So, are you sad that you didn't get to go to the Permaculture Voices conference? Did you go but you can't remember what was said? Well, I am an obsessive note taker (most of the time) and I took notes at most of the talks I attended.
I will share them here with you!
Please note that this is in no way a transcription. These are my notes, taken in real time, on the fly, whilst trying to look at the slides and follow along. I find that note taking helps me synthesize information. None of this should be construed as an accurate quotation, even when I put it in quotes. (For example, I'm pretty sure not a single speaker used the utterance "Yo.") Much of the time, I am trying to summarize and it's entirely possible that I've gotten some things wrong.
My next notes document is Greg Judy. The topic this time was "Multi-species grazing on leased land"
Multi-species grazing on leased land.
Greg and Jan went from near bankruptcy to buying a house in 3 years.
There is no better way than to lease fallow land and use intensive grazing with someone else’s animals (to get started).
Plant diversity has exploded along with increased carrying capacity.
Multi-species grazing, when you don’t have equipment how are you going to deal with unwanted plant species? This is where diverse species come in handy. “For every species that you can attract to your farm, it supports 8 additional species.” This is exciting stuff!
Ian, in Africa, he’s got 18 species of big game on his ranch.
When you see a new species on your farm, don’t try to eliminate him, pat yourself on the back. You’ve made a home for him.
Diversity is King: when I see a monoculture field, it gives me the cold shakes.
Nature is diverse, there’s never a single species.
Sheep and Pigs? They told us it would never work, the pigs would eat the baby lambs. I’ve never had a pig that could catch a baby lamb. Pigs and horses—lots of chasing and biting (of pigs, by horses) the first day, then they settled down. Pigs and cattle - they love wallowing in the cow poop.
Sheep - I love our sheep. We started out with 7 St. Croix hair sheep, we were lucky enough to get them from a guy who didn’t worm his sheep. We bought 5 ramb lambs, and we kept the one with the lowest egg count in the manure (it was zero).
If you get sheep, try to find them being raised the way you want to raise them. Do they feed grain, do they feed alfalfa hay? Don’t buy those.
Sheep are very low input. We only see them once a week. The sheep and cattle complement each other wonderfully.
We pasture lamb in May. (Make sure they get a good three weeks of pasture in them before they lamb.) We don’t enter the pasture when they are lambing. I learned my lesson. Do not disturb them, let them bond to their babies without disruption.
The Powerful St. Croix -extreme parasite resistance, excellent mothers, easy to fence in, excellent meat, extreme longevity. They started as wool sheep dropped off on an island and adapted back to being hair sheep. They have something special in their gut. Don’t worm them.
I bought 220 sheep from Texas, boy they started dying as soon as they started grazing. They were used to eating sagebrush and now they were in an area with 30” of rainfall. Some of them adapted, and those are our sheep.
Pic: there’s nothing easier to move than sheep. Just open the gate and get out of the way. We run LGDs with our sheep, there’s lots of coyotes. Our dogs are Maremma (50%) Anatolian shepherd (25%) and Great Pyrenees (25%). They think they’re a sheep! You never see them on the road. Our Pyrenees, they all got hit by cars. They are all over the place, marking their territory, until they get hit by a car.
You need to love on your guard dog, but don’t let them follow you back to the truck. Get a branch with leaves and smack his face “Get! Stay!” We get the puppies in with the sheep as quick as we can.
Pic: this is the only Pyrenees we had that didn’t get killed. We called her Dusty. Pic: this is one of our mix.
The Anatolian is a little bit more bitey - they are more likely to bite somebody. We have a lot of farm tours. I can’t have somebody getting bit. The Maremmas are cool, if you can find them. This lady here breeds Maremmas. When you buy a dog, make sure you get them from a place that is working the dogs, don’t buy a pet.
We move our sheep every week to a fresh rested paddock. In 16 weeks, we come back to where we started. That’s long enough to clear out the parasites. No docking, shearing, trimming hooves, or worming. If you leave them longer than a week to 10 days, they will establish camp sites and the poop piles up, and this is when parasites become a problem. The only thing we do is we take the rams out away from the ewes in July, so there are no lambs born in winter. The hardest day in our sheep care is the day we castrate all the non-breeder ram lambs into wethers.
