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Author Topic: Green manures for grazing / cropping?  (Read 723 times)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« on: November 27, 2019, 11:46:22 pm »
We are just exploring the possibilities of growing green manures in our veg-growing area, and then grazing them or cutting them and feeding the cut stems to our sheep and or possibly cattle.  The manure crop would be dug into the veg bed, either immediately after grazing / cutting or after a period of regrowth, depending on the crop.

If cut and fed away from the bed, we would aim to replenish the soil with an appropriate amount of dung / muck.

Has anyone had any experience of doing this?  Pros and cons?

At present we aim to be grass-fed only, so one thing I’m unsure about is whether the feed value will be sufficient to warrant any change in rumen biome necessary to digest the crop.  At the moment we are probably looking at quite small areas, although this could potentially be increased in time.

And another question, one source seems to be saying that Lucerne is not suitable for grazing.  When I was in Cumbria I used to get Hillie dried alfalfa as a treat in the parlour, so I was surprised to hear that it’s not recommended for grazing.  Anyone know anything about that?

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
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macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2019, 07:19:51 am »
Yes, fresh alfalfa/Lucerne is much more likely to cause bloat that for example clover.
When it's dried into hay it retains all the protein and benefits but does not cause bloat.

It's a very good idea with grazing cover crops! You could grow something like rye or a mustard which I'm sure would be safe to graze? Or a mixture of seeds?
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.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2019, 12:41:17 pm »
You just have to watch how long you let your green manure grow.  On a small scale, the roots can become quite a thatch quickly, and be hard work to dig over - grazing rye in particular. Grazing rye grows about 6' tall so another reason not to leave it too long. With machinery, you could plough it in, but that would negate the plus points of green manures which are a way of protecting and enhancing soil structure.
I don't know about the gut bacteria, but given that new ones must develop for eating cereals, which come from grass, then it seems likely that you would need to introduce legumes slowly.  I wonder if plants such as agricultural lupins, field beans, phacelia etc are grazable by cattle?  Phacelia is quite spiky and doesn't look too tasty, and I can't help but wonder if lupins are edible or toxic?  Field beans at an early stage would be good for cattle and for the ground, but I don't know if they would cause bloat too.
An interesting experiment.  Let us know how it goes Sally.

Modified - just checked.  LUPINS ARE TOXIC to grazers, especially sheep and cattle, so scrap what I said  :innocent:


« Last Edit: November 28, 2019, 12:45:08 pm by Fleecewife »
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Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2019, 02:05:08 pm »
I assume you want these for cattle/diary cows and sheep, rather than goats?

We did early on try Hungarian Rye but found as said before it grows so well that it became very difficult to dig in (on heavy clay as well). Never again. I am thinking of growing lucerne, but it is best grown as a perennial (3 years or so) for multiple cuts per summer.

I also grow actual crops for my goats, some permanent (comfrey and willow, plus hedge branches) and annual (lots of brassicas - for humans and goats/sheep), but have found that growing green manures just introduces an extra amount of work, and fertility is maintained by manure mulching every autumn.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2019, 05:03:39 pm »
Great input folks, I knew there’d be some useful experience here :)

We are shallow clay too, and very wet here (coastal north Cornwall), so your experiences are very helpful, Anke.

Yes, dairy/suckler cattle and sheep (natives and crosses.).

This is coming out of wanting to make the animals and veg-growing be more connected here, instead of me wanting my muck back on the fields (because that’s where the hay came from, so we’re depleting the fields if we don’t put the muck back) and the growers then buying in Council compost which contains all sorts of horrid things we would never knowingly bring onto our site! :o. (Despite it being allowable under Soil Association rules, which frankly beggars belief.)

So Dan figured if he made green manures we could graze, he’d get some poop and or muck, as well as the benefits of the green manure itself.  And as the green manure crop was additional input, I am happy for the equivalent amount of poop/muck to go back to the veg plot.

Field beans are an interesting idea.  I’ve also wondered about fodder beet.  But not sure that anything would be left to dig back in... or maybe we don’t mind, so long as enough muck repays the debt.  :thinking: We still have the benefits of the over-winter ground cover.

Well done TAS, this is turning into a really interesting thread...  :excited:
« Last Edit: November 28, 2019, 05:20:25 pm by SallyintNorth »
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

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2019, 05:24:54 pm »
Thanks for your input, FW  :wave:

I’m glad to have a reason to veto rye.  I don’t think rye is a good idea for our sort of sheep at all, and definitely not for our native ponies.  The cattle would probably cope but I’d rather have crops we can use flexibly, depending on conditions and who has the greatest need at the time.

Yes, I knew lupins were toxic, but of course there will be other legumes that aren’t.  And yes, introduce slowly to avoid bloat.  Which makes it seem that cutting and feeding otherwhere might be the better option, and just repay the nutrient debt from the overwinter muck.
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

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2019, 08:37:34 pm »
I am surprised that with the veg/fruit being cooked etc on site and so a lot of the peelings etc going back to compost, pls grass cuttings and maybe brought-in woodchips from a local tree surgeon you don't manage to get enough compost to use as mulch on your garden? Plus leaf mould?

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2019, 09:28:34 pm »
Fodder beet, manglewurzels (mangolds)and neeps are hard work as they all have to be singled - with a hand hoe if you don't have expensive machinery for it, otherwise you simply don't get a worthwhile crop.  We grew fodder beet when I was growing up in Norfolk (for the pigs) and the hoe-ers hated the job as it went for their backs. Also lifting them by hand can be heavy work.  There is some residue to put back as the leaves are chopped off and not fed to the animals, esp mangolds (I think that's the right one), so they can be wilted on the ground then turned in, or just left over winter.


So, if you want to balance what you take off the land with what you put back, then you have to think about composting human manure.  I don't think anyone would want to use it, however well composted, on the veg beds, but for arable crops like cereals it's fine.  I can imagine that would take a few years to discuss in the community and there would be many dissenters. I'm not sure I would use it, although human urine (male cos I can't reach!) is a wonderful component of our compost heaps.
www.scothebs.co.uk

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

 

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