Originally inspired by the work of Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms, we have adopted our own technique of pastureland management through an intensive grazing program. When we acquired our land in 2007, the pastures were primarily established plots of Bermuda grass, the remains of years of use as a high-end horse ranch. Bermuda grass has many great properties, but it is a non-native, invasive species in Arizona and as anyone who has dealt with Bermuda grass knows, given a chance, the grass would take over the world. We have begun to diversify the land by planting rich blends of Alfalfa, White Sonora Winter Wheat, Plantain, Chicory, Clovers, Ryegrass, Oats, Barley, Johnson, Medic, Garbanzos, Winter Peas, Cowpeas, Turnips, Kale, Arugula, Sorghum-Sudan, Buckwheat, Meadow Fescue, Orchardgrass, Crown Vetch, and Sainfoin creating a rich fodder for our poultry and livestock.
Additionally, we believe the benefits of transitioning from mono-crop Bermuda grass pastureland into mixed forage plant pasturelands include:
- Providing a more diverse food-stock not only for farm animals, but for deer, other wildlife, and beneficial insects including bees and other pollinators.
- Enhancing natural biological cycles and natural pest controls, thus contributing toward creating a greater ecological balance of pasturelands, increasing the integrity of the soil-substrate through the augmented root structure systems.
Think of rotational grazing like a train. In the front are the goats in our dairy herd, the engine. Behind them, like large boxcars, are our cows. And behind them come hundreds of free-range chickens in their very own caboose. Each of these three groups of animals has their own grazing area, temporarily established through the use of portable electric fence netting. All the animals are moved once a day. As the goats move on to the next ungrazed portion of land, the cows come in behind them and finish grazing what the goats didn't finish. Goats are more picky eaters than cows, and the dairy goats need the premium fodder. The chickens come in behind the cows scratching and aerating the soil and eating insects and pests. All of the animals contribute to the fertilization of the soil and by the time the whole unit gets to the end of the pasture, the areas that were first grazed have regrown and are ready to graze again. This, of course, is an over-simplification of the process. We periodically offer workshops where you can learn more about our pastureland management techniques and rotational grazing. Please contact us with any questions you have or to find out more about our next scheduled workshop.