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wellington womble

Things that eat grass

I am vaguely thinking of getting something to keep the grass down. As I understand it, my options are (in more-or-less order of size)

Horses
Cows
Alpacas/llamas
Sheep
Geese
Ducks
Rabbits
Guinea pigs

Have I missed anything significant? Other than scale, is there anything to recommend any particular species?
tahir

Tapir?
crofter

If you have a lot of grass, you could consider a camel, or if it is only a small amount maybe a tortoise? I would suggest something which you might eventually want to eat.
Falstaff

Anything you've missed ? - Venison Smile

Easier in some ways to convert into meat, harder in others.
wellington womble

Tapir?


Can you make grass saag?! Wink
Tavascarow

Chickens & turkeys probably graze more than ducks.
Although they both like to scratch & dust bath.
chickenlady

Bloke with a lawnmower Rolling Eyes
gregotyn

Unless you want to keep stock, then I would rent the patch out to some-one else and charge in meat!
Behemoth

For pets get guinea pigs.
Nicky Colour it green

what sort of size plot?
Chez

Geese would discourage scroats, too.
Mutton

If you do let out, make sure you have a well written lease which includes clauses on management so your field is not trashed by over grazing or heavy stock on it in wet weather turning it into mud (known as poaching).

Also horses tend to be selective in what they eat - they don't eat docks - and if your grazing is exclusively horses in time the field will be overtaken by all the things they don't fancy.

You will also need to look at the standard of your fencing as to what you are trying to keep in.

Is it a field with road access and reasonable smooth? As in no rocks? Because letting it out to a farmer to crop as hay might be the simplest.
Cathryn

Guinea fowl. And they roost in the trees and just get on with it. Pheasant feeder with mixed corn in it just to keep them in the area.
Mutton

Never kept guinea fowl but neighbour did for a little while - made a noise like a squeaky wheelbarrow being pushed around the field.
Tavascarow

Never kept guinea fowl but neighbour did for a little while - made a noise like a squeaky wheelbarrow being pushed around the field.
& then the fox ate them. Or at least that's what happened to my neighbours gleenies. Ty Gwyn

Strip graze with vegan`s. Tavascarow

Strip graze with vegan`s.
I now have a vision of naked vegetarians hemmed in with electric fencing.
Not a pretty thought!!
Thanks. Laughing
wellington womble

Laughing

The place is only two acres in total, and not really conveniently arranged - there are a lot of fruit trees, a couple of greenhouses and some raised beds in the middle of it, and various other paraphanlia (a digger, for example) standing around and some large trees (complete with inconvenient TPOs) in awkward places. I don't think it's really rentable, and anyway, I'd rather play smallholding in it.

The thinking has mostly come from my compost shortage - I want to keep the grass under control, and I want to fertilise the vegetable beds, and 'mixed farming' on a micro scale would seem to the best way of doing it.

I'll be getting a few laying birds, and probably some table birds. A few guinea pigs for petting and lawn mowing duty and extending the vegetable beds. I'm considering a poly tunnel and possibly other miscellaneous birds. I'd like to plant more trees, too.

I like the idea of geese, but they are such nasty hissy, bitey brutes (well, the ones at the farm shop are. They have teeth!). Are they all like little velociraptors, or are there ones that behave a bit more like the ones in Lady J's books? If there are nice ones, I could get a trio, raise the goslings till Christmas and solve my extensive family gift list.

I'd love to have animals for meat, but we don't really eat much. There's only me and my 5 year old, eating meat perhaps two or three times a week. This weeks meat consumption was a one chicken breast, one steak and four sausages, which is pretty typical (about 15 worth of organic meat, but fairly equally split between breeds) Even if I had a pair of lambs butchered into teeny bits (legs into steaks and the chops left in racks of three or so chops) it'd take us a good couple of years to get through the two of them. I suppose I could alternate pigs and sheep, or give away joints. And I'd still have to deal with the grass in the pig years. Or possibly find someone to make hay (I don't suppose it would keep from year to year to feed stock on subsequent years? Then I could have a grassland rotation - cows, followed by sheep, followed by pigs, followed by wheat, followed by hay over five years instead of five acres and a REALLY big freezer!!)

