We own a family operated, 18-acre ranch, with a commercial herd of South African Boer goats and use llamas as guard animals. We also keep a small flock of chickens.
We started a livestock operation in Texas in 2000 and relocated back home to Northeast Ohio in 2004 because of family health problems.
Dawn became a Master Gardener in Dallas, Texas and she also worked in Livestock at the State Fair of Texas. With those contacts we learned about sustainable agriculture including intensive management, rotational grazing, and multi-species grazing. When we returned to Ohio we brought those practices with us.
1. Convert dense pine stand into silvopasture.
2. Partner with Richfield Village to recycle culled trees.
3. Develop and implement seeding plan.
4. Develop and implement stocking ratios.
5. Continue to operate and to evaluate rotational grazing program
6. Evaluate impact of goats on silvopasture
7. Document findings.
8. Cooperate with partners to publish findings.
1. The project involved thinning two very dense pine/spruce plantings covering approximately six acres in order to convert forest into silvopasture. The original planting, completed by the previous owners, of approximately two acres of white and red pines and spruce had been done forty to fifty years ago. A limited amount of trees from these sections were commercially viable. The second planting, of 2,200 white pines, was completed by the current owners in 1978 and 1979 and most of the trees were not of commercial size. White Pines, which had been recommended by the State Forester as a commercial crop, were planted in rows with spacing ranging from eight to ten feet in accordance with standards for a commercial crop. Ranching operations began in 2004 with a South African Boer goat herd. Over four years an eight pasture, rotational grazing program had been established.
By 2009 the canopies were so dense that nothing grew under it and it was appropriate to do the first noncommercial thinning of the trees. On advice from a new state forester and from Conservation Services Staff, pines that were ten inches or larger in diameter at chest height were saved for future harvesting with the remaining smaller trees being culled. The project had to be extended for one additional year as approximately 1,400 to 1,500 trees were removed.
2. Because there is no market for White Pine, the major problem was what to do with the trees that were removed. Burning would have been the only alternative had it not been for the partnership with the Village of Richfield. Logs were cut to lengths of six to ten feet for chipping by the Village which had a large, industrial sized chipper. The chips were composted at the Village’s Service Center and offered free of charge to community residents. The remaining trash from the trees was burnt.
3. The pastures that were converted into silvopasture in 2008-2009 were seeded in 2009 and put into grazing rotation. The areas thinned in 2010-2011 will be seeded this spring. The seeding selections used in 2009 and to be used in 2011 included: Baridana Orchard Grass, Ginger Blue Grass, Barfleo Timothy, Puma Chicory, and Start Red Clover.
4. Stocking ratios cannot be fully determined until the entire area is seeded and grown. Prior to the project, we have been stocking at 1.5 goats: 1 acre, not including kids. Projected stocking ratios estimated by NRCS indicated a stocking ratio of 5 goats:1 acre should be achievable. We are currently running at 1.5 to 1 acre and will be attempting to increase that to see what is sustainable. We have not seen evidence that we will be able to achieve the more aggressive stocking ratios of 5:1.
5. Prior to converting to silvopasture, we were using a rotational grazing plan of 4 days on 4 off the pasture and 2 days on 2 pastures. We are currently grazing 8 pastures as follows: 6 pastures with 4 day rotation and 1 pasture with 2 day rotation and 1 with 5 day rotation.
6. The 18 acres had been converted into eight pastures of approximately 2 acres each. All land except for 1 acre immediately adjacent to the house is under production.
7. Prior to starting the project, we had a rotation of 4 days per pasture under management. This was done in part for parasite management purposes (i.e. 21 plus day rotation to break parasite cycle). We now have more pastures. However we have kept the number of days in rotation roughly the same for parasite management purposes. The positive impact has been that we expect to get longer use of our pastures. Previously we began supplemental feeding in August/September as the pastures were exhausted of sufficient grazing. We anticipate that we will extend the use of our pastures by 3 months. A complete rotation of the pastures will be upgraded from a maximum of 24 days to 31 days.
8. To date the goats are doing very well in the pastures converted into silvopasture. They are not damaging the trees. They are controlling the growth of other plant materials. We are no longer fighting multi-floral rose, poison ivy, and grape vines in the cleared areas.
9. We expect to continue working with the State Forester and the Conservation Service in evaluating our rotational plan and to evaluate whether the projected stocking ratios can be achieved.
Local students, Andrew Robers, Brian Baiko, Eric Baiko, and Kenny Rogers were temporary workers assisting in the thinning of the pine stands.
Master Logger, Ralph Rice, did the professional logging in 2007.
Creekside Lumber purchased the commercially viable logs harvested in 2009.
NRCS District Conservationist, Gretl Cowling, advised on the project and the application.
Service Director, Melanie Tubbs, and Maintenance Supervisor, Steve Lisowski, both with the Village of Richfield, coordinated the Village’s role in chipping the waste product of the trees.
