Integrating Livestock and Crops at Good Heart Farmstead: Sheep, Pigs and Poultry to Increase Soil Health
Organic farmers know that healthy soil means healthy plants. At Good Heart Farmstead, everything we do is based in the soil. We even named our farm in honor of it—when soil is “in good heart”, it is alive and healthy. But organic farmers will also know that the name itself doesn’t transform depleted, acidic soil into living, healthy soil overnight. So this past spring, as we began our first season, we also began building our soils. We split our one acre garden plot in half, cover cropping side “B” and growing veggies for our CSA on side “A.” Along with growing vegetables, raising livestock is an integral part of our farm. Since we don’t own a tractor, we decided to use our livestock to help spread and work nutrients into our soil. Advantages of Livestock Integration Integrated livestock offer many advantages to crop operations:
* From Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
Increased nutrients and organic matter bode well for your soil, and in turn for your crops. Whether you rotate animals through the garden during the summer or let them in to clean up and put the garden to rest in the fall, livestock can take on the job of soil building, decrease human hours spent tilling and spreading manure or compost, reduce soil compaction, and help keep us all “in good heart”.
- Create a closed-loop on the farm: vegetable waste to animals, manure into compost for the crops
- Increase nutrients in the soil
- Improve soil organic matter
- Enrich biodiversity through multi-species rotational grazing
- Work the soil at different levels without the use of heavy, soil-compacting machines: pigs furrow and till, sheep/cow/goat hooves aerate, poultry scratch at soil surface
Animal Manure Types & Effects on Soil
Effects on Soil Tilth
|Chicken||1.1-0.8-0.5||Shallow; scratching kills surface weeds; eats insects|
|Cow||0.6-0.2-0.5||Medium; hooves aerate soil|
|Duck||0.6-1.4-0.5||Shallow; grazing/scratching kills weeds; eats insects|
|Horse||0.7-0.3-0.6||Medium; hooves aerate soil; adds many weed seeds|
|Pig||0.5-0.3-0.5||Deep; rooting tills and creates deep furrows|
|Rabbit||2.4-1.4-0.6||Shallow; grazing and scratching kills surface weeds|
|Sheep/Goat||0.7-0.3-0.9||Medium; hooves aerate soil|
My name is Abi and I run a 3 acre fully rotational Vegetable plot. The plot is separated into the vegetable families for rotation. Every year it each section moves to the left for example and the season begins again. My problem is now, is that we want to introduce pigs into this rotation. Our crop goes out the public and is for sale in local shops. So we have to be careful of the regulations and food safety. Is there anything you can't sow where pigs have been? I've been told you can't sow salads for up to 4 years where pigs have been but I cannot find anything online to support this theory.
I look forward to hearing from you any advice is much appreciated.