Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Green manures for grazing / cropping?  (Read 1876 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

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

winkhound

  • Joined Sep 2014
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2019, 01:31:55 pm »
Mustard.

We use it here like you describe and have seen it used many other places, grows quick, gets heavy and easy to dig. Best way we have found is to graze or cut but leave 5 inchs and mulch hard then dig back over in spring. Is nitrogen fixing.

Downside is that is does not do well in frost so need to over winter with muck on beds.

Im interested that you say your livestock is grass only fed, presumably on new leys?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2019, 03:30:34 pm »

I’m interested that you say your livestock is grass only fed, presumably on new leys?

Nope, all permanent pasture and hay / haylage made from same.
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

winkhound

  • Joined Sep 2014
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2019, 05:45:29 pm »
Hi Sally,

Therefore they will be getting ( hopefully) a variety of other plant based feed within their diet, plantain/yarrow/nettle  /dock etc etc, pasture fed rather than grass fed. This means that although brassicas may have an effect, this will be greatly reduced, especially when fed with access to normal pasture. I would be amazed if you had any rumen issues.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2019, 08:08:41 pm »
Ah, I stand corrected.  Yes, pasture fed ;).  Along with some hedgerow plants and anything else they can reach along the boundaries ;)

Finding something we can grow that none of the humans want to eat will be the challenge!  Lol.  I just mentioned mustard over supper and I can’t see any of that getting to the cows.. :yum:  ;D
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 #12 on: December 29, 2019, 08:14:30 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?

We have a compost bin in the kitchen, about 40L I would think, which gets filled I guess three or four times a week, sometimes more.   Plus individual households take their own compost down.   And the muckings out from the ducks go on there, and from the choox when we have some.  With about an acre of varied beds, though, it doesn’t go that far!  And it’s as much about not having soil bare over winter as it is about the goodness of the green manure. 

We don’t encourage bringing garden waste onto site from other places because we don’t want chemicals being introduced, nor non-native plants. 

Apart from the play areas around the holiday cabins, and the camping pitches themselves, we don’t have a great deal of lawn which needs mowing.  We’ve bought a scythe to enable us to save longer grass from areas we can’t graze, but with the intention it goes to the cows to make milk, not to the compost!  But we manage to get the ponies and the cattle into quite a lot of places to make use of the grass ;)
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 #13 on: December 29, 2019, 10:12:32 pm »
Are your cows not inside during the winter - so bedding plus muck from there? Also I do not see any problem with using fresh, but diluted liquid human waste as a nitrogen feed for fruit trees and/or direct onto the compost heaps. Your sheep and cattle would love to have kale, and other cabbages during winter, though you may need to be careful with any milkers. I also find that my swedes were not high maintenance - sown into cells and reduced to one after germinating they were just plonked into the bed like plug plants and left to grow (some flea beetle damage to the leaves, but nothing else!). But they were all eaten by the humans here, next year I will grow more to feed to the goats (non-milkers only) and probably the sheep as well.

I don't think that (within a small community) proper composting of solid human waste (mixed with wood shavings and straws, composted for about two years) is posing any threat for human health for using on fruit bushes, or the likes of fast growing hybrid willows (can be cut for tree hay or fed during the summer). I am tentatively thinking about  setting up a dry outside toilet, at least for use during the day!
After all - you take the meat and milk from your animals, plus veg, eggs and meat from the birds, and I guess the bones, skin etc are not being returned to the soil anymore either..., so your circle is not complete. The only way (except of composting your own human waste) is to bring in additional fertility - like buying in hay and feed, or compost from other places. Do you have any local vegetarian cafes where you can get compostable stuff? 

Also - no more digging the veg garden! It works well! And no need for green manures. I do recommend the Charles Dowding website and youtube channel, in your part of the world you should be able to grow stuff all year round, and my beds here in South Scotland that are covered with our own manure/compost are holding up will during winter. But I also use black plastic on some for comparison (last for about 10 years).

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Green manures for grazing / cropping?
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2019, 12:22:32 am »
Yes the adult cattle are housed over winter, but they’re eating hay and haylage made from our pasture, so I say that has to go back on the pasture.  We have to buy in straw, so a proportion of the bedding / muck from the winter can and does go to the veg plot. 

We have a site-wide sewage system that, at present, doesn’t give us a usable slurry.  Maybe in the future.   I’m not sure we’d think our human poo chemical-free enough to use on our own veg, lol.  Some of us do take the odd bucket of wee down to the compost bins... 

The situation here in North Cornwall isn’t really ideal for growing veg at all; it really only grows grass well and not much else - apart from slugs of course :/. Shallow clay, very high rainfall and humidity... I keep telling everyone, if we want to eat sustainably and local here, it’s got to be milk and meat!  Lol.  We can’t really grow a huge proportion of our own veg, let alone growing surplus roots for the livestock.  So this was never about trying to grow them a feed, it arose from the new grower wanting to explore green manures, and being interested to see if we could create more of a cycle between the livestock and the veg growing than had been managed under the previous grower.

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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