Integrating poultry and sheep on vegetable cropping land for increased economic return and enhanced fertility

Final Report for FNE08-642

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2008: $7,807.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Peter Lowy
Pete and Jens Backyard Birds
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Project Information

Summary:

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE08-642

The project goal was to create a semi-permanent pasture on fallow vegetable farm land and integrate meat-type chickens and sheep in a rotational grazing scheme while determining both the economic and environmental sustainability of such an enterprise.

A new pasture was established on fallow vegetable land in the spring of 2008. Broiler-type chickens and sheep were introduced to the field sixty-five days later and raised in movable pens surrounded by portable electric net fencing. Project concluded in mid-October with all chickens and the sheep being harvested and sold. The pasture condition was monitored, soil tests were performed, labor and other inputs were calculated and results were tabulated.

Overall profitability was attained in both the chicken and sheep operations. Introduction of the sheep while not highly profitable provided other intangible benefits not considered earlier. Community involvement and approval became a significant benefit of this project. Farmer satisfaction was increased due to community support and work with multi-species grazing. Soil fertility appears to have increased significantly - further testing and observation needs to done to further verify the lasting effects.

The project continued into 2009 for a second year of activities. Another season of chickens and a small flock of sheep were run on the same land and fertility increased once again. The pasture filled in and community involvement continued. Profitability increased with both the chicken and sheep enterprises.

The vegetable farm from whom the land was rented approved a third and final year use of the land, which was not previously sought or anticipated. Discussions are underway to convert the field to Certified Organic production in 2011. This possibility is a monumental change for the vegetable farm and reaches beyond all expectations.

This project was success for the farmer, the community and the partner farm.

Cooperators

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  • Stephen Hebert

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.