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Rehabbing Bare Agriculture Land for Pasture--how difficult?

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  • Rehabbing Bare Agriculture Land for Pasture--how difficult?

    Hi All,
    My fiance and I are looking at a small parcel of about 8 acres which has been farmed. We haven't had anyone else look at the property yet with us, but the soil seems to be a very high clay composition.

    My question is, how long and how difficult would it be to replant this acreage and turn it mostly into pasture. I'd like to also eventually build a barn and an outdoor ring so we'd have to plan that out first obviously.

    Is there a way to use the horses to speed up the process, au naturale? Turn them out on bare ground and let them naturally fertilize it, while obviously feeding them hay in the meantime until there is pasture available? I don't mind taking longer to do it, especially if we can reduce costs on planting the field. In NY our grazing season isn't horrifically long anyway.

    Would it be silly to do small sections at a time, or just a waste of money?Although, I must admit I hate having all the land unplanted, the runoff and erosion makes my skin crawl. I don know if we could afford to do 8 acres at once.

    So if anyone has done this, I'd love input. We are house/landshopping so this parcel just happens to be one option at the moment since the one property we really loved so far scooped up by land investors with more capital than us.
    [i]Only great sorrow or great joy can reveal your truth.~ Kahlil Gibran
    My current project of local food/sustainability http://community.fingerlakesfoodie.com

  • #2
    I dont know about the particulars but personally, I would be leery of land that has been used to produce crops for a very long time. The soil is most likely saturated with chemicals from commercial farming.

    When I bought land one of the biggest priorities was that it had never been farmed. What we bought was 22 acres that was mostly hay fields - cow hay fields, in the same family for over 100 years and they had never done anything but seed and lime.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    ---
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

    Comment


    • #3
      unless you buy a dairy farm that has pockets of methane gas underneath...
      The soil does not get 'saturated' since excess gets washed away.

      You hire somebody with a tractor and a seeder. but the seed out (in early fall or spring depending on the region.) and let the grass grow. horses don't pop enough to have an impact on the fertilizing (matter of fact, horses don't eat whee they crap, so there.) and they are very destructive on the vegetation.

      I am sure Tamara can explain it better when she comes in.

      While stuff will grow when you stop working the field for agriculture, what you will see growing while you have horses on will be what they don't eat. You save yourself a lot of trouble by doing it right (but that does not mean you can't have a couple of dry lots/sacrifice paddocks in the mean time. Chances are you will need them anyhow.)

      Comment


      • #4
        If it were me, I would do what one of the neighbours did - start it out as a hayfield, with turf forming grass and preferably with some alfalfa for nitrogen fixation.The first year will be little hay, but the next couple years will be better. Then you can overseed with more grass, let it grow another couple of years, then it will be mostly livestock safe, meaning hooves won't punch through the turf. If you have heavy clay soil, it is not an instant process but a very slow one and going the reverse is equally slow - takes a few years of leaving the broke land lying fallow to get rid of the grass.
        When you seed, make sure the person doing the job pulls packers over it as well - you have to compact the soil somewhat after seeding.
        Keep the ponies off the stuff for a good while, keep them up and feed hay, even if it seems a waste with perfectly good grass growing on the other side of the fence, but hooves will do a great amount of damage to the plants, particularly the roots and to the soil, which does need several seasons to settle.
        Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

        Member: Incredible Invisbles

        Comment


        • #5
          We purchased a bankrupt dairy farm back in 1988; every
          bit of the arable land was planted in soybeans. We took
          a small (about one acre) space and fenced it for the horses
          and left the other 100 acres open that winter. The next
          Spring we planted part of the land and rented the rest to
          a neighbor who wanted to crop that land. The following
          year we planted the rest for pasture and hay. Our land
          is also clay (clay/loam actually) and it is quite productive
          land. You will need to wait a year from planting before
          you graze the land if you want the pasture to establish
          well; