In the United States, many of us automatically think of an InSinkErator, which is a brand of electrically run mechanical grinder of food which then flushes it all down the drain for someone else to deal with. It is attached to a kitchen drain and mounted underneath.
I remember when i was growing up, we had one. There was always a good respect for its power – keep fingers and spoons out of them! However, as an adult, i’ve never had one and honestly never missed it. Now, i wonder why one would ever need this type of garbage disposal. Natural processes are excellent at garbage disposal – especially food scraps and other organic stuff.
But, garbage disposal is actually just a term that describes various ways to dispose of garbage. Your location and occupation often determines your definition of garbage and how you may dispose of it. If you have too much; it might be time to make a plan to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, repair.
In my world, food scraps are not garbage – either they are composted, (i’m lazy and just throw them out on the garden spot to break down over time, or if i’m really energetic, i may get a spade and bury them) or i feed them to our pastured laying hens (chooks), but chicken scraps go to the dog – (i never feed chicken bones and such to chickens – it just seems wrong). Fruit from fruit trees almost always produce far more than i’m willing to preserve in some fashion, so the extra is allowed to fall, rot, and provide fodder for soil microbes which in turn provides fertilizer for the tree.
There are some amazingly attractive kitchen sized compost bins available. Here are some on Amazon, but i’ve never tried any of them. Do some research before purchasing – you sure don’t want smell and/or flies in your house!
But, by and large, we have very few scraps. Leaves from broccoli and cauliflower, for example, make awesome replacement for celery or other similar greens. This goes for nearly all greens attached to vegetables. The core from tomatoes go to the chooks; they love them! Beef fat goes to the chooks for extra protein they need when bugs are in short supply outdoors. (As an aside, if you are buying eggs that are labeled as vegetarian raised chickens, the label is either a lie or the hens are in confinement – either crowded in a floored building or in a cage.)
There is a lot of hue and cry about being ‘green’, but as is usual, the ones crying the loudest are often the ones living the least ‘green’ and the biggest wasters of natural resources. They are the crowd who shout ‘do as i say, not as i do’ while they manipulate regulations to suck cash out of your pocket and put it in theirs.
We can all do better at managing resources – we are, by and large, a wasteful country because we are blessed with so much abundance.
As you may already know, Jim and Dawn Gerrish are two of the most notable and knowledgeable people when it comes to land and livestock management, including management-intensive grazing (MiG). Jim has his own consulting business which can save you lots of money right from the start of your adventure in managed grazing. Contact him through American GrazingLands Services, LLC. Find him on Youtube videos and pick up one of his well written books, Management Intensive Grazing – The Grassroots of Grass Farming and Kick the Hay Habit – a Practical Guide to Year Round Grazing.
We think it is far more important to stop making hay on your land than it is to stop feeding hay on your land. Here are some things to think about.
What Made Sense in 1973 Doesn’t Make Sense Today
Making hay is a whole lot more expensive than it used to be. This table compares input costs for making hay in 1973 in contrast to 2013.
All of the input costs have increased at a much faster rate than the value of beef cattle, lamb, or milk. To be on par with costs experienced in 1973, fed cattle should have been $284/cwt, not the $148 they were.
Hay = Inexpensive Fertility
While making hay is expensive, in much of the US, hay can be bought for less than the cost of production. When you buy someone else’s hay and feed it on your property, you are buying their fertility at a highly discounted rate. In some years in some locations, you can buy beef cattle hay for less than the fertilizer value it contains.
This is a great opportunity for improving your land in a way that also benefits soil health.
Feeding Uniformly is the Key
The key to soil improvement is to get the hay fed uniformly over your pastures. This is how you can realize the greatest benefit from purchased hay as a planned fertility input.
Large round bales are still the norm in much of US cow country. Round bales can be unrolled with relatively low-cost equipment. Bales don’t unroll uniformly all the time, but the subsequent manure distribution is way better than feeding bales in ring feeders.
Big square bales can be flaked off easily in a systematic way to cover a specific area with each bale fed.
Bale processors are expensive pieces of equipment. If you are invested in something like this, make sure you are feeding all of your hay to optimize the distribution of manure across the pasture.
We need to be thinking about how much nitrogen and phosphorus is in each bale we are feeding so we can plan our daily feeding to apply appropriate levels of nutrients rather than feeding too little and not realizing the benefit we expected or feeding too much and overloading the soil and environment with excess N. We’ll look at that next week!
Stay tuned! Jim will be covering all the data and math in this series to help us figure out how to do the best we can at improving pastures with hay feeding. If you have questions for Jim, do share them in the comments section below!