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Homesteading Tips

Alderman Farms is a small homestead focused on self-sufficiency and thriftiness. Located in Brookhaven, Mississippi their desire is to promote good old-fashioned methods of small farming, using traditional American skills and “know how”.

Their values are evident on their website, blog and social media where they share their homesteading tips, and everyday farm life with us. On their different online media you can follow along as they investigate inspirational techniques such as Back to Eden Gardening, creating a sustainable permaculture, raising critters humanely with loving care, and preserving the heritage of homesteading for future generations.

Below are just 2 of the great videos they have created to share their experience and knowledge with others. Check them out, because who hasn’t needed to stretch a fence at one time or another with only the pliers in your back pocket?

Happy Homesteading!

How to tighten fence with nothing but pliers

How to set a corner post without concrete

 

For more homesteading tips check outDIY Powdered Laundry Soap andDIY Wood Pallet Shelf

Do you have any homesteading tips?

How to Design a Grazing Plan Using an Alley System

jim_profile_pic

Credit: The following method was developed from an interview with Jim Stone.  Jim has spent 35 years as a journeyman mechanic and welder, but he’s always been a cattleman at heart.  He studied agriculture at Olds College, honed his welding and heavy duty mechanic trades at SAIT, and even returned to Olds as a trades instructor, but always wanted to run cattle and eventually purchased a quarter section to pursue his dream.

After attending a Rotational Pasture Management School, Jim started practicing sustainable grazing management in order to get the most production he could from a small land  base, while still sustaining the land and other resources.

 

About Project 

After spending three years hauling fence post, untangling wire and running a maze of hoses from our barns to the field without a proper grazing system in place, there comes a time when moving cows under the moonlight isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds.  But our biggest challenge was knowing where and how to start.  The good news is we talked with some of the mavericks of grazing systems, and now have a bulletproof method anyone can follow, to quickly get a solid plan in place.

This project will help you create a plan for a simple grazing system with a permanent, single strand electric perimeter fence, permanent single strand cross fencing, and a single strand alley system.

 

Materials and Tools 

  • 8 1/2”x11” Overhead Projector Sheets
  • Permanent Marker (two colors)
  • Red, Green, Blue and Black Dry Erase Markers
  • Aerial Photo Expanded to 6-8 inches squared for quarter of land.
    (You can find these at Fertilizer Dealers, Department of Ag or Google Earth)
  • Graph paper
  • Calculator
  • Access to a Photocopier

 

Step 1  – Print or Photocopy an Aerial Photo of your land

rsz_aerial_photo_step_1_310x208

If you already have an aerial photo of your land, try to enlarge it on a photocopier to fill as much of the page as possible.  If you don’t have an aerial or satellite photo, you can usually find one at your local Fertilizer Dealer, Department of Ag or using Google Earth.Click here for a tutorial on how to print a satellite photo from Google Earth.

 

Step 2 – Draw perimeter fence onto a sheet of transparency film

rsz_aerial_photo_step_2_310x206

Place a sheet of 8.5 x 11 transparency film over your aerial photo.  Using a permanent marker, draw in the perimeter fence line. (Note: Your perimeter fence will always be energized, making it super easy to energize your cross fencing.)

rsz_aerial_photo_310x206

Next, take a different colour of permanent marker to draw in all the objects that will not change, such as sloughs, creeks, dugouts, trees or special areas.   These areas may still be grazed but require special management(Click here for further information on this topic from Cows and Fish).  For instance, a wet area may need to wait until later in the fall to be grazed.

 

Step 3 – Set up a grid to measure areas of land

rsz_aerial_photo_step_4_310x206
Place your transparency sheet with the perimeter fence marked on it, on top of a sheet of graph paper.  (Click here to download free graph paper).  Count how many squares of the graph paper are within your property line of your quarter section.  In this case, the quarter section is 22 squares by 22 squares.  Once you’ve counted up the squares inside the quarter section, simply divide the number of acres of land on the map by the number of squares you counted.  So in this case, 160 acres divided by 484 squares = 0.33 acres per square.

