Multi-Species Pasture Stacking
Upon notice of our project approval, the first thing we did was rent a trencher to trench for the frost-free water sources – 1,500 feet of water line was trenched and laid in one day by John, Marvin, Kevin, Steven, and Ivin Bauman.
We now have 40 acres of pasture with permanent fencing around the perimeter and the interior of the pasture marked off in large paddocks with hot wire. The paddocks are subdivided into smaller lots as each species moves with its own special fencing. A pressurized water valve is available every 300 running feet. The use of a 100-foot garden hose allows water every 200 feet though out the pasture.
Portable polywire was purchased for use with all livestock under the Pasture Stacking system. Sections of this electrified line kept the sheep and cattle within their current grazing strip and out of the chicken feed.
SARE monies contributed to the purchase of electric netting for the poultry. We purchased from two different companies who were competitively priced with each other. Two different heights of netting (42 inch and 48 inch) were purchased, as well as two types (positive/negative wires alternating and all positive wires).
This netting was used in three ways:
• Broiler day range with A-Hut shelter
• Turkey day range with hay wagon shelter
• Layer hen day range with hoophouse shelter
Because of the many types and lengths of fencing, a new multi-tasking energizer was also purchased with assistance from the Farmer/Rancher grant. This was an energizer from a proven, quality company that can be powered with solar later.
This summer was an especially hot and dry one, which we view as a good thing for our project. Because of the extreme weather our project got more of a trial and we were able to see how things perform in dry conditions. Having a versatile water system was extremely important this year and greatly improved the quality of life for all of our livestock.
With the addition of a steady, pure water supply, our broiler chicken’s weight increased by 50 percent.
• Spring 2005 the average carcass weight was 2.5 pounds.
• Spring 2006 we had an average of 3.75 and 4 pounds.
The high temperatures this summer also nearly dried up the ponds that our livestock had formerly been using for a water source, another good reason to have a pure water source for our beef. We are pleased with the way our variety of livestock and fencing systems have coordinated on the pasture. We are still adjusting our rotation schedule and grazing time for the most beneficial results from Pasture Stacking. Since the livestock all graze at different speeds and heights, we are seeking ways to smooth out the variables for a more predictable grazing schedule to base reports on.
The frost free water hydrants have enabled us to work a lot more effectively this winter. Even in freezing temperatures, our livestock have plenty of water, and we have used the time we are saving to make other improvements around the farm. Because we are incorporating a more streamlined production, we are planning to value-add to our pastured poultry in 2007 by dressing them in a certified processing facility on farm. This will give us more control over product quality and enable us to work more effectively toward a sustainable farm business. The addition of an on-farm processing plant would require several locals to be hired.
The electric netting purchased from the Kencove company was not durable enough for our use. The 48-inch netting from Kencove seemed to be a little too tall for the posts to properly support, the plastic struts weren’t well bonded with the wires, and the extra-wide spacing at the top of the netting tended to tangle easier around your foot and trip you. Although the positive/negative wire (also from Kencove) was a nice feature, especially in dry weather and for “training” poultry to the electronet, the overall quality was not there. We have been extremely impressed with the netting we used from the Premier 1 company, and will highly recommend their products to all. We’ll be sticking with the 42 inch netting from Premier that has a very tough ground spike and resilient posts.
There were three grazing systems used for the turkeys this year to find the best fit for use in Pasture Stacking.
• A-frame shelter with day-range electrified netting and open pan waterers
• [Joel] Salatin-style shelter (10+12) with cup or bell waterers
• Hay wagon shelter with day-range electrified fencing and open pan waterers
The turkey fencing and water system that worked best was the day-range style. They like the open water container better than the cup or bell waterers. Turkeys consume a lot of water, thus it is important to have a watering system the turkeys are comfortable using. They also are sloppy drinkers and wasted more water with the cup or bell waterers. WE did not have any problem with the turkeys not respecting the electric netting when trained at a young age. The shelter for this set was a flat bed hay wagon that in the fall is unused since haying season is past. The turkeys rest underneath the wagon in the day or rainy weather, then roost on the top at night. The tarp covered A-frame was not as effective as the turkeys would try to fly up eight feet to the peak to roost, thus ripping the tarp with their heavy bodies and sharp toenails. With the Salatin-style pens, it is hard to provide enough grass for the voracious foraging turkeys without accumulating many pens and lots of extra labor.
