anticipated. A local guy who was descended from a long line of Swiss dairymen, cleaned his barn out by hand (20 cows) until he was 90, he felt he needed the exercise. He lived to be 98. His fields were beautiful under his care and cycling of nutrients. Sadly after he passed, his kids rented out the farm to a nearby cattle farmer – continuous grazing ruined the grass in 3 years. Sad.

  8. November 4, 2010 12:54 pm

    We’ve done the deep bedding since the beginning for the cows and the chickens, who are not open free ranging. The manure is composted by the pigs in summer, while the cows are out on daily rotation pasture, followed by the broilers. It’s then spread on the pastures after the cows have finished, but before the ground freezes.

    It’s made a huge difference in the quality of our pastures. I was raised as one of those who thought the horse manure was a problem to be gotten rid of. But reading Joel Salatin’s writings on manure management was an eye opener and we’ve done it that way ever since.

    As far as having chickens free ranging, I grew up with free ranging chickens and had to deal with chicken manure everywhere! Not fun and a waste of energy and resources.

    Granted we have to move them if they are pastured, or bring in carbon for the coop and permanent pen, but at least the manure is not wasted. It can be used where it is needed.

    Good article!

    Pam R.

    • November 4, 2010 3:09 pm

      Pam, we were heavily influenced by Salatin too and Savory of Holistic Resource Management. What an eye opener, me of continuous grazing background saw the error of leaving the cows to range for themselves – a lot less work – but not very conducive to soil and pasture building.

      No chickens free-range here at all. I can’t stand chickens crap on the porch or anywhere except where I want it. I have friends who used to sell raw milk and do pastured poultry, and they always had a few loose or a crippled one running around and “going” where it pleased. You had to navigate chicken turds at the front door and in the milk area. Blech. I am glad he quit selling milk. I always wondered what his customers thought about that part of the equation…

      Hope you’re on the mend!

  9. November 4, 2010 1:30 pm

    Another great post, and timely too. I don’t have cattle though, just chickens, goats, and a llama. I’ve had success with deep litter for the chickens, but am still puzzling over it with the goats and llama (he beds with the goats). I didn’t have an ammonia problem with the chickens, but the goats pee more so it is a problem with them. If I keep changing the bedding because of the urine, then I won’t truly have deep litter (as I understand it). Anyway, you’ve explained some things I’ve never seen before and given me another boost to figure this one out.

    • November 4, 2010 3:14 pm

      Leigh, yeah, technically that wouldn’t be deep bedding, maybe you need a more carbonaceous material to soak up the urine? It may be that deep litter won’t be what you want to do with your goats and alpacas – our milk cow stall and horse stall get cleaned daily. That’s with a packed clay floor and if you have concrete or something else of that nature the urine pooling can be a problem. With my milk cow I used shavings or sawdust under straw, the mix makes the best material for the garden IMO. Hope that helps!

      • November 5, 2010 3:32 am

        Yes, it does, thanks. I’ve been thinking I need to be adding to it more frequently, but we do have a concrete floor, which I see is part of the problem. That’s nice in summer because the goats don’t mind resting on the cool concrete, plus it’s easy to hose off. Colder weather isn’t working so well. I do have a lot to learn.

        • November 5, 2010 5:32 am

          Leigh, are sawdust or shavings inexpensive enough in your area to use under straw? They soak up a lot of urine and keep it under the straw, if you alternated between wood products (high carbon) and straw (lower carbon) you might be able to pull it off. You’ll know if you have enough carbon if you don’t smell the manure or urine. If you smell it, add more. Sprinkling lime on the wet spots helps too and supercharges your compost to be. One caution with the wood products, don’t till them under in your garden, apply them on top the soil and you will be fine.

        • MMP permalink
          November 5, 2010 4:36 pm

          Leigh, I have great luck with shavings under my goats. No manure or urine smell in their bedding. It’s pleasant enough that I sleep in the ‘shed’ with them around kiddings.