State Forester for Summit County, Mark Wilthew, set the criteria for thinning and helped make specific selections.
Forester for Ohio Premium Pine Co-op, Pete Woyar, advised on commercial opportunities.
NRCS State Grassland Conservationist, Bob Hendershot, recommended the seeding program.
• 1,300 to 1,400 white pine trees were culled from 6 acres.
• One pasture was added.
• The rotational grazing schedule was increased from 24 days to 31 days for all pastures.
• We estimated that 3 more months were added to the life of the pastures.
• Supplemental feeding has been reduced accordingly.
• The Village of Richfield doubled its production of mulch for the residents.
• We also gained free wood chippings to use as bedding for the goats in the winter and as mulch for our own gardening efforts. This cut down on having to buy wood chips and mulch.
The Village of Richfield contributed 70 man hours of Service Department staff for the chipping process. The chipped trees provided eleven, eight yard truckloads of chips for a total of 88 cubic yards of chips. These chips were shared with Village residents and used for Village projects.
The principal focus of the project was to determine if silvopasture is viable for raising meat goats. While the test needs more time to determine if the projected stocking ratios can be achieved, from the early returns we believe that raising goats on silvopasture has a place in agroforestry.
An adjunct result of the project was the partnership with the Village to achieve a green solution. We were authorized to use burning of brush due to an Agricultural exemption. It would have been very easy to simply burn the culled trees. It was only through extreme determination to find a more sustainable solution that we hit upon the concept of partnering with the Village. Burning may have required less man-hours, but the increase in the amount of work to cut the logs to length and to stack them for easy access by the Village was definitely worth the extra labor. The Village especially valued the chips because they are completely weed free and free from any chemicals or additives. We would strongly encourage others to continue to think outside the box when faced with either a conventional solution or a green solution to farming/ranching practices.
Our original goal was to find a market for the white pine as a lumber product. This turned out not to be viable. After working with our state forester, the Conservation Service, the Pine Co-op we completly exhausted our options. The SARE grant allowed us the opportunity to explore a green solution. Given the proximity of our farm to the local residential community, protracted burning of brush would have been a nuance at best and polluting at worst. Cooperation with the Village became a possibility. Instead, we created a viable partnership with the Village and created value out of a resource that we had invested 30 years in growing, but had no market value.
There are thousands of acres of pine plantings in Ohio with little to no market for the products. This project showed that an alternative to clear cutting and wasting the resources is possible.
The overall project costs were $17,097.17, see enclosed spreadsheet. The SARE Grant provided $5,709.00 of these total costs. The owners did not charge the project or the Grant for any time dedicated to the project. The grant covered 34.5 percent of the cash distributions for the project.
The environment was impacted as follows:
• Downside: Fewer trees producing oxygen.
• Upside: We originally raised white pines as a commercial product. After 30 years of growing them, we discovered that there was no commercial market. The trees were planted in dense stocking ratios. These areas were so densely covered that no plants grew underneath their cover. We have now opened up these areas to light and plants are returning on a self-seeded basis.
• The quality of the commercial planting was improved by reducing the density of the planting. The remaining trees are healthier and are expected to produce a much higher quality commercial product (if the market ever recovers).
• The project also provided tons of chips for mulch for the Village community and avoided carbon emissions that would have been created by burning
The principle outreach activity was The Family Farm Day held at the ranch as part of the social outreach portion on the project. The event was held in cooperation with the Village’s annual Community Day celebrating our 200th anniversary and was publicized for several months in the local paper as an official showcase event.
The Village was formerly an agricultural community that has slowly evolved into a residential community. As part of the Bicentennial, the Historical Society sought to honor its agricultural heritage and the Village sought to demonstrate how agriculture can coexist successfully in a residential community. The Family Farm Day at the Rockin’ M was the highlighted activity in this weeklong celebration.
An effort was made to actively demonstrate working partnerships between the ranch and the community:
• The Richfield Garden Club provided staff support for the event. In addition, the family garden was on tour as part of the event
• The NRCS staffed an educational table. Tractor Supply brought educational materials and answered questions on small scale farming.
• A local dog breeder had herding dogs on display and answered questions regarding the use of dogs in herding operations.
• The SE Llama Rescue program brought additional animals and answered questions about llamas as livestock guardians.
In spite of a rainy day, children, parents, and grandparents shared in an educational and fun day at the Rockin’ M. Requests were made to make it an annual part of the Community Day.
In addition, two smaller educational sessions were held: a field trip for developmentally impaired school children which highlighted the benefits of animal assisted therapy. Several children had developmental breakthroughs as a result of handling baby goats. The second event was a farm tour/lecture for the local Garden Club on the benefits of composting and the use of manure in ranching operations.
I believe the SARE Program is very well run. Staff is informative, cooperative, and very helpful.
A post project visit to review the results and to discuss the project would be helpful.