I cow unit is equivalent to 6 ewes. 6 ewes will get you 11 lambs, on average. A nice ewe lamb can be bred at 7 months, she’ll give you a lamb before she’s a year old.
Pigs: we like the heritage breeds. We have learned to not go looking for the baby pigs. These are the gentlest animals ever, until they have their babies. They go out in the woods, build a nest, no worries about coyotes, not with those mothers.
We bond our pigs to the cattle. In the spring, I feed the pigs some corn. When we move the cattle, I fed some corn to the pigs. After a while I stopped giving the corn. The pigs ate pasture - primarily legumes - in the summer. They don’t gain particularly fast, but that’s a really fine meat they make. The dung beetles LOVE pig manure.
Multi-species perimeter fence is at 6, 12, 18, 24, 32” from the ground. The bottom wire is a ground wire—attached to a ground rod. The second wire is hot. When a pig checks out the fence, they get a serious zap, and that’s that.
Pic: oak pallet water crossing - to keep the sheep from going under the fence at the creek. They are supported by a cable on top, in a V-shape. It will swing downstream in heavy water flow.
We run 10,000 volts on our electric fence. For sheep, you get below 6000, you might have trouble.
Pic: electric fence in front of existing barbed wire fence - that will keep sheep, maybe goats.
Pic: electric gate, made of poly tape. You can get 600 feet of this for $28.
Running the sheep diversifies our product line. “If they’ve driven out from town to your farm, you need something to sell to them.”
Landowners and Graziers
Rule #1: the landowner is always right. Every landowner is different, some need more attention and teaching. It is helpful to have your own farm, even if it’s just 5 acres, to act as a showplace. When you’re dealing with landowners, you are in the showmanship business.
You gotta show some enthusiasm!! You have to be a glass half full kind of person. If you don’t have land, but know somebody with land, work for them, see if you can do your thing on their land so you can show it off to potential lessees.
We find idle fields, close to my farm. No fence, no water - I love that! “I’d like to run animals on your land. I’m going to put in a pond, we’ll take the price out of the lease, you can bring your grandkids to the land, fish, swim, I’ll stock the pond for you.”
arrive on time, firm handshake, clean vehicle, clean clothes, optimistic attitude.
Pic: Happy Landowners (doctors wife and daughter on horses) take care of your landowner. Send emails at least once a month (weekly or biweekly), and send them pictures! You’ve got a smartphone, use it. You are the eyes and ears of their farm!
I’ve had two bad landowners in all my time - they were pessimistic, couldn’t change that, I dropped them.
Building Landowner Interest:
Explain landscaping with livestock, the environmental benefits, preserving open space, clean water, rich soils, returning wildlife.
Don’t ever let bare land develop. Watch for mud—don’t let it form! That shows bad management.
Our best lease is a lifetime lease. It’s in their will - the kids can’t sell that land until I’m dead. I don’t go deer hunting with their kids.
Pic: 40 year idle dead thatch farm, cows beginning work. We’ve got a 10 year free lease. Pic: trampled grass “field of dollar bills”
Pic: bankrupt farm, covered in hay. You bring some hay in there, run it through a cow, you will be bringing in some good perennial grasses.
We’ve offered landowners cattle ownership, we perform timber stand improvement, we build fishing ponds and there are huge rewards. We do run the cattle through the timber, not very often.
Now we’re getting more into permaculture, some key line work like Mark Shepard. We’re starting with the Judy farm, then we’ll have something to show our landowners.
Young people on the land. We are building our internship program. We need young people getting into agriculture. Leasing land is the way to get started.
Pic: Happy Landowners! This guy, and his wife, they saved my bacon. They gave me the confidence, once I saw good work being rewarded, I could go forward.
Don’t buy land. You will be a slave to that land.
How do you calculate what you could pay for a lease. Go out and ask folks how many acres it takes to support a cow. The unique thing about custom grazing—the owner takes the risk. It’s hard for you to spend money on a cow you don’t own!
We don’t offer our landowners a lot of money on our leases. The most we pay is $10 a day.
When corn went to $8.50 a bushel, in Missouri we lost 3 million acres of pasture to corn.