Rural rookies after some advice

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1 year 10 months ago #552289 by nola
Hi,

My husband and I recently moved into our 3ha lifestyle block on the outskirts of Wanganui. This site has already been quite useful - we now have a chainsaw and good gloves ready to tackle the gorse :)

The other issue we have is how to keep the grass down. We have three goats that came with the property and are considering adding either our own sheep or looking for people who want to graze their sheep. We have 4 fenced paddocks, three of which can be grazed - though one has a lake/large pond so not sure what that would mean for sheep.

Being new to grazing we'd welcome any advice on:
where to find people who're after grazing,
what would we be responsible for as graziers - fencing, shearing, drenching, etc?

We both commute for work long distance, though I work from home about half the time (thanks to the wonders of Zoom :)). Also, being inexperienced I worry about taking on more than we can handle. Any advice most welcome!

- Nola

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1 year 10 months ago #552292 by tonybaker
welcome to the forum, all the answers are on here somewhere!
I would ask around the neighbourhood to see if any of the more experienced farmes want some free grazing. I don't think the pond is an issue for animals, they know what to do.
As long as you have some sort of written agreement for the grazing, all will be ok. If you don't want to get a grazier to sign an agreement, just send a letter or email, keeping a copy of course, outlining your deal and it should be ok.
When I started I had a deal with a local butcher who needed grazing for some old rams. we got paid in meat. Unfortunately someone left a gate open (not us) and ruined a neighbours breeding programme! Consider padlocking your roadside gates.
Get rid of the goats, they are of no value and will cause lots of angst with their Houdini tricks. Cattle are best for gorse, but you will probably have to spray first. You never actually get rid of gorse, you can only keep it down with grazing. It's all do-able so just take it easy for a year or so until you get a handle on how your block works. You have done the right thing by asking questions on here!

5 acres, Ferguson 35X and implements, Hanmay pto shredder, BMW Z3, Countax ride on mower, chooks, Dorper and Wiltshire sheep. Bosky wood burning central heating stove and radiators. Retro caravan. Growing our own food and preserving it. Small vineyard, crap wine. :)
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1 year 10 months ago #552296 by To Do List
A chainsaw is a good place to start ! :)

Yep Tonybaker is on to it. Get rid of the goats asap. People new to farming seem to be prime targets and suckers for taking on goats, there's a reason goats are usually free ... they're a pain in the ass and the best way to make enemies with your new neighbors ! Goats are definitely not for newbies. Look around at what your neighbors have is usually a pretty good indication at whats going to be the most suitable animals for that area.

Might be an idea to get someone familiar with whatever type of animal you plan on getting, to come and look at the fences BEFORE you get the animals. Get the fencing sorted before the animals arrive. Seems to be just about the newbie number one mistake is to get given animals that are escape artists or have bad habits and test even the experienced so if someone is offering you something for free ... it may not be a gift you want ? Gathering a menagerie of problem animals will not make you any human friends !

Now don't be scared off by the following, it's meant to make you aware so you know what to look for.
Water no problem for the animals but make a good study of drainage directions, water table levels and where your well is ? Faecal coliforms (bad bugs from animal poo) get into the ground water super easy and animals around water are going to s**t in it and rain will wash it in there from the paddocks too. Even all this riparian planting along creeks isn't enough to stop the problem so I'd strongly suggest get your water supply tested. The lab tech told me if you're within 2 kilometres of a dairy farm, you'll have a faecal coliform problem ! But don't panic, there's lots of ways to use and treat water, but it's good to know what you have so you can take the steps necessary to be safe in case the levels are really high.

I'm only going to call this next bit a comment because I don't know for sure and I don't know what your lake might be considered - But there's been considerable attention towards cattle and contamination of waterways so just might pay to get some advice on that front before you take on cattle ??

Best advice I can give is - be willing to learn, if a neighboring farmer offers a suggestion ... it's more usually notice that you have a problem that needs fixing today ! :dry: Gather lots more farm toys and get used to having poo between your toes and mud in your eye. :blink:
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1 year 10 months ago #552298 by Hertz Donut
We're 10 months into our LSB adventure and currently grazing stock for a neighbour and an acquaintance. We'll be leasing the land out for organic cropping over the coming season. This buys us time to learn about stock and land care, and provides a little bit of income that we're putting into infrastructue such as irrigation, fencing and tools - a tractor is next on our list.

Things we've quickly learned:
- Get used to walking away from "it'll do for now" jobs because something else more urgent has come up. Keep a list of outstanding tasks, there's likely to be so many you'll start forgetting about them, especially if you're renovating a house as well as looking after stock/crops/land.
- There's a lot of heavy things to lift/push/drag/carry a long distance, you're going to need something that can do the grunt work. We enjoy a good dose of exercise but knowing when to stop to avoid injury is important.
- You're going to hurt, but you're also going to get fit and strong. I've dropped over 10kg and my waistline is down to what it was when I was 16 years old.
- Embrace imperfection. Things get messy, overgrown, dirty or banged up, it's not the end of the world.
- It's quite likely going to be a whole lot more expensive than you thought.
- At the end of each day, take a few minutes to watch the sun set over your property. There hasn't been a single day where we haven't been overjoyed with the beauty of our little spot on the planet. It's just awesome, we never want to leave.

I recommend joining your local farming cooperative (e.g. Farmlands), we've picked up a lot of knowledge and contacts through ours, and over the L4 lockdown period they really pulled together to help each other out.

Don't ask me, it was on its side when I got here.
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1 year 10 months ago #552308 by nola
Thank you for information and advise. Really helpful. This is showing my rookie side, but why would I need to spray first and with what before setting the cattle on the gorse?
Thanks!

