Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Flesh Is Grass - Book Review

All Flesh Is Grass by Gene Logsdon

This book is a must read/own for anyone considering grass farming (pasture based livestock).  In the book he discusses:

How to set up a rotation of pastures
Which plants he prefers and ones that will do well in other climates
How to graze the pastures
What problems specific pastures (plant type) might pose to livestock
How to cut pastures for hay and silage
How to seed pastures with the minimum of equipment
How to divide permanent pastures and temporary pastures (used for gardens, hay making, growing grains, etc.)
How to build and maintain fences
Stocking rates for animals (though this varies by region and quality of the soil)
What plants to avoid in your pastures
Which trees are good on pastures
Good and Bad weeds for grazing
How to make a haystack
How to build a reserve of plant material for winter grazing
How to approach year round grazing with minimal hay or grain feed
And most importantly how to let the animals do most of the work

This book is aimed more at a garden farmer who is trying to maximize self sufficiency than the production minded market/commercial farmer.  For commercial farmers who are willing to sacrifice some of the quantity for quality, then this book will work for you too.  Most of the discussion is framed around farms in the 5-50 acre range.  It is still helpful for those who will have less land for a few animals and is also scalable for farms in the 50-500 acre range.  Gene is not anti grain , he just believes in planting it with other crops like clover and letting the animals harvest and feed it to them selves.  Instead of 90% grain and 10% pasture he advocates for 80% pasture and 20% grain.  Though on his farm he only dedicates about 10% to corn in one of his temporary pastures.  This corn he recommends sheep graze first, then hogs, and finally dry cows and draft animals.

What is not covered, and for good reason, is how many animals to stock on how much land for how long in a rotational grazing system.  The reason is it will be different fro every farm.  Depending on what mix of animals you have, the quality of the soil, how much rain, what plant types and which species of those plants is how you need to base those decisions.  That can only be done by the eye of the farmer and knowledge gained from years of experience.  For this reason he suggest that someone who wants to get into commercial pastured meat products first start with a small farm and learn the technique, before investing lots of money and learning the hard way.

This book is good for a laugh and knowledge for beginners,  as well as a reference to other books and publications on pasture based farming.

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