Episode-1087- Taking “Mob Grazing” to the Small Piece of Land

The Toulouse Goose, a Great Homestead Grazing Animal.

The Toulouse Goose, a Great Homestead Grazing Animal.

We have discussed at brief quite a bit on “mob grazing” lately, specificlly the work of people like Alan Savory and Greg Judy and the amazing results they have had.

This has resulted in a large number of questions to me about  how we can replicate this in smaller permaculture systems.

The reality is it isn’t that difficult and simply by using smaller animals and understanding their behaviors we can gain similar results anywhere from a suburban yard to a small holding of a few acres.

My hope today is that the entire concept of mob grazing is understood for what it actually is.  Simply animals moving through a system they way they naturally would in nature.  Along with why our current livestock need management to behave “naturally”.  This is based both on land size limitations and the loss of the animals normal instincts due to centuries of domestication.

Join Me Today As We Discuss…

  • What is “mob grazing”
  • Why is mob grazing natural
  • Why does mob grazing work
  • Paddock shift and tractoring (advantages and disadvantages of each)
  • Thoughts on different animals and their roles in paddock shift/tractoring
    • Chickens
    • Rabbits
    • Quail
    • Ducks
    • Guineas
    • Goats and Sheep
    • Pigs
    • Geese
  • Understanding animal needs and making husbandry easy
  • Developing systems that others can run for you (when traveling)
  • Thinking differently about your land, it is all a garden

Resources for Today’s Show…

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19 Responses to Episode-1087- Taking “Mob Grazing” to the Small Piece of Land

  1. Great explanation Jack. For folks wanting another great overview – a the best full length Savory lecture I’ve found is here: https://vimeo.com/8239427

  2. So much more than mob-stocking in this show – could be called “key things to consider before keeping animals.” Great broad overview Jack. And thanks for the nice words about our pasture. We do indeed keep the meat birds the hard way…. But our steep slopes made the tractor an almost dangerous endeavor… would love to find a better way. We’re going for true feral-chicken third world situation this year -literally raise em and let em go – encouraging them to stick around at times if they feel like leaving… When we have an abundance of good food for them, feed em’ and eat em’. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Modern Survival

      Oh I would not do a tractor but if you could come up with some sort of mobile coop, even if you need two small ones based on the 50 odd broilers you do they will soon go inside at night all by themselves then move them coop, put up the fence and let them out after the move.

      As for full free range you won’t loose to many birds if you can get those dogs to understand protect vs. eat the birds. My only concern is you will loose a lot of the effect of the paddock shift on your land.

      BTW do you still have the sheep or did they become mutton. I have to say one day at your place made me NEVER want sheep traditional ones anyway. I am pretty sure after a year of geese and chickens on this place I might add a few dorpers though. http://www.dorper.org/ I’ll just have to find someone to do the lamb slaughter for me. Call me a wuss if anyone feels the need but sheep and pigs that eat from my hands are hard for me to slaughter. But God do I love and I mean ever love fresh lamb.

      Dorpers tend to have very high lambing rates, I have read accounts as as many as 10 lambs from two ewes and one ram in 18 months even on pure grass. That is pretty incredible. You get about a 55 lb gutted skinned caucus from a Dorper Lamb, so about 35 lbs of meat. 350 lbs of lamb every 18 months from only 3 adults isn’t bad at all. Cut the yield in half and you are still getting about 10 lbs of lamb a month. That is a lot of lamb for a family of two.

      Your sheep never lambed right? Did you even have a ram? I don’t remember.

  3. I have 3 guineas. you are correct on all things but one; guineas are mean as hell and beat the heck out of my chickens and keep them away from the food. Saving grace is that i have 3 acres and 2 neighbors with 3 acres and all 9 acres are their territory so the chickens get a break when the guineas are roaming; however i put up with them because when TX was under the wing of a million grasshoppers last year, i had NONE

    • Modern Survival

      Wow, that isn’t typical from my experience. Every single farmer I knew in PA (as a hunter and specifically one that shot ground hogs in summer) I knew a shitload of them had some guineas with their birds. I always say them together and never saw any real problems.

      Now to be fair those guys always just had small free range flocks so I wonder if that is what made the difference. Either that or you just have some mean ass guineas. Something to look out for for sure.

    • whoismyfarmer

      This is my experience as well, Tracy. We have truly free range chicken: layers and broilers plus one guinea that found and adopted us. He indeed is a bully to the other chickens and chases them regularly. We were hoping he would fit in, but after tolerating his bad behavior for 9 months, his days are numbered.

  4. I would love to see a video of you skinning the wild hog. I’m not joking either Jack. I don’t know, or have ever seen anyone perform a task like that. I hear that you are supposed to cut the testicles off of a wild hog, or the meat tastes bad. They say to not use the knife you used to cut the testicles off with to butcher the rest of the meat. I don’t know if this is true.