          I start with 3 to 6 inches of coarse woodchips on the sand floor of their 3 sided ‘shed’ and then a good layer of finer shavings. Most of it is hemlock because that’s what the sawmill nextdoor used to cut. In the spring, goats move onto pasture and turkeys poults go into the same bedding. At the end of the turkeys, the bedding goes into the compost. In December the goats will come out of their last pasture rotation and I’ll start again.

          The sand floor might be the secret. But I think you could still make it work with extra chips. I get mine for free, so it’s easy for me to suggest. But maybe you could get chips from line crews or other. Mine come from a sawmill. Maybe you can turn up another source?

  10. November 4, 2010 5:25 pm

    Very informational! We do the deep bedding with the chickens, never thought to do it w/cows….thanks!

  11. November 4, 2010 6:44 pm

    WOW…very informative post! I got a lot of work to do it seems……

  12. November 4, 2010 11:09 pm

    Regarding eating raw beef but not raw pork or chicken; I’m not sure I understand your reasoning there.

    Yes, industrial chicken is dipped into many pools of potentially contaminated liquids, starting usually with the “electro stun” just prior to slaughter, and the internal organ packets are picked from bins of necks and stuff, and the liver you get is never the liver from your own chicken. For that and many other reasons industrial chicken is a cross contamination nightmare. You raise and process your own meat chickens, and I’m assuming you take reasonable care when doing so.

    But raw industrial beef shares the same risks; in fact, most of the fatal ecoli cases that I’m aware of involved undercooked industrial beef.

    With pork I don’t know of any parasites that used to be common (trichinosis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichinosis ) and even those did not survive being frozen, as you describe in your freezer.

    Want to expand on why beef is ok but pork and/or chicken that you produce and process is not?

    My belief? Whole cuts (roasts, steaks, chops) are effectively sterile inside and not subject to contamination. Exterior surfaces are where contamination might be present, and if you’re that concerned about it, trimming the surface off prior to consumption would solve that problem. When cooked, steaks, chops and roasts are nearly always heated to more than 160 degrees surface temperature, and this kills any germs contaminating the meat. that’s why a rare steak is a rare treat, basically.

    Ground meat is a completely different story. Mixed cuts from all over the animal, maybe from other animals, all run through the same equipment, lots of surface area, lots of handling — cook it brown.

    • November 5, 2010 5:26 am

      Bruce, easy boy, I was saying I would eat my beef raw, not beef from anywhere else, as for the chicken, pork or turkey I wouldn’t eat it raw at all any time, whether it was raised and processed here or somewhere else, just as a matter of taste or beliefs that depending on what animals eat and the parasites they maybe be infected with. The Foxfire books have interesting stories of what is considered “safe” to eat in the south and what’s not, according to tradition and beliefs. Much like the Asian people who bought only our dark feathered poultry, their beliefs keep them from eating a perfectly good white feathered chicken. For me, it’s not a matter of cleanliness, it’s a matter of I’m not that hungry yet. As for industrial meats, I think you’re preaching to the choir here – I doubt I have many readers that buy industrial meats and if they do, they don’t eat them raw. Maybe I didn’t write the scenario properly but I was comparing meat juice to fruit juice in a home freezer. I may be wrong, but I think most would find berry juice seeping into a meat package no problem, whereas meat juice in the cobbler would affect the taste even if the cobbler was baked at a high temperature in the oven.

