Pastured Poultry as an Alternative and Enhancement to a Traditional Livestock Agricultural System
The objective is to rotate pastured poultry though irrigated pastures now hayed and grazed by cattle to assess the efficiency of using poultry to fertilize pastures and to assess the viability of marketing pastured poultry through community supported agriculture.
The Daranyis are rotating their poultry through the pasture twice a year: once in the spring as the grass is emerging and at a time when traditional chemical fertilizers would be applied; and again between hay cuttings and before the cattle are brought down from the high country in the fall.
The ongoing, severe drought, coupled with limited snowpack in the San Juan Mountains, has impeded the project’s progress. Project coordinator Tony Daranyi reports that the pasture upon which and his wife, Barclay, are experimentally rotating their chickens did not receive any irrigation water in 2001, preventing an assessment of the water infiltration and soil fertility aspects of the project.
“We have been able to obtain base samples, but testing the soil to measure the expected benefits to the pasture of the completed pastured poultry rotations will have to wait until next spring or summer,” Daranyi says in the project’s progress report.
Despite the delays imposed by Mother Nature, he continues to make progress. Daranyi has constructed a small brooder in which to house the chickens before they’re placed on pasture and constructed two pens (10 feet by 12 feet) to house the chickens in the pasture.
He has researched and acquired electric fencing to prevent predator damage, identified appropriate sites for the pasture rotations and the collected base data. The poultry have been rotated through the pasture and sold through a regional market to interested consumers.
“We’re happy to report the demand in the marketplace appears strong,” says Daranyi. “We already have a waiting list from interested buyers for the next rotation.”
The fencing prevented losses to predators during the first rotation, but losses were high among the Cornish Cross chickens, possibly because of the high elevation, which may keep the chickens’ hearts and lungs from keeping up with the fast growth for which they’re bred.
“For the second rotation,” says Daranyi, “we will be experimenting with other breeds that may be more adapted for high altitude.”
Incorporating chickens into the farming system fertilizes fields, saving on the cost of buying fertilizer, and then provides a product in the end that can be sold. While the chickens are fertilizing the pasture, the grass provides a high-quality feed that helps to produce quality chickens.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
The project was featured in a front-page photo and inside feature article in The Norwood Post, the local community newspaper.