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Updated: Feb 21, 2022


What if I told you, by using these three practices, you could double or even triple your homestead's production in just one year. Today you and I will be discussing the three ways our family has improved Red Ridge Farm Homestead's production without buying more land. The answers may surprise you. Let's get growing!



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“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17


Time Stamps

Intro 00:43

Mob Gazing 02:36

Tips and Tricks 11:00

Multi Species Ruminants 13:58

Growing With God 20:22

Adding Birds to the Rotation 23:46

Recap 27:55



Intro


Hello and welcome to the Pray, Just Plant podcast. I'm your host Crystal Mediate and today in Season 3, Episode 6, we're gonna be talking about the three ways we here at the Red Ridge Farm homestead have improved our homestead production in one year. We're going to be talking about improving your homestead production or improving that number one product your homestead. Grass! Because everything depends on grass. The animals you grow depend on it very much. By increasing your grass, by taking care of and nurturing your grass, is how you're going to increase your homestead’s production. Because if you have more grass, more things can grow. And you may be wondering how grass helps you in the garden?


This is where we have to remember that a homestead is a full environment and animals on our property bring what? You guessed it, poop or fertilization and that in itself improves your garden production.


Essentially we are talking about how we can increase the animals or the amount of animals we grow on our property but not by buying more land but by improving the property itself. What are some practices we can use to improve the grass and grow more grass but still on the same land? If you want to learn more about how grass should be your number one product you can check out a blog post called “What should a homesteader's number one product be?”


Mob Grazing


The first method or the first way is mob grazing. Mob grazing is when you raise your animals in a more confined but quick manner. I guess the easiest way to really describe mob grazing is that it is the opposite of how traditional pastures are grazed, where animals graze year round off the same property. They're not moved daily. They're not concentrated on two different parts of the pasture. They just have free access to the whole pasture.


The best way to show this. Think about you taking your family to a large buffet restaurant. They have food for many different palettes because they are trying to make foods that will be pleasing for everyone. You will gravitate toward your favorite and your kids will grab their favorite and probably race to the desert area. The same happens with animals when they have a full pasture or a full buffet to eat from. They choose their favorites first, and then just like in a buffet when the favorites are eaten and regrow, the animals will go back to them. But the problem comes when the plant that is eaten over and over during one season begins to fail without help and the plants they don't love to eat grow in to replace the weak plants. This then creates scarcity and not abundance. Because the plants or weeds that the animals do not like are not being cut down to nothing. This in turn will leave a pasture, where the animals can choose, unhealthy and less abundant. One thing that we battle here in Wyoming is cheatgrass. Now most ruminants will eat cheatgrass in the spring while it's still tender and moist, but once cheatgrass begins to harden nothing will touch it. As a result, pastures can become full of this invasive grass. But why is this grass a problem and why do animals not like it? It is because the seed that forms on this grass has a very pointy nodule and can become lodged in the cheek of your animal. This can cause sores and abscess to form and thus cheat your animal in the end.



Having animals graze in a mob, what you're doing is you're concentrating where they are. And when you do that, an animal in a way will choose to eat all of what is available, not just their favorites. They still want to eat just like you want to eat. If the buffet only had the salad bar and chicken breast available to you are you not going to eat them? No, you're going to eat them because you're hungry. In fact you are going to eat some things that maybe you don't hate but something that you can tolerate. Like my husband he's not a big lettuce eater, but he'll tolerate spinach. By having a mob come together. Not only are you given a limited resource because you're putting the animals in a smaller area but they will also have competition. Competition can fuel the need to eat quickly which results in animals not being picky but going for everything.


A great resource to learn about this is the Salad Bar Beef book by Joel Salatin. Actually I own this book and love it. It has really helped me understand that by making a herd, you can affect two areas. Because not only is the choice of things to eat is going to be limited to an animal and they will eat more of the things that they don't like, but they will also cause more distribution. There will be a higher concentration of waste that will actually be in high enough amounts to fertilize the pasture. This is what he says “Clearly, the mob utilizes a greater percentage of the forage than the group. Trampling wastage was virtually non-existent. Hoof chipping on the soil surface seems to double that of the group, which tends to move with more caution than the mob. A mob is going to graze more uniformly. They're going to have a more uniform impact on the property because they are in such a close knit group.”


Now a mob can be one animal in a small area or it can be several animals in a larger area. A mob size and the size of the perimeter is all going to depend on the status of your property. There's so many different aspects to it. And that's why I really recommend this book. Yes, it mostly talks about cows but Mr. Salatin really explained the need and why it is so important, and why it helps create a better pasture. Because one thing he also explained is when you talk about the growth of grass, it has its natural flow. It grows more quickly in the spring. Then as it matures the growth slows down.



Rotational grazing, moving them quite often is going to create that system a little quicker, and you are going to create an ebb and flow of the grass and actually improve the soil underneath the grass by causing it to die back and regrow and then die back and regrow. You will improve your grass every single time that you've come around. Instead of leaving the animal to choose what it wants to. You're going to create a controlled system that is beneficial to the grass instead of just beneficial to the animal. The animal is getting all the nutrients they need. They're getting all the different plants that they need instead of just concentrating on the favorites and then the grass is also getting that even cut.