I don't really think I have the space for cattle, which is a shame, as that's what I'd most like. A Jersey and couple of calves, for milk and veal. It would still take us ages to get through the veal, of course, but we'd have the milk, any meat would be more of a bonus. We use a lot of dairy, a lot more than meat, I feel - most weeks I buy 12 or even 16 pints of milk, 2 hard cheeses, soft cheese, a couple of pints of yoghurt, a pound of butter (for baking) and creme fraiche. Not to mention ice cream. Perhaps 20 worth, but bog standard supermarket, not organic/local etc, and all cows milk. I believe it's usual in the uk to house cows over the winter anyway, which would mean a muck heap, which is part of the point. I especially like the idea that I would have eggs and most veg and fruit (in season) from the land. I already buy things like oats, bread flour, salt and oil in bulk because our cash flow can be variable at the moment. Dairy as well would mean that could always eat well even in lean months. But while I'd have enough grass for the cow (I don't mind buying in winter hay) I doubt I would have enough for the calf/lves) and space for the couple of pigs that I'd need to soak up the milk (is that still legal anyway?) And I have no idea how to milk a cow, and have never handled cattle. I also have a small child who can barely restrain herself from hugging the elephants at the zoo. And then there are holidays. And possible supplementary feeding and scary vets bills.

Sheep don't really appeal. I could get a dual purpose breed and spin the wool (I do know how to spin, and knit at least!) and I feel like I could win a fight with a sheep. But all the threads on sheep are either them A) trying to die of something horrible and unsanitary or B) owners being majorly exasperated with them not cooperating with the things you have to do in order to lessen their chances of dying of something horrible and unsanitary. I've a five year old, I have quite enough of that sort of thing already. Also, wool takes more washing than the five year old to make it stop stinking of sheep crap and to get that horrible lanolin out.

Ducks are a possibility. But hardly likely to make a dent in the grass unless I have loads. And loads. I could give those away for Christmas I suppose.

Goats escape and eat stuff (my veg beds and greenhouses are there too, not to mention the fruit trees). I like the stuff much more than I like goats meat or goats cheese. I don't even like angora fibre (mohair makes me sneeze and itch like crazy) I like the veg etc most of all, and don't want to risk it being eaten on escapades, or make some sort of permanent Alcatraz to keep them in.

Rabbits. Well, maybe. Especially angora rabbits. Chez could come and help with them to get her monthly fix Wink It's a manageable meat size at least. A bugger to spin though and again, I don't feel it would be a whole solution. And they escape and eat stuff. See goats above, although I suppose Alcatraz would at least be smaller.

Alpacas would possibly get me laughed off the forum! They are a pyramid selling scam, of course. And expensive. I could get a couple of wethers for less than a Lawnmower mind. They latrine in one place, which would make collecting the manure easy and would guard the birds from foxes (although I have a friend who shoots who has volunteered to keep them down for the odd roasting bird. His wife also likes alpacas and has volunteered for holiday cover and also possibly to buy one herself to keep 'at livery' with us) they are supposed to be easy and not need too much fencing, don't escape and do well on poorer pasture because they benefit from the broadleaf plants and wildflowers, which all sounds very nice. No culinary benefit, of course. I reckon it would be easier to sell off alpaca yarn than meat if I didn't use it all. At least, you'd have more of a window to shift it!

Horses. Not really. I don't much like them myself (dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle) they churn up the ground something rotten. There are possible advantages to addicting lady J to them early on (girls who have horses can never afford drugs or alcohol!) I'm not sure it's outweighed by disadvantages. Anyway, she isn't old enough to muck out yet. I'd find her sharing her toys with it and probably getting kicked out of the box because she tried to give it bricks to build with or surround it with cuddlies! This may be a problem with a cow also. Plus, I'm pretty sure she can handle a chicken (one of a dozen or so) being a meat bird, but I'm less sure about a calf. They are much more cute and cuddly and there's just the one to get too attached to.

So no one animal is really an obvious choice, here. We don't eat enough meat for it to be worth rearing any one breed, I don't feel confident to go the diary route because of lack of experience, space and fear for the garden, and small animals are too small. I think I need friendly geese who can see off a fox, an experienced cow-person looking for a cow-share or alpacas.

Unless there is anything else that eats reasonable amounts of grass, makes manure, doesn't escape and eat the garden, and is useful. Perhaps I ought to sow green manure instead!? I expect the kit would cost about the same as the stock/fencing/housing/feed in the end! I've always fancied growing linseed for cloth, (if you can get it processed) or sunflowers or borage for oil. I suppose wheat is hardly worth it, although it's not about making money, just using the land to contribute to the household budget and improve the fertility of the garden, really.
Jam Lady

Guinea pigs are called cuy (pronounced rather like the squeal they make) in Peru where they are raised for food.

Here's a link, with a couple of recipes: http://gosouthamerica.about.com/od/cuisine/a/cuy.htm
Rob R

I'd love to have animals for meat, but we don't really eat much. There's only me and my 5 year old, eating meat perhaps two or three times a week.