      I have heard of the freezing meat to get rid of parasites, but I wonder do most people keep their home freezers cold enough (-10F is recommended) to achieve that? Probably not related, but if you can freeze sperm and keep it fairly viable for AI, it doesn’t make much sense that parasite eggs would die off in a home freezer…

      All good points and tips you made about industrial meats for people who still buy meat at the store. I would add, organic or natural from the store does not make it any safer…

  13. November 5, 2010 6:07 am

    I have been on my homestad for 3 years now and the only livestock I have right now are WORMS. The 3 acres I moved onto was used as a crop field (corn, soy bean, cotton and peanuts) for generations and to say that the soil is poor is an understatement!! After years of heavy equipment and cemicals, the only thing that grows are weeds. Hence the worms, I import horse manuer by the pick-up load and mix in cut grass and leaves. This I compost in a home-made tumbler with house-hold kitchen scraps for a few weeks (in the hopes the tempretures get hot enough to kill off most of the weed seeds) and then feed it to the worms.
    And what do the worms give me in return? Worm poop, which I use through out the home place to improve the soil. I started back in april with 5000 bed run worms (worms of all sizes) and if I were to guess, I would say that I have between 15 and 20,000 now. I built a wooden box (salvaged lumber!) 3′ X 7′ X 14″ and its getting crowded and I have to build a second one soon. My next livestock project will be chickens next spring.
    I found your Blog a few months back and have read it all. Learned alot and enjoy it very much. Thanks and keep up the good work!
    Tom

    • November 5, 2010 6:19 am

      Tom, thanks and great comment BTW. Acres USA just had a recent article about “earthworm responsibility.” It was based on the premise that earthworms are destroying the eastern forests. Interesting read.

  14. November 5, 2010 10:43 am

    Matron, I was responding to this line in your post:

    “… Same with the meat, I don’t mind eating raw beef that I raised, but I would never eat raw pork or chicken that I raised…”

    I don’t see a difference in terms of risk between any of the meats you raise, properly handled at slaughter. Preference is one thing but I was left with the impression that pork was somehow more risky than beef, or that home-grown chicken was more risky than beef.
    Peoples concern about chickens come primarily from how industrial chicken is produced and handled. Trichinosis has been mostly eliminated from the american herd but people still remember it.

    I’d be more concerned about the beef or pork if I were truly paranoid: Farm kill guy comes and takes it away, usually in a truck with many other animals. Cross contamination risk. Then it’s cut and wrapped somewhere, out of your sight.

    Contrast that to chicken: It never leaves your sight or care.

    • November 7, 2010 9:09 am

      Bruce, I think with me it is old perceptions from a combination of being raised on a farm and the oldsters I grew up with having certain rules they followed. I have no doubt our meat is clean no matter what the species, but eating poultry and pork raw is not something I would care to do. I don’t think it is common to eat poultry or pork raw anyway (at least in America) is it? None of the ethnic groups that came to the farm to buy our colored poultry ever talked about eating any raw, all the recipes they shared were slow cooked for hours with a variety of spices and vegetables. I don’t know if I would call myself particularly squeamish either, since I grew up eating brains for breakfast after beef killing day, and nuts for dinner, so mind over matter I guess.

      I am not that big of fan of mobile slaughter, mostly because of the issues you mention. The kill may be clean, but you have just sent your meat off to never-never land in some cases. And if it doesn’t get contaminated in the truck or stuck on the freeway broke down somewhere, you may have to contend with butchers who share a different view of clean food than you do. Most state inspected facilities also take in wild game, which is fraught with variables too. I am happy taking our animals to a USDA plant. Sure something could go wrong, but we have to have trust in some areas. I would rather haul my animals and know that I am getting my meat back, and that someone was watching over it, than have it killed in the field here only to find out it was rubbing shoulders with some jerk’s dirty elk in the cooler and then sent home to me 2 weeks later.

    • November 21, 2010 7:44 am

      I think there is a major difference between beef and pork or poultry, in the way parasites present a risk to humans. Well, up until mad cow disease, that is.

      Trichinosis is just one of the forms of parasites that raw pork can transmit to people. Mostly this isn’t much of a problem in the US today, with experienced growers and producers, and the knowledge of keeping livestock healthy and managing parasites is pretty widely available and accepted.

      But if you are looking at the future, and having to depend on local food security because you suspect remote interstate or intercontinental resources may become unavailable or unreliable, then keeping the old, historical concerns in mind may be quite important. Sometimes myth and urban legends have their place, just like understanding all the old testament strictures on what to eat and how to process it might be more than silly religious ritual. I am not Jewish – but their food rules are one example of historical habits that didn’t threaten a culture or belief. I have to respect that much of their food rules.