22 x 22 = 484 squares

Total Area = 160 acres

One Square = 160 acres divided by 484 squares

One Square = 0.33 acres
Now you know how much land is in each square on the graph paper, and you can use that number to figure out the size of each paddock you draw on the map.  All you do is count how many squares are in a paddock, and multiply that by the number you calculated (eg. 0.33 ) to see how many acres are in the paddock.

 

Step 4 – Plan your paddock sizes 

Calculate how much area you will need in each paddock, given the number of cattle you want to graze and how often you want to move your cattle.  Remember that as your grass improves, you can continue to add more animals per paddock to maintain the same number of days before you rotate.  If you are new to the area you can always ask your neighbours about stocking density, or click here to learn more about calculating AUMs.

If you don’t understand AUMs or don’t have a baseline for how many cattle your land can hold, we strongly recommend using portable cross fencing for at least the first year, (using the 3 wire rotation method).

 

Step 5 –  Draw in the paddocks and alleys   

Using dry erase markers, start to draw in paddocks.  Look for areas of equal productivity.  For instance the face of the hills may need more acres of land to hold the cattle on for the same amount of time as the flat land.  Paddock sizes do not have to all be square, random shapes will need to be used in case of wetlands, along creeks and for other unusual land shapes.  Mark all cross fences and single wired fences in the same color.

rsz_aerial_photo_step_5_310x206

Alleys help you connect all paddocks and should provide access back to a homestead or location where you can treat a sick animal.  For a typical quarter section, it works well to have one straight alley down the middle of the quarter, with paddocks on both sides of the alley.

Tip: Choose a dry area, keep the alleys on high ground.

By building your gates the same width as your alleys, you can limit cattle access to only parts of the alley where they need to travel, resulting in very little damage from animal traffic.

Tip:  A good rule of thumb is that for 50 cows, the average alley should be 10 meters wide.  For every additional 50 cows, three meters in width should be added.  Also consider the size of machinery you will want to be taking in.

 

Step 6 – Mark watering sites and/or water lines 

Mark your water lines or sources in blue.  When locating a watering site, the ground must be solid.  It costs too much to make a muddy hole stable.

rsz_aerial_photo_step_6_310x206

If  good water sources and pressure system is available, a pipeline is probably best for suplying a water trough.  To check out other water systems click here.

 

Step 7 – Mark the location of gates 

Choose locations for your gates.  Gates should be on all four corners of where the paddocks meet.  Gate size should be equal to alley width which will allow you to close off the alley when necessary.

rsz_aerial_photo_step_7_310x206

Gate location has a lot to do with cow’s sense. For instance, which way cows will want to go to water.  If you have a square paddock adjoining an alley, you will need a gate in both corners of the paddock to allow cows to get in and out in both directions.  Cows will stand in a corner for days rather than go around and come back up an alley to get water or go to the next paddock.

More gates is more convenient than fewer when moving cattle.

 

Finishing Instructions

Plans are a work in progress. You can change and adapt them easily as you need to.  Once you have your plans remember to check out our fencing and water DIY workshops to see how to most effectively and cheaply install your new system.

 

 

How to Design a Grazing Plan Using Portable Cross Fencing

jim_profile_pic (1)

Credit: The following method was developed from an interview with Jim Stone.  Jim has spent 35 years as a journeyman mechanic and welder, but he’s always been a cattleman at heart.  He studied agriculture at Olds College, honed his welding and heavy duty mechanic trades at SAIT, and even returned to Olds as a trades instructor, but always wanted to run cattle and eventually purchased a quarter section to pursue his dream.

After attending a Rotational Pasture Management School, Jim started practicing sustainable grazing management in order to get the most production he could from a small land  base, while still sustaining the land and other resources.


About Project 

After spending three years hauling fence post, untangling wire and running a maze of hoses from our barns to the field without a proper grazing system in place, there comes a time when moving cows under the moonlight isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds.  But our biggest challenge was knowing where and how to start.  The good news is we talked with some of the mavericks of grazing systems, and now have a bulletproof method anyone can follow, to quickly get a solid plan in place.

This project will help you create a plan for a simple grazing system with a permanent, single strand electric perimeter fence, and portable cross fencing.

