Starting in 2009, I have been working on a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) funded Farmer/Rancher research project entitled: Low input pasture renovation through multi species intensive grazing.
The premise of the project was tracking data for a pasture that was management intensively grazed by more than one species to determine if the pasture could be renovated with little input of outside materials. I did not plow up the field and replant it nor did I add fertilizer or lime to the soil. I did add a very limited amount of clover seed in select areas. I kept a lot of records: dates when each of the 12 paddocks were grazed and how tall the forage was before the animals were allowed in and after they had finished grazing; weights of the ruminants when they came on the farm and when they left the farm. Soil testing was done in the spring of 2009 and again in the spring of 2011 and forage analysis was also conducted for 2009 and 2011. Cindy Banh conducted plant surveys for me in the spring of 2009, 2010 and 2011 and also in the fall of 2011.
In 2009 I raised 18 feeder lambs, 6 young goats and 200 broiler chickens on the pasture. In 2010 I had 34 lambs, 5 goats and 300 broiler chickens and in 2011 I had 35 lambs and 200 broiler chickens.
All of the data was compiled and analyzed to determine trends and changes within the pasture. Three years is actually a very short time for determining changes to a pasture through grazing, but some changes could be noted. For instance, the amount of undesirable red fescue decreased overall while the more desirable reed canary grass, Kentucky blue grass, timothy and quack grass all increased overall.
But, the pH and organic matter results from the two tests indicate that both were consistently lower in 2011 than they were in 2009 and this is puzzling.
It seems that I will need to continue to track data to monitor the changes that continued rotational grazing impact will have on my pasture.
My final report was submitted on March 1st and will soon be available at this link: http://mysare.sare.org/mySARE/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewProj&pn=FNC08-710. An overview of the project and annual reports are currently available there.
In 2010 I was also involved as a part of a three farm team in a project called: Alternative Broiler Breeds in Three Different pastured Poultry Systems. The final report for this project can be viewed at: http://mysare.sare.org/mySARE/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewRept&pn=FNC09-771&y=2010&t=1