      I cook my beef, pork, and chicken. And spaghetti. I would never eat spaghetti raw from the field.

      (Um, that was a joke from my High School chemistry teacher).

  15. November 6, 2010 9:23 am

    Hi there, I was trying to share a story you’d written about dealing with voles. You wrote that story, right? I can’t seem to find it on your blog. 🙂

    • November 6, 2010 7:16 pm

      Amy, I mention them from time to time in gardening posts, more often as the frustration mounts…but I don’t remember writing an entire post about them.

  16. November 7, 2010 8:13 am

    Very interesting post. For someone who plans to have sheep and cattle, would they not graze them together then? I’d heard/read many sources that they can be. And don’t chickens in the pasture spreading the cow pats help?

    And as for laying hens, if they are not free-roaming, which I don’t care for in regards to having to tip-toe around droppings, how would a central henhouse with four or so fenced pastures around it do for rotating them on pasture yet being confined sort of?

    • November 7, 2010 9:27 am

      Krystal, yes you can graze cattle and sheep together, sheep eat weeds that cattle won’t but they also can starve a cow too if there isn’t enough pasture. The other thing is the confinement – cattle are easily contained with one hot wire, and sheep are not, requiring more wires or netting. Usually what happens is that it sounds so good on paper to combine everyone, but the reality is that moving multiple wire fence becomes a pain, and you find that moving your animals as often as they need just doesn’t get done, leading to overgrazing. The predator pressure here is so great that the electrified netting was needed to keep the sheep safe, whereas the cattle defend themselves for the most part. We still lost some sheep to cougars, but if they are close to the house that seems to keep them out of harms way.

      Chickens (laying hens or at least semi mature chickens) following cows does help spread the cow pies, which is hard to do on small acreages without having the chickens everywhere. I have seen central henhouses with popout doors to as many as eight little paddocks. It works, and is a happy medium between free range and total confinement.

      Somethings you read about you have to try just to see if it is really doable for you and your farm and stock. What works for one farm or farmer may not work for another.

      • November 7, 2010 12:47 pm

        So then, you rotate the sheep and cattle in different paddocks? Like one species following the other? Or completely different areas?

        • November 7, 2010 3:10 pm

          Krystal, I do, and now that we are not selling lamb, I have just kept 3 old ewes for weed control around buildings etc., where I don’t want cows to graze (potential hardware disease) and it’s a pain to mow with equipment. When they are gone, I doubt I will get more sheep, but I know I should never say never…

          But to answer your question, we did graze them separately, using Electronet for the sheep and moving them every 3 days or so, and in totally different areas than the cattle. It would do no good for us on our type of pasture and high density grazing to follow with sheep, there is no forage left that is palatable, so for sheep to get anything to eat in our situation they either have be in a separate location or with the cows. Lots of people have them together and it is fine, it just depends on how much land you have, what your fences are like and what type of predators you have. Lots of info for putting sheep in with cows assumes that there are problem weeds in all pastures, and while some weeds aren’t palatable to cattle but are eaten readily by sheep, we don’t have that problem in our main pastures, meaning everything in our pastures is readily eaten by the cattle, so if I added sheep at this time (which I don’t care to do) they would be eating forage that could be eaten by cattle, not forage that the cattle won’t eat. But I also understand that isn’t everyone’s situation either and sheep really go to town on the blackberries for sure. But grazing together certainly works for a lot of people. And you can’t beat them for eating tansy ragwort!

        • November 7, 2010 4:10 pm

          Thank you!

  17. November 7, 2010 8:15 am

    Oops, I forgot to mention I just love your blog! It’s so informative! Thank you for taking the time to post all of this information for newbies and not-so-newbies alike. 🙂

  18. Anne permalink
    November 9, 2010 12:01 pm

    I have really been enjoying your blog. You are an excellent writer and photographer. The recent post about chanterelles was particularly lovely.