 

Materials and Tools 

  • 8 1/2”x11” Overhead Projector Sheets
  • Permanent Marker (two colors)
  • Red, Green, Blue and Black Dry Erase Markers
  • Aerial Photo Expanded to 6-8 inches squared for quarter of land.
    (You can find these at Fertilizer Dealers, Department of Ag or Google Earth)
  • Graph paper
  • Calculator
  • Access to a Photocopier

 

Step 1  – Print or Photocopy an Aerial Photo of your land

rsz_aerial_photo_step_1_310x208 (1)

If you already have an aerial photo of your land, try to enlarge it on a photocopier to fill as much of the page as possible.  If you don’t have an aerial or satellite photo, you can usually find one at your local Fertilizer Dealer, Department of Ag or using Google Earth.Click here for a tutorial on how to print a picture from Google Earth.

 

Step 2 – Draw perimeter fence onto a sheet of transparency film

rsz_aerial_photo_step_2_310x206 (1)

Place a sheet of 8.5 x 11 transparency film over your aerial photo.  Using a permanent marker, draw in the perimeter fence line. (Note: Your perimeter fence will always be energized, making it super easy to energize your cross fencing.)

rsz_aerial_photo_310x206 (1)

Next, take a different colour of permanent marker to draw in all the objects that will not change, such as sloughs, creeks, dugouts, trees or special areas.   These areas may still be grazed but require special management (Click here for further information on this topic from Cows and Fish).  For instance, a wet area may need to wait until later in the fall to be grazed.

 

Step 3 – Set up a grid to measure areas of land
rsz_aerial_photo_step_4_310x206 (1)

Place your transparency sheet with the perimeter fence marked on it, on top of a sheet of graph paper.  (Click here to download free graph paper).  Count how many squares of the graph paper are within your property line of your quarter section.  In this case, the quarter section is 22 squares by 22 squares.  Once you’ve counted up the squares inside the quarter section, simply divide the number of acres of land on the map by the number of squares you counted.  So in this case, 160 acres divided by 484 squares = 0.33 acres per square.

22 x 22 = 484 squares

Total Area = 160 acres

One Square = 160 acres divided by 484 squares

One Square = 0.33 acres
Now you know how much land is in each square on the graph paper, and you can use that number to figure out the size of each paddock you draw on the map.  All you do is count how many squares are in a paddock, and multiply that by the number you calculated (eg. 0.33 ) to see how many acres are in the paddock.

 

Step 4 – Draw Single Permanent Cross Fence and Gates

rsz_aerial_photo_step_5b__with_gates__310x206

Draw in a single strand cross fence to divide your pasture into two haves.  For example, if you have a 160 acre quarter section you would draw a single cross fence down the middle, creating two 80 acre parcels.  Also mark the locations of gates along this cross fence, likely one at each end.

 

Step 5 – Mark watering sites and/or water lines 

Mark your water lines or sources in blue.  When locating a watering site, the ground must be solid.  It costs too much to make a muddy hole stable.

rsz_aerial_photo_step_6b__with_water__310x206

If good water sources and pressure system is available, a pipeline is probably best for suplying a water trough.

 

Step 6 – Plan your paddock sizes 

Estimate how much area you will need in each paddock, given the number of cattle you want to graze and how often you want to move your cattle.  Remember that as your grass improves, you can continue to add more animals per paddock to maintain the same number of days before you rotate.  If you are new to the area you can always ask your neighbours about stocking density, or click here to learn more about calculating AUMs.

The beautiful thing about portable cross fencing is that you don’t have to calculate exactly how many pounds of forage per acre your pasture is producing.  Instead, you can guess and test, and then adjust the size of your paddock the very next time you move cattle.

The simplest method we’ve come across using portable cross fencing, is the three wire method, illustrated here.

rsz_aerial_photo_step_7b_310x206

While your cattle are grazing between fences A and B, a third portable fence C is already set up and energized.  When it’s time to move cattle, all you do is open fence B to let them into the next paddock between B and C.  Once they’re all moved across, just close fence B and simply move fence A to be in front of fence C, ready for the next move.