NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland  (Read 980 times)

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
(Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« on: July 16, 2019, 05:04:53 pm »
We just got an email that our offer for 12 acres of pasture got declined (although we offered 20k more than advertised wow) so we are back to looking for suitable plots.

There is a large (it's all relative, I know) block of woodland for sale nearby-ish. 100 acres to be precise.

I was wondering if anyone tried grazing dairy cows or goats in woodland? People obviously do that with beef cows, and meat animals in general but milkers?

I know certain woodland plants would affect the flavour of milk - wild garlic etc.
What if we graze woodland meadows and clearing only? And graze the rest only in winter I.e. when animals are dry?

Perhaps beef animals and sheep could be running arou d the woods and only the milking animals would have to be restricted to more grass based lifestyle?
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.
Voss Electric Fence

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2019, 06:35:34 pm »
All sheep and goats need grass.  Yes commercial beef and sheep farmers will use woodland, but alongside pasture, the woodland for shade and for shelter, not so much for forage. 

Cattle and sheep love leaves and young shoots, and sheep will debark and kill young trees, but if they only had woodland available they would not do very well, I think.  They could well become ill through necessarily having to eat too much of plants that are toxic in larger quantities, as they would be hungry and have no choice.  Oak is one tree which is toxic in quantities, for instance, and eating too many acorns can kill ruminants.

Goats would probably manage fine in woodland, in that they browse rather than graze.  I’m not experienced with goats so if woodland goats might do what you want, we need to hear from goat people whether dairy goats would make milk from woodland. 

And for dairy cattle, you definitely need grass.  It’s grass that makes milk. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2019, 07:24:08 pm »



Those are the actual images taken from this very woodland that's for sale.
Do you think that's enough grass? It's full of woodland meadows, I.e. pasture but with more shade than open field.
I know people do conservation grazing with cows (traditional breeds like highland or longhorn) in woodland (mix of dense and open grassland with some trees). I used to watch a herd of red poll in Hatfield Forest.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2019, 04:34:52 am »
Okay, well 100 acres of ground like that, there’s certainly some grass.   How many cattle are you wanting to keep?
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2019, 06:08:36 am »
I'd worry about drainage, what if you brought it and it turned into a mud bath with cattle on it. Securely fencing 100 acres would be difficult too, never mind checking/hunting for them daily!

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2019, 07:16:20 am »
Ideally I would put them in a small electric fence paddock and move every day or  so. As long as it's got descent boundary fence we would be fine.
I don't think you could keep too many in that kind of place.
Probably a "smallholder ammount", 3 cows plus calves?
If I had a 100 acres of pasture I would keep a lot more animals.
In the forest our main business would be chickens - eggs and broilers.

To be honest knowing the market around here It will be sold before I have  chance to even ring the agents...
It's ridiculous how fast farm land sells around here!
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2019, 07:19:49 am »
I carriage drive through woodland like that and you may find that those lovely green bits are for drainage.  You can see that every row of trees is higher than the bit of ground between them which screams wet land to me.  The areas where cattle graze in our local woods are bits that have been clear felled, then grazed with pigs for two seasons, followed by sheep then the cattle which are white park ones.

Those are spring pictures before the leaf canopy has become dense.  No farmer gives over their best land to trees, even when grants are available it is the tough and wet patches that get used.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2019, 09:10:04 am »
Thatsvsomething to consider! Thanks
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2019, 12:02:56 pm »
Another thing to consider about sheep and woodland is that plants such as gorse, bramble and blackthorn can entrap sheep by the wool.  When I used to walk my dog in 20 acres of adjacent woodland similar to that pictured, I used to take secateurs with me.  The dog would find at least one trapped sheep most days, often more than one.  The record in one walk was seven sheep.  All were unable to free themselves and would have died, of flystrike, starvation, and or being pecked to death by birds, had I not found and freed them.  You would need to be sure you found all your sheep every single day, and be prepared to spend many hours scouring the woodland to find the ones which have become trapped if any are missing on the morning headcount.  (A good dog will help to find them, of course - but 100 acres is quite an expanse to search when one is missing!)

Moving electric fence paddocks around is feasible on the face of it, but would become extremely laborious and tedious very quickly, as the areas fenced would be small so need moving every day or two, or if larger, there would be an enormous amount of moving stuff around to do.  You can’t in reality leave electric fencing in place, as they get overgrown by undergrowth and or destroyed by livestock and wildlife.  (Ask me how I know; we use pockets of woodland and hedgerow edge ground here, electric fenced, and it’s a lot of work each time we go back to one to get the fence operational again.)

And I share the concern about how wet the ground would be outside the spring and early summer growing season, especially once you have cloven feet tromping about on it.  You’d need to be sure there were clean dry places for them to lie up all year round, or have winter housing you can take them to.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2019, 12:17:17 pm »
We'd need wool-less sheep or goats then lol
Getting some dairy goat males over the summer would be a good idea I think (from a nearby large dairy farm). No problem at all selling those around here.
I think that would be the easiest way of keeping livestock - no need for winter housing etc.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2019, 12:43:52 pm »
Need some goat people to comment, but my understanding of goats is they must have shelter all year round, and cannot tolerate rain.   I don’t know if a good woodland is adequate for a domesticated breed - Bagots would be fine!  Lol.

The trees are broadleaved, so yes, it would need to be summer only.  The canopy will be bare in winter, won’t stop the rain at all. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2019, 12:55:33 pm »
Good luck rounding up cows and calves in that  :roflanim:  woodlands as said above quite often have poor drainage and are not suited to grazing animals.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2019, 01:02:41 pm »
Good luck rounding up cows and calves in that  :roflanim:  woodlands as said above quite often have poor drainage and are not suited to grazing animals.

Dairy cattle who are milked and or get some feed will come to a call ;).
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2019, 01:04:44 pm »
I have cleared (much much smaller) woodland with my goats before - they always had shelter available - small open wooden shed made of pallets and rainproof roof obviously.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: (Dairy) Livestock in woodland
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2019, 01:07:05 pm »
Good luck rounding up cows and calves in that  :roflanim:  woodlands as said above quite often have poor drainage and are not suited to grazing animals.

Dairy cattle who are milked and or get some feed will come to a call ;).
Exactly! They are too greedy not to follow you lol

Realistically people graze large herds of cattle over large areas of woodland - Hatfield Forest for example is around 900 acres and I counted around 30-40 cows last time.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

 

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