    We are renovated the old dilapidated barn that came with our recently purchased property (in Oregon’s Willamette Valley). I have some questions about barn & basic infrastructure design. This is a very lengthy post, I know. What I’d really love to do is come visit your place and/or hire you to come do an on-site consultation at our place.

    In the meantime, I’ll start by describing what we plan to do, and pose my questions. If it’s too much, I understand:

    We want to keep a dairy cow and raise two calves each year for beef. Cows will be on pasture most of the year, but I’d like to keep them off it from about mid November – mid-February when it’s really wet and the grass isn’t growing. We’re planning on doing intensive rotational grazing on our small 2 – 3 acre pasture, and following the cows with the meat chickens in hoop houses on skids. Chickens will have access to pasture during the day, confined within electric net fencing.

    We have about 10 acres of forest, mostly Oregon White Oak with very thick undergrowth and LOTS of poison oak. We plan to raise some goats & pigs in there, and eventually clear out some of the undergrowth & create more of an oak savannah with pasture beneath the oaks.

    We also want to keep a couple of milking goats. Milking goats will browse in oak/blackberry areas close to the house & garden, and will have small shelters available for inclement weather during the day. The rest of the goats & the pigs will stay in the woods with portable housing that will be moved to a new area as they clear the underbrush.

    We plan to keep 10 – 20 laying hens and a rooster or two. The hens will stay in a hen house outside the barn at night, and have access to a half acre of garden/orchard area during the day. My thought is that this number of chickens in that amount of space won’t create too much of a mess and/or do too much damage to the garden. We can limit where they go with electric net fencing & I’ll create a large run where I can confine them as needed.

    I only want to keep the milking animals in the barn overnight, so I don’t have to bring them in from pasture each morning. (Planning on once a day milking as much as possible.)

    Questions: 1. What kind of surface should we use for the animals stalls in the barn? I keep hearing about clay floors. Our native soil is heavy clay, but I don’t think that’s what is meant. Is this preferable to packed gravel, and if so, how is it prepared?

    2. I’m thinking of building a portable loafing shed for the cows to hang out in during the months they are not out on pasture. This would be moved to a different area each year. I would think I’d want some outdoor space around it for them to roam around a bit & get outside on those occasional nice days. I was thinking of placing it up along the edge of the woods, and using electric fencing to give them a small area. Seems this might be a reasonable compromise between having a sacrifice area and keeping them totally confined for 3 -4 months.

    3. The pasture is very poor quality right now. It hasn’t had animals on it for many years, and the main “crop” is Queen Anne’s lace. Should I plan to feed hay on the pasture until the quality of the pasture improves? I’m figuring on a couple of bales a day for a jersey cow & 2 calves during the winter when they have no pasture, but how much do you think I’d need the rest of the year for the cow, two calves, plus the two calves from the previous year?

    4. Any other advice you have is greatly appreciated. Please let me know if you would be willing to do an on-site consultation and/or if we could come visit your place.

  19. Norma permalink
    November 11, 2010 6:18 pm

    This article on animal hygiene was VERY interesting. It is very kind of you to share the knowledge. These skill will be lost if not for people like yourself!
    I too loved reading Chanterelles.

    Peace and Happiness to you….oops but wait, I’m sure there’s heaps at your place:)

  20. greenhorn permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:24 pm

    Hi MOH,
    I just wanted to write to you to commend you on your ability to stay neutral and on-point, in regard to some of the comments you get on your blog. I read your blog almost faithfully to the point of religious ardor and I do say that with salt in my hand!:) Your information is sooo important based on your experience and I truly value it. Bruce the meat king is a meat head, and I just wanted to point out how well you handle the “subject”. Cheers to you and yours I hope you know how valuable your experience is.

    Sincerely
    Brandy Graves

  21. November 21, 2010 12:31 am

    Is name calling really appropriate?

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