The jury is still out in the pasture as to the most effective fencing style for the broilers.
Pasture Stacked Broiler Results
A-FRAME DAY RANGE
* Watering system: Multi-species open pan. Inexpensive, flexible with other species, works well in extreme temperatures.
* Shelter/range: 400 birds in 1/4 acre range. 27 sq. ft. per bird, moved twice weekly.
* Cost: $130 shelter + $480 fencing = $610.
* Airflow & cooling: Needs revision to offer better ventilation; easy cooling w/ yard sprinkler.
* Ease of use:one large unit moved every other day or so by tractor.
* Predator problem: Arial predator susceptible.
* Watering system: Cup and bell. Labor intensive, inconsistent flow in extreme heat and cold, easy leakage.
* Shelter/range: 5 pens @ 80 birds each. 1.5 sq. ft. per bird, moved daily.
* Cost: 5 PVC pens @ $600 ea. = $3,000.
* Airflow & cooling: Excellent airflow; difficult to cool using manual labor w/ water buckets.
* Ease of use: Labor intensive. Multiple pens moved every day, by hand.
* Predator problem: Very hard for any predator.
WORKPLAN FOR 2007
Next year, we believe we will have better comparatives in our analysis on percentage of improvement to our water quality, animal health, and meat and tourism revenue. This year, we focused on what multi species watering and fencing systems did and didn’t work with Pasture Stacking. Next year, we will be able to refine the Pasture Stacking rotation schedule and grazing time. Because of the moisture shortage this year, we realized that different grass varieties and an irrigation system need to be evaluated. We are looking into more drought tolerant grasses and pasture irrigation systems for the next season.
• As a result of press releases sent out by SARE, our farm and its project were featured in several area newspapers.
• We also wrote an article about our project for our buying circle’s newsletter. This went out to 180 farmers and consumers.
• We spoke at a conference attended by 205 direct marketing food producers in December 2006 about our project and SARE grants. Handouts included SARE grant contact info. We have had some neighbors approach us about doing on-farm research for SARE as well.
• We share our on-going progress of the SARE project with other producers when we meet them at processing plants, conferences, and on our own farm as they visit.
• We have shared in an article in our farm newsletter and with consumers at buyers days. Our newsletter was mailed to approximately 200 consumers.
Our greatest sharing times came when we gave farm tours to families, retirees, and school groups. They experienced a real working family farm that practiced sustainable farming methods. We are always certain to educate them how we farm differently than others, and how it benefits them.
This project has had a positive social impact upon the Bauman children as this year each one has taken steps toward sustainable farming as a livelihood. The oldest, Marvin (20)
has 40 acres he is renting on his own and has chosen to farm it all certified organically. Rosanna (18) has a vested interest in agritourism and educating others about about sustainable farming. Kevin (14) has his own flock of 60 sheep that he is raising and marketing as grass-fed on organic pastures. Steven (12) grew two acres of pumpkins certified organic and marketed them himself to grocery stores and on farm. The youngest, Ivin (10) and Joanna (6) help their siblings with their projects and are already planning their own ventures.
Next year (2007), we hope to have a field day for regional direct marketers and pasture producers at our farm. We wanted to do it this year, but were not able to get the speakers we wanted. In the many times that we have shared our project with individuals throughout this year, it has become clear that many of the producers in this region have never really interacted. Interaction from field days or as a “producer group;” would help dispel the “you’re my competition and I’m not telling you anything” idea and promote cooperation towards success. It’s amazing what you can learn from your “competitor.” It seems to us that one of SARE’s missions is to also promote cooperation and sharing among farmers instead of having competitors and trade secrets. We also anticipate that our experience gained from these project results will be vital to us in our role as the Rural Tourism advisor on the Anderson County Tourism Advisory Committee. As a part of the Advisory Committee, we educate our neighbors and townspeople on the role agritourism can play in a community, while fostering tourism growth in this rural county.