Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quality Pasture :: Chapter 13 Book Report

I have to say, this chapter and the final chapter were probably my favorite of the entire book. The other chapters were full of interesting information, pasture ideas, and grazing plans, but the final two really hit at the heart of where I see our farming ideas going. Chapter 13 in Allan Nation's book, "Quality Pasture," is titled, "Multiple Species Grazing." Although the chapter is short it gives a nice overview of possible polyculture grazing and it's benefits.

The first option he writes about is sheep. I found this section especially interesting because my dad and I had just been talking about the possibility of bringing some sheep to the farm to do some clean up on old fence rows that need to be taken out or replaced. We were talking about the possible benefits of using sheep as our brush hog and workers and providing a bit of income also. But, Allan Nation mentions some other benefits of adding sheep to a rotational cattle grazing operation. Combining cattle with sheep cuts down on predator problems associated with sheep, they break each others parasite cycles, and there have been studies that show adding the two together increases the performance of both ewe and lamb weight gain while only slightly decreasing calf weight gain. This was encouraging for me and practically makes me want to jump in the truck and head up to the Colfax sale barn! (One other thing he mentions is the option to graze wool wethers, no need to go for weight gain)

Next he brings up the idea of pigs in the pasture. If you have read much of my blog lately you know that I'm extremely interested in this idea. One cool thing I found out from reading this chapter is that cow manure provides an excellent source of vitamin and mineral for pigs. It won't be the only source needed, but it is perfect because that will mean the pigs will be breaking up the cow pies and helping stop the parasite spread and speeding up the breakdown of the manure. There is a lot of great information about pastured pigs in this chapter (the Kerr Foundation research details being one), but since I have talked about pigs a lot lately I won't bore you with repeat information. I will say, that it is almost worth the price of the book for a beginner to be exposed to the ideas in this chapter. It just makes all the great pasture management information bonus!

The last animal he brings up is chickens. It is just a small section and he basically pats Joel Salatin on the back for the work he has done in this realm. I will say that reading it again from another source has practically sealed the deal for me. I now know that I'm going to be getting chickens for the farm next year whether my dad wants them there or not! I think the just add something to valuable to not have them (breaking up cow pies and eating the bugs), so I'll get some laying hens and just feed them a minimal ration ... no fancy laying ration. He'll get a few eggs if he wants, and I'll know that we are helping our pastures!

I believe combining animals so they work together for the pastures and the pocketbook is the only way to go. I realize right now we only have cattle, and chickens 60 miles from the cattle, but I also know that when we make the move to the farm we will start out diversified from the beginning. It may be diversified on a small scale, but it will be diverse so we can really learn what works best and see on a small farm can work! If you can't tell, this chapter really got me excited...


Bill Wilson said...

Interesting post. I read a Salatin article recently that mentioned not just mixing fauna, but flora as well. Specifically turkeys and grapes; turkeys fertilize and eat insects, grapes provide shelter. His concern was the overpopulation of land by monoculture; stuffing too much of one crop on too little land. But mixing flora and fauna mimics nature and each group supports the other to the point where more can naturally be put into less space. For instance, he said, combined, you could support about 60% of each group. So, in symbiosis, they equal 120% of what the land could support of either crop alone.

Ethan Book said...

Bill, Thank you for checking out my blog. I was wondering where you read the Salatin article. I would be very interested in checking that out because I would love to have something as diverse as possible!

Bill Wilson said...


You can find the article at

Also, Walter Jeffries has some excellent blogs on using diverse livestock to maintain the land's health, including grazing rotation.

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