Simple solution is to eat more of it. We spend on average 18 per week on meat for 2.5 of us, but manage to eat it on most days.
Piggyphile

Perhaps a daft suggestion but have you thought of finding another family and sharing the work, costs and results with them? You would have to be awfully selective, but if you find the right person it could work well and if you keep livestock you can have holidays and time off occasionally. dpack

from the little i know of them sheep are hard work.

guinea pigs are ace critters.

if you get hatching eggs geese will bond with you but still repel other folk and critters,they are a bit messy.

goats have a sense of humour which can be amusing or annoying

the idea of a land share is sensible if you are going to keep larger critters.

scythe or mow between the trees might be easiest,hay for the g'pigs and greens for the compost for the veg beds,g'pig compost is ace stuff

with anything smaller than a sheep fox control is probably necessary

meat can be swapped or sold if all the butchery regs are met(fairly easy if you have a local abattoir but not legal if you home butcher
gardening-girl

We had no problems with our geese. We had a gander called Alexander who used to curl his neck around Barries to be stroked. He was very gentle with his wives. wellington womble

Really? What breed were they? Did you hatch them or buy them?

We're definitely having guinea pigs. And not goats.

I have the offer of a share with alpacas. I'd like that with a cow, but I'm also concerned about having enough ground for her. I'd need someone very close by, I think, with any sort of dairy animal. My friend who likes alpacas is very reliable, and mostly vege (eating only game that her husband shoots) so she might be interested in a Jersey share as she only lives half a mile away.

I could eat more meat - Jenna won't though. I think even if we meat had it daily, the portion sizes with just one make it not really viable, if we want any variety at least.
Nicky Colour it green

I don't think you have enough land for cattle. They say an acre per cow. Even allowing for Dexters being little.. you have to plan on at least 2 at any one time or it would be cruel to the animal, imo.

if you don't particularly like sheep, I wouldn't bother to get them - I like them - they aren't that much work, but still work. Big sheep tend to be more docile, but heavy to turn, little sheep tend to be more flighty. Obviousy they need to be shorn

sheep and cows will eat unfenced trees

I think pigs are more work, as you have to feed them twice a day etc, and are a bit big and scary when they are ready to go to slaughter. On the other hand if you are only fattening weaners, the commitment only lasts about 4 months ( buy them at 2 months, move them to freezer at 6 months ish)

if you dont eat a lot of meat, you will have to think what you will do with all that pork from 2 pigs (minimum 2 re company etc)

If not eating a lot of meat, perhaps birds would be the most logical way to go.. you could have whole areas free of birds resting in rotation.
buzzy

Bloke with a lawnmower Rolling Eyes

Woman with scythe! Wink

Henry
gregotyn

I am not sure if any one has suggested pigs, but they are easy to manage, if in a secure place, hut and electric fencing-I've got one you can have. I have a friend in Somerset who would be able to talk you through the process of rearing pigs from weaning to meat, either inside or outside, and could possibly give you the opportunity to learn the basics on his farm, he rears, shows and judges pigs and 'knows'. I would contact him if you are interested. He will suggest the right breeds and how to look after them. definitely less work than sheep. They do waste time, folks just watch and watch and so on!
The positive thing about pigs is that they produce lots of food, sausages, in a small area, and for you apart from meat they also give you lots of manure, slightly acid, but suitable for spuds when fresh, but can be rested for a year and it mellows!
PM me if you are interested- he is in Illminster area, which I know is not too far from Wellington. I used to take pigs to market that way for him in my youth, when he went away with the family for the summer hols. It is only an idea.
wellington womble

I don't think you have enough land for cattle. They say an acre per cow. Even allowing for Dexters being little.. you have to plan on at least 2 at any one time or it would be cruel to the animal, imo.

I agree. If I only have birds, I will need to get a mower as well, though because all that resting land will need mowing! I was hoping to avoid that, thinking I would rather spend my time (and money) on stock to manage the grass.

Thank you for your offers and suggestions Gregotyn. I'm in the midlands, not Wellington (despite the name!) and I have discounted pigs because I really want grazers, and because we eat little pork (it will take us a very looong time to get through two pigs on four sausages a week!). I don't want the headache of selling meat - I'll leave it to the professionals.

I think I will have a chat with my friend and decide before the spring. I may go back to the trees plan, and get a contractor in to mow. Somehow, meat doesn't seem the right choice for us. Not something I'd really considered when making my life choices!!
Mistress Rose

If you have someone who is willing to help with alpacas, the fleece is worth while. I am spinning some at the moment, and although it is harder to spin than wool, it is really soft and suitable for next to the skin. Because so many people have alpacas these days the fleece isn't worth as much as it was, but if you can use it yourself, might be a good way of getting the mowing done as well as the birds.
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