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1 year 10 months ago #552309 by nola
Thanks for the information and advice - really useful. We are slowly getting used always leaving gumboots outside because you never know what you might trek into the house :)

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1 year 10 months ago #552310 by nola
Thanks Hertz Donut - really encouraging and helpful. Your point about embracing imperfection is spot on. I needed to hear that :)

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1 year 10 months ago #552318 by tonybaker
If you are going organic, you won't want to spray. Your plan of attack is to weaken the gorse by removing as much as possible first then put as many cattle on as you can to eat the regrowth. Friends of mine used pigs but it was hard to keep them from ruining the fences. Whatever you do, don't let the gorse get away on you, the seed in the ground lasts 10 years or more.

5 acres, Ferguson 35X and implements, Hanmay pto shredder, BMW Z3, Countax ride on mower, chooks, Dorper and Wiltshire sheep. Bosky wood burning central heating stove and radiators. Retro caravan. Growing our own food and preserving it. Small vineyard, crap wine. :)
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1 year 10 months ago #552330 by jeannielea
I think I'd be asking about rules for fencing off waterways to see if the lake would be affected. The new rules are quite strict so better check it out before you get animals
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1 year 10 months ago #552331 by To Do List
This might lead to a very interesting discussion about gorse vs. organic ? The 2 are fairly opposite conflicts.
Spray to control gorse needs something like tordon or similar and that doesn't come close to organic !

I'm going to stick my neck out here and suggest you don't get too hung up on the organic thing. Growing up
farming wasn't organic for me but when I got this place and returned to the land ... I wondered about trying to
be spray free ? I can tell you that didn't last long at all.
On a small block there's just not enough money to pay an employee so you're doing it all yourself and as with
many others you're working, and in your case only there part time. You will quickly find there's not enough hours
in the day to be doing everything by hand so you're almost certainly going to have to go for the easier options
where you can. Therein lies a big conflict with the organic dream.
Once you have gorse, unless you get brutal with every spray and grazing option for several years you will always
have gorse. And trust me the seed lasts much longer than 10yrs ! An option we used on another property that
works OK that you may consider is to spray with a gorse killer, burn the dead gorse and have the ground
worked up and sow rye grass with a powerful endophyte which prevents growth of other plants. Gorse will come
back in small bits but at that point you have the rye grass cover and can deal with the small new growth much easier.
We had sheep grazing the area as well. It's a big job so maybe consider talking to a contractor to do the initial big
part of the work ? Chipping away at it by hand is going to be a marathon with no finish line.
Take solace in realizing the last owner couldn't cope with it, so every gain you make is one step ahead.

Nothing is easy, cheap or happens quickly but it's still nice driving up the road and turning into your own little world.
Enjoy those moments :) to offset all the hard work.
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1 year 10 months ago #552333 by Hawkspur
I found some references on the viability of gorse seed over time. They last longest when buried at least 5 cm and then brought to the surface, so any soil disturbance needs to be minimised, or you will need to control the gorse regrowth. The seeds can last 20 years or longer in the right conditions.
www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/uleeur/all.html
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1 year 10 months ago #552335 by LongRidge
Gorse growth is an indication that the soil is too low in nitrate to support good grass growth, and too low in sulphates to support good clover growth. If it were low in nitrate but had good clover growth then the clover would grow in preference to the gorse. If you want soil to grow other than what is already there, you have to provide the correct "food" for the other plants to grow. For plants, the "food" that they need are the essential chemicals in the correct proportions for that or those plants. These are phosphate, sulphate, nitrate, potassium salts, calcium, magnesium, and others specific to the plant.
The problem with "organic" fertiliser is that you have to obtain a supply of it with the chemicals in the correct proportion, from a source that is itself organic. Using poo from animals that have been fed pasture that has been sprayed or fertilised, or that have had drugs, is not strictly organic. And it may be carrying harmful bugs for your animals. Even then the growth of what you want to grow will be limited by the proportion of the most scarce essential chemical in the fertiliser. To convert your land to organic pasture will cost you a huge fortune. If you are very lucky you may be left with a small fortune. Economically it would be best to let your land regenerate to native trees.
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1 year 10 months ago #552374 by To Do List
Fair comment about disturbing the ground ... but ... the approach we took was "if you do nothing you'll achieve nothing"! We were told don't work up the ground, don't burn the gorse, we got a whole bunch of don'ts without any do's ! So first attempt was to cut it down and it came right back, something had to change? At least this next time it was a lot of new growth so the spray worked pretty good but the ground was still horrible with humps and hollows and stones and gorse roots. Left it a fair while for the spray to get right in (gorse being so woody and tough).
Then burnt it and got the big toys in to work it up which achieved a couple of things. Allowed the ground to be levelled or rather smoothed out and it bought up the gorse roots and stumps which were collected up and burnt also. At the same time fertiliser and lime was added to give the ryegrass something more to it's liking, last of the fine working and the seed sown.
New small gorse growth was spot sprayed before it got a chance to get above the ryegrass and it didn't take long (a couple years) before getting the better of the gorse. The spot spraying continued but got less and less.
I must add to get a soil test done, it's not about the cost, forget the money, it's essential. Without that information you haven't a clue and hence can't possibly introduce cost effective soil improvement. Without good strong grass growth to deter the gorse and weeds, you'll struggle. I have to agree with LongRidge's thoughts and advice in that direction.

My 2 cents - As I said it's like a marathon with no finish line even when you use everything available to you. There's lots who 'pretend organic' which is like doing the marathon bare foot and usually achieves a lot less with a lot more pain ... but to go the whole hog to get to the point where you can actually call yourself 'organic' is the same marathon on your hands and knees !

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