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Rotational Grazing--Goats, Sheep, Chickens

Discussion in 'Natural and Organic Husbandry' started by Plesiosaur, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. Feb 24, 2013
    Plesiosaur

    Plesiosaur Just born

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    I'm really interested in rotational grazing. I'd love to only offer supplemental feed in the dead of winter if I can swing it. I'm looking to do a rotation of goats, sheep, and chickens--all pastured separately. (2 goats, 2 sheep, and 12 chickens, if it matters. Although I might be getting a ram and a wether... so maybe 4 sheep) Unfortunately all of the research and books seem to talk about cattle/sheep rotations and I'm worried about common parasites between sheep and goats. Anyone do rotational grazing? And with multiple species? Is rotational grazing worth the hassle, do you see better yields? Any words of advice?

    I'd really like to make all of the feed I need (in pasture or hay) myself, but I just don't know if that's viable on 2.5 acres. I'm in the Triangle Area in North Carolina, so a decently long growing season.

    Thanks!
  2. Mar 23, 2013
    FarmerCathy

    FarmerCathy Just born

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    I'm trying to get through the book "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin and supposedly he doesn't worm or vaccinate, but he also has lots of acreage. I'm not sure if you'd be able to fully rotate all of them on 2.5 acres, but its worth a try. We are buying 10 acres and want to rotate pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens for meat and eggs and maybe some turkeys on it. Maybe a litter of pigs each year, 2 or 3 milk goats to help supplement the pigs feed during the growing season, two sheep for wool and their young for meat besides the poultry which will be what we need until we figure out how many is feasible on that size of land. I live in the Northwoods of WI now so we have almost 6 months of winter which should kill off the parasites as long as we rotate enough to do so during the warm months. What to feed them during the winter is going to have to be different obviously. I plan to put the chickens in a hoop house during the winter with rabbit cages along one side to keep each other warm and the chickens can dig in the rabbit manure that lands on the ground. Something Salatin also does. Then he plants veggies in there during the warm months. Try to utilize every inch of your land even the front yard with chickens in a tractor. That's what I plan to do with the chickens and the rabbits. Hope that gives you some ideas. I really like some of the videos out there where Salatin is talking about his methods. Maybe I can find them for you.
  3. Mar 23, 2013
    FarmerCathy

    FarmerCathy Just born

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    Here it is: There are 4 parts to it, so try to watch them all. Totally worth it.
  4. Mar 24, 2013
    EllieMay

    EllieMay Overrun with beasties

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    Location:
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    I rotate my sheep through several pastures.
    Keeps the parasite load down, too.
    I also have electric fence netting that I'll separate a pasture into two small ones, so I can rotate from one to the other.
    This helps make the entire pasture 'last' longer.
  5. Mar 24, 2013
    FarmerCathy

    FarmerCathy Just born

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    Yes, that is one tidbit I forgot. That way you don't have to permanently fence your acreage into smaller portions.:)
  6. Apr 3, 2013
    nelson castro

    nelson castro Chillin' with the herd

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    Implementation such action discourages competition from weeds and undesirable plant species that often invade when forage is overgrazed and weakened. It is more efficient and productive because it reduces this waste since livestock are only permitted to feed in paddocks for a limited period of time.
  7. Apr 24, 2013
    danielburns271

    danielburns271 Exploring the pasture

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    Great idea.. Valuable information being shared.
  8. Apr 24, 2013
    sprocket

    sprocket Chillin' with the herd

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    We do rotational grazing with goats and chickens. The benefits of dividing a pasture up into smaller chunks are:

    - Better forage utilization. Once our girls go out on pasture, I cut back the hay I feed out by about 3/4's. This forces them to go out and eat the fresh grass (often though, they'll completely ignore the hay anyways). By giving them a small chunk, they'll eat everything - there's no wandering to and fro, cherry picking the best stuff. Everything will get mowed down to about 4 inches or so in height, then they get moved to a new piece.

    - Better weed control. We used to have a real problem with thistle in some of our pastures. After two or three years of intensive rotational grazing, we have next to no thistle left. Ditto for dock and dandelion.

    - If you give them enough pasture to last about 2-3 days, then move them to a fresh piece, you can reduce your parasite loads over time. Ideally, you don't want to return to that piece of grass for about a month. By then, the bulk of the worm larvae should have died for lack of a host. This practice should be a part of a parasite control program that's not dependent on chemical dewormers.

    We raise meat birds in moveable shelters like the one Joel Salatin uses. Every day we'll move the shelter once or twice onto new grass for the chickens to graze off. The grass can't be too long, or the chickens will trample it and it won't be utilized effectively. We like to graze off the grass to about 4 inches in height with our goats, then move the chickens on to it. The goats are excluded from the chicken area using the portable electrified mesh fencing.

    The electric mesh fencing is AWESOME. I can probably put up 400-500+ feet of fencing by myself in a little over an hour. It goes much quicker with two people. The goats can't stick their heads through it, which is great. Even our steer respect it.

    I would imagine that by grazing goats first, then chickens, the chickens will also be consuming some of the goat parasites as they graze off the grass.

    Goats and sheep are very likely to share the same parasites, so you may as well rotate them together.

    I'm not sure how much forage 12 chickens might use - we typically have between 150-300 at a time, but the grass will be a very beneficial addition to their diet. Pasture raised chickens (in our case meat birds) have amazing texture and flavour, and I attribute this to the partial grass diet. Based on feed utilization, I'd estimate they can pull somewhere between 20-25% of their diet from the pasture itself. This will probably be different for layers, as they're not voracious feeders like the broilers.
  9. Apr 29, 2013
    NachoFarm

    NachoFarm Chillin' with the herd

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    Sorry to just jump in here but how do you determine how much pasture is enough to last 2-3 days? Obviously this would depend on the number of animals and the species but since we only have one acre to work with we wonder if we can effectively use pasture rotation with our four sheep and one horse to get at least some benefit. We've read of course that some or any pasture rotation is better than none. Any thoughts on how to best use our one acre? We have one portable fence to use within the perimeter.
  10. Apr 29, 2013
    RubThyNeighbor

    RubThyNeighbor Exploring the pasture

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    What size land are you working with?

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