Pasture Rotation: Phase 1. Like many homesteaders, we bought a fixer upper. The previous owners of our property were only maintaining a section of grass next to the house. The rest was left without irrigation or mowing. The first time we came to look at the place we couldn’t even walk to the back pastures, because it was covered in weeds that were 5 ft tall in areas. Dead weeds, with sharp thorns. We saw the potential though, and finding a property like this was a diamond in the ruff, even in the condition that it was. We named our farm Desolate Homestead because of how deserted it looked when we found it. The picture below is a little proof.
Our Plan for Pasture Rotation
The plan is to be able to raise our animals on grass, the way they were meant to be raised. Living in Arizona, we should be able to grow grass year round. We plan to have 2.5 acres divided into 16-20 pens, each pen should last our animals 3-4 days once we have all the pens fenced and irrigated.
The original plan was to clear out all the posts and fencing and just have 2 large pens. Then we read more about mob grazing, and managed grazing patterns. This article Reasons to Use Rotational Grazing on a Homestead is a great read. If you just have 1 large pen, the animals will just eat what they like, giving the plants they don’t like a chance to take over. Goats prefer brush and small trees, sheep like a combination of brush and grass, cows prefer just grass. A diversity of all those categories is ideal. We need more of a variety, and goats are known to help correct that problem.
Second, when you move the animals to a new area they eat more. If you keep moving them, they keep eating more. They gain weight better when they have new pasture more often. If you leave them in one spot too long, they get bored and eat less. Another thing, parasites. Yep. You can break the parasite life cycle by moving the animals and letting the pasture get a chance to recover. They will also fertilize the ground, thus building up the top soil.
What it Takes to Get There
We have so much to do before our plans will be up and functioning. The picture above is our first and only area that we have cleared right now. It’s a big step in the right direction! We will continue grading the areas a section at a time. After the area is graded, we have to extend our irrigation ditch to water it, and then after we have seen the water reach that section we through some grass seed out. The weeds grow faster than the grass, and that is where our sheep and goats come in handy.
We did a pasture walk last week and we thought that the first area looked tall enough (about knee high) that we could let the goats and sheep onto it for a couple days. This was our very first pasture rotation, a very exciting milestone!