Saturday, January 24, 2015
The picture above is taken off my back patio of two neighbors' property. The neighbor on the left has never kept any livestock, and now has a good amount of green growing on his part of their shared hillside. The neighbor to the right keeps one full-size Boer goat and one Scottish Blackface sheep on about two acres, with no rotational grazing practices in place; the two have the run of the property, roaming where they will.
While my goat-and-sheep keeping neighbor will never have to worry about practicing brush control to help with fire danger, he also has almost no forage at all growing on his property anymore, as his animals have bitten off every blade and leaf that was growing to a point where nothing has gone to seed, therefore not much is re-growing. There is also no chance for any natural creatures to take sustenance from his ground -- no bees visit, no spiders, moths, butterflies, etc. grace his property because there is no food or shelter to be found. And of course, if there's no food growing by January (our early spring), there will not be any more growing in June when it's much hotter and drier. So he's also facing a much higher feed bill for his two friends, as he will be forced to drive into town to buy alfalfa or some other hay.
Yet my neighbor on the right will also face his own issues. He will at some point have to mow all that brush growing around his property before it gets too high. His choice will be to mow it (I saw him out there last year with a regular lawnmower, and it looked to be a painful exercise, hauling the mower up and down the steep hill), or to disc it down with a tractor once it gets high, disturbing the topsoil and increasing the runoff of that precious, nutrient-rich resource next rainy season.
These two pieces of property are a lesson for us as we begin to contemplate livestock. If just two animals can make our pasture look like the neighbor on the right, we are going to have to be very careful how we rotate our animals, and be cognizant of what size animals we want to have. While I wanted full-size animals, I am starting to think a couple of pygmy goats could keep our brush down nicely, and not eat as much as these two four-footed neighbors do.
While the neighbor on the left faces a high brush fire danger come next summer if he doesn't deal with his brush, the neighbor on the right will be dealing with nothing but a brown and baked hillside, devoid of life. And I think to myself, surely there can be a compromise between the two.
We shall see I guess.