WHY WE NOW FAL­LOW FARM

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Letters - Earl Mar­dle, Bom­bay

Thanks for the fal­low­ing piece in the March 2015 edi­tion. It has added con­fir­ma­tory bias to our prac­tice into which we fell by ac­ci­dent on our 10 acres.

With a lit­tle per­ma­cul­ture read­ing, I de­cided that tall grass was worth grow­ing, de­spite its of­fense to my Kiwi de­sire to see a tidy land­scape. When the calves went into the pad­docks full of seed­heads and im­me­di­ately chomped them and the dan­de­lion heads be­fore touch­ing any­thing else we felt much bet­ter.

My late fa­ther-in-law once said that he had never seen cows eat seed heads, but then con­ceded that as a dairy farmer he had never let his grass grow tall enough. When the girls turned up with glossy coats from the seed oils we knew

we were onto a win­ner so I set out to find more rea­sons for it.

I’m agreed on the ef­fects on root for­ma­tion, and some ‘per­mie’ re­search has been done on the dif­fer­ence and it’s sig­nif­i­cant. Our root zone ex­tended from about 10cm to 20cm in a sin­gle year. We also no­ticed that long, dense grasses re­sist ero­sion by slow­ing down the flow of wa­ter, although we have also built a cou­ple of swales to han­dle the larger wa­ter is­sues on our prop­erty.

We don’t go quite as far as a full year lock-up, although parts of the prop­erty have not been grazed for nearly that long, but un­der a per­ma­cul­ture de­sign we do graze hard, then leave the pad­dock for at least 120 days be­fore graz­ing again to break the par­a­site cy­cle.

Part of the process is to en­sure that we are not over­stock­ing. We had five wean­ers that we cut to two year­lings, which we then re­placed at two years with a cou­ple of Dex­ters be­cause that long grass is im­por­tant to us and be­ing able to feed our an­i­mals from the land­scape is crit­i­cal.

One more thing. When we ar­rived we had a rab­bit prob­lem, but a sin­gle win­ter of grow­ing the grass as tall as we could solved that with­out traps, bait, or a bul­let fired. They hate long grass and head for pas­tures new, and shorter.

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