It's kind of like what happens in your yard. You mow your yard even. You don't go and just mow over here a little bit and over here a little bit more. You run your mower over your whole yard, making an even mowing. The same thing happens as control grazing. Instead of having areas that are over grazed in one area and left long in others because animals only concentrate on what they want to eat. You get an even grazing. Also what is not eaten will be laid down; they'll be trampled and pushed into the soil which will create biomass. It creates carbon for the soil, and becomes fertilizer.


So all of this, remember what I say in the garden, we are not just growers we are actually stewards of the soil. The same thing goes on homestead, we are stewards of the soil and that byproduct, that number one product is grass, Because grass helps us produce all of the other things that we may grow.


Multi Species Ruminants


The next way that you can increase your production on your homestead, increase your grass, and take care of your soil is to not have one ruminant, but to have multi species ruminant. What does that do? Well, we already talked about mob grazing, right? Where we make animals eat things that are less palatable. But still, there's some things that cows will not eat no matter how nicely you present it. Or there's some things that horses won't, even if we confine them in small areas, they just won't eat it.



Here is an example; you go to a buffet, there's things you like, there's things that you'll eat or tolerate. But then there's some things that you just won't touch, like yogurt. I won’t eat yogurt unless you pay me. What you can do by raising multiple ruminants is you can find an animal that will eat those things the other ruminants won’t. We do that here on the farm. Our main ruminant is horses, then cows, and lastly goats. All of these animals enjoy different plants. And they plants that one doesn’t enjoy another does. The main reason we got goats was because they could help us clean up our pastures. When we built our house a few years back we did a lot of excavation in our main pasture and as a result lots of weeds grew up. The horses would not touch them. So it was up to us to cut them down and control them. But the goat loved those weeds. They were the first things they ate before they grazed the grass.


Another thing our goats like to eat and the cows and horses don’t is the scrub brush that grows in our pasture. This brush is evasive and is just getting bigger and bigger every year. But the goat loves it. They eat the leaves off the branches which allows grass to start growing under these bushes where used to be too shaded before. So the benefit of the goats is we are getting an even cutting of the pasture.


Once you get into growing and using these systems, you're going to find that weeds aren't really weeds anymore. You're going to find that those weeds will feed one type of animal and create biomass for another.


And a great resource to find more on this topic is a book called the Independent Farmstead; Growing Soil Biodiversity And Nutrient Dense Food With Grassland Animals And Intensive Pasture Management. Joel Salatin's book really hits on the topic of mob grazing and grass management with cows. But this book focuses on including different ruminants. I think this would be kind of a middle book, that would be a great overall book about mob grazing, multi species ruminants.



One thing this book talks about that is different is that you should not grow what you want to grow but what your land is asking you to grow. Don't pick your first animal just to please but an animal that please you and your land. We kind of made that mistake with horses. We went straight to raising horses as our first ruminant because that was something my husband wanted. But what we needed to do was think about what our pasture needed. What is our pasture need to revitalize itself?


What animal, what ruminant, could we use to improve our pasture. Like I told you above, after we built our house we had a lot of disturbance of the soil, the topsoil and we got a lot of weed impact. This is the natural cycle of the earth, there are certain plants that are designed to grow right after a new soil disturbance. And then after a few years, they will fade away into different weeds or different plants. We should have found the animal that best fit our situation right then, instead of just going straight for the animal that we wish we could grow. Because the most important thing is you need to feed the soil, build that grass up, and create that environment that will support the thing that you do want to grow. If it's goats, or cows or horses, they have everything that they need. One thing it says here is you want to pick a species and breed of ruminant best fits the land as it is at the moment. Because you have to think about the land first. We are stewards of the land.


Another benefit of the multispecies ruminate is that you get animals that will fit your terrain. We have different terrain in places on our property. We live on a hill. If you watch any of our Facebook Lives or videos that I share on our Facebook page. You will see that we live on a hill. Everywhere I go is either downhill or uphill. Another reason we brought our goats is we had a couple of pasture areas that were a little more rocky, and were covered in that scrub brush I told you about earlier. The horses avoided them because they didn't enjoy walking on the rocks. Where on the other hand the goats love going over those areas.


And in fact, in what we affectionately call rock pasture, we have turned a poor grass area on our homestead into more pasture. We did this by grazing our goats there through the winter. Instead of feeding the goats in their stationary pen and feeder we feed them in this area and spread their feed all over the pasture. That's another thing to think about, grazing can happen all throughout the year. And you need to be thinking about the impact on your land all throughout the year. Anyways, back to this story, by changing the ruminant that grazes that pasture, we have actually increased the soil. Because the leftover hay the goat didn’t eat created biomass on top of the rocks. I was up there just the other day digging post holes and I found that the topsoil has increased by 2 inches in just one year. Be sure to think about your terrain when you're thinking about adding animals.



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