Well, kind of. I have 2 main pastures of 6 or so acres each broken into paddocks which I've been rotating chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cattle with rest times varying from 1-2 months between animal impact for the last few years. My experience so far has shown me that rotational grazing done correctly with the proper carrying capacity and rest times works just as good or better than the books and articles said it would. I have not done any vaccination or worming and was able to get cattle through my first winter grazing with no hay or supplemental feed other than what was attached to the ground.
The difference it has made to the grass in these few years has been amazing to me. The more fertile of the 2 fields went from a broomsedge dominated, 30% bare ground with blackberry, black cherry, and johnson grass to a much more uniform sward with lots of plantain, white clover, a bit of alfalfa, rye, and fescue starting to fill in where the broomsedge was thriving. I have only rotated animals through, mowed a few times per year, and spread a seed mix of clover, fescue, radish, and wildflower once last year. In the less fertile of the 2 fields, I lightly disced and broadcast seeded Korean lespedeza, annual rye, fescue, radish, white clover, and a bit of wildflower and eastern gama. I let this field rest from mid March until just recently to let the new plantings get established and or go to seed before grazing it quickly starting mid June. I normally would be against tillage but in this situation, I needed to get something growing that the animals would graze to get them to spend more time in the areas that need animal impact (grazing, rooting, trampling, fertilizing). The Korean lespedeza came up like crazy on really poor soil and cows and pigs really enjoy it. Plus, it is a warm season legume which is high in protein, fixes nitrogen, looks like a taller more bushy clover, and will shelter the more tender cool season seedlings until the cooler weather.
In the video I show where the pigs were rooting recently and explain why the impact may be alarming to a new farmer. I compare this area to the other field that has had time to rest and explain why what looks like a disaster when it first happens actually ended up being beneficial in my system.
To sum up for those that may not want to watch a video: In poor pastures with woody plants or certain grass species with tuberous rhizomes, pigs will initially root deep to eat the roots of these plants causing what looks like catastrophic damage to a pasture. As these rooted up areas grow in either naturally or with introduced seed, the holes create sheltered, wetter micro climates which end up allowing more palatable species a chance to establish. With the removal of the entire root system of the less desirable plants, the quicker establishment of better herbaceous plants stops the return of the less resulting in better pasture if the proper rest time is allowed. The more palatable, thicker mix encourages the hogs to graze rather than to root as the goodies are on top of the ground and the thicker sward makes rooting harder. The rain and settling smooths the pasture over time but leaves enough texture to stop and soak water and act as a invisible passive water harvesting and erosion reduction feature on the landscape.
Your results may vary of course and each farm will have its own unique management style, fertility, productivity, carrying capacity, and rest times but if you can get the formula right, your pastures will improve quickly.
I have heard for years of the miracle soil amendment that is biochar and wanted to try it for myself. The intent is not to write yet another article explaining what biochar is, the history of biochar or what it could potentially do for your soil and animal health but to show how I make it and one of the ways I use it that I have not seen widely tried. If you do not know what biochar is or want more information about past and present uses, try the documentary The Secret of Eldorado.
I put my charcoal mixed with a bit of molasses into a plastic feed pan under the salt block for the cattle. The cattle lick the block and drool salty minerals onto the char. The sweetness of the molasses mixed with the saltyness of the cow drool makes it more appealing to the pigs. Why feed charcoal to pigs? Wild hogs foraging in a natural forest environment would encounter and eat charcoal from the regular forest fires which occur minus interference from man. From an anecdotal perspective, I take activated charcoal on a regular basis for gut health and detoxification and can feel the positive effects it has on my health. By having the pigs ingest the char, it is changed to biochar in the pig's digestive tract by becoming charged with organisms from the healthy hog's digestive system. It is then evenly distributed with manure throughout my grazing system by rotational grazing. The structure and huge surface area of the char acts as an "apartment complex" for beneficial soil microbiota thus improving soil health. There is a picture and a video below which are both pertinent to the article.
I like to have my animals live a low stress life that allows them to, as much as possible, exhibit their unique "wild" qualities. I don't drive my animals to food or water, I lead them to it and take the time to show them where it is. These calves I got are the most challenging animals I've had to train. They had very little human contact in the first part of their lives and are still a bit afraid of me and startle easily. I want to be able to milk these girls someday and I won't force myself upon them, which seems to be the usual method for "breaking" an animal.
I am a new farmer and am learning this myself and am employing methods based on my temperament and goals. I find animal husbandry enjoyable when the system I have designed fits the animals I integrate into it. That said, I have done all of my own killing/butchering so far and while I don't enjoy killing anything, taking responsibility for your own respectful animal raising, killing, and butchering seems to be the best way to be an "Ethical Omnivore"
Here is a video I made showing how I'm working with my calves. I hope it works!
The pigs are doing well on very little feed and are grazing pasture and foraging in the forest. I move the pasture daily and the forest paddocks are rotated weekly. I have begun to open up one of the forest paddocks by cutting down the small, low quality, bent, or badly located trees. I want to let enough light in to get some grass growing to enlarge my grazing system into the forest without eliminating the browse or nut drop.
After rotating through the entire training pen, I moved the pigs out of the pen and out into the main paddock shift system. In the video I explain the grazing system, water, shelter, fencing, the laneway, and the forest paddocks.
For my own piece of mind, I decided to install a 26" welded wire physical barrier around my entire 20 acre grazing system. The pigs had already been in the corral for 2 1/2 weeks which was longer than I had planned. They had eaten everything green in it and it was getting nasty. To get them on grass while I got the perimeter fenced, I built a 6 cell rotational grazing pen for the pigs to move around in until the grazing system was ready.
We have been working feverishly to get the fencing ready for the new arrival. We got 11 - 6 week old 3/4 mulefoot 1/4 duroc piglets from a local farmer. We got them installed in the training pen which consists of a cattle panel and t post exterior with a copy of the interior electric fence inside. This corral works to back a trailer into it for loading/unloading, has a physical barrier on the exterior, and allows any animals we get to become "acquainted" with the electric fence with little chance of escape.