    • Modern Survival

      We thought about it but we had to go see my son so I had to knock out three really fast. They were also all gutted by the listener due to transport time requirements. He did okay but sort of hammered them.

      Lots of myths too, some animals have glands, that should be removed after gutting and the knife washed before it touches the meat but that is even a minimum real effect. Deer have hawk glands on their legs, coons have glands under their arm pits and such. Yet think about this testicles are considered a delicacy by many. You know mountain oysters (sheep) and calf fries (cattle) so why would touching them with a blade ruin an entire animal if that blade then touched the meat as if by magic.

      It is far more about keeping urine, feces and the insides of stomach, etc off the meat, that and trying to keep hair off it.

  5. Any thoughts about pot belly pigs in this type of system? There may be a pet market in addition to the other benifits.

    • Modern Survival

      Everything I said about pigs would apply to them equally. They are simply a smaller pig, they behave exactly like larger breeds. In Vietnam they are free ranged and simply slaughtered at the appropriate size. Adults are also not as small as many seem to believe. At 9 months a bore will already be 60 lbs. I have seen adults well near 140-150.

      Here is some specific info on them being used for meat production http://www.windridgefarm.us/potbellypigs.htm

  6. We are looking at doing pasture shift. Any idea if the automatic doors for chicken tractors (tractors similar to the Salatin Eggmobile) work well or is it mostly a gimmick? It would make care of the birds much easier on a larger homestead, especially for a temporary caretaker.

  7. Jack: Listening a second time to be sure I am clear, but it sounded like you suggested that one could run chickens, guineas and geese in the same mob, given three different niches in the system. Am I oversimplifying?

    • Modern Survival

      More like following one behind the other but geese and chickens should get along. Based on a comment above guineas can be mean as hell to chickens but I haven’t seen that but as I responded to that comment I have never seen guineas and chickens confined together only free ranged.

      With the four you mention though I would likely do this. Paddock A Geese, Paddock B empty, Paddock C Chickens and Guineas free ranged. You could tractor the quail anywhere you like in the system, they don’t work in a paddock, like I said they can sure as hell fly.

      Geese and Chickens in the same paddock? I THINK this can work if the paddock is large enough, I am going to try and see.

      My real goal though is becoming this though. Paddock shift chickens through my full three acres.

      Put in one more “cross fence” which will create a east, west and central pasture system, with the house in the central one. Move the geese once a week to one of the three. They are very easy on the land and do a lot to improve it. They will NOT over graze it unless the land is very stressed and they have to. Ideally I could cross fence each of those three and have 6 half acre paddocks but I don’t think I want that much fencing.

  8. And coturnix, for that matter?

  9. I’ll check the dorpers out Jack.
    Yeah, the sheep were sold and are in the freezer. Holy hell – best meat I’ve ever had, I must say. Lamb sausage and ground lamb/mutton. Got about 60 lbs from two animals. It makes me want to raise them again just for meat. But, the difficulty of parasites and fly strike is no joke. You saw the absolute worst of 3 years of keeping sheep here, to be clear – the bottom of it. Sheep are great on all fronts in this cold climate, for us in my experience, except 1) fencing needs, and 2) parasite resistance. If you can find some heat-tolerant, parasite resistant sheep for your zone, could be awesome. And yes, killing them after getting to know them is really hard. Not fun at all – worst part of the farming system here in many ways.

  10. Great episode. I enjoyed it. You did a great job of laying out the basics of the mob-grazing system. One thing you did not mention is that a chicken tractor can be very effective in a mob-grazing system. I have tried this with my broilers, and plan to experiment with it some more. If you think about it, if you have got 50 chickens in an 8×8 pen (which is what we do), that is a very high density, which is what you want for the mobbing/trampling effect. And, if you move it everyday, it works pretty well.

    My favorite thing to raise is sheep, and do a mob grazing system with them here on our farm. I think they are a great animal for small pastures. I started out with two, and have worked up to over thirty (including lambs). If you have any questions let me know. Dorpers sound like a good sheep to use for your area.

    Thanks again for the show

  11. Jack,

    I have rabbits and chickens and I agree with you when it comes to slaughter. Chickens, no problem. Rabbits, they are so cute, but I can do it. Lambs and pigs, that’s a hurdle. I can do it, but I don’t like it one bit. It’s something for people to think about. I think even doing it once or twice can be easy sometimes, but over time it can actually become harder. Frankly, some days you don’t feel like killing but it has to be done so that room can be made in a coop or hutch or perhaps the meat is getting to old and will be difficult to cook. I think everyone has to deal with it their own way. When it’s all said and done, I feel better having lived closer to the basics of life, of being more independent and having a better understanding of the price of my own existence. Don’t mean to get too deep into the whole thing, but on some level, I enjoy the conflict and the experience of living closer to my source of protein. Living should be easy, but not so easy that we forget why we’re able to live.

  12. Hey Jack I was looking at dorpers too and then I ran across St Croix sheep. You should check them out. They seem to be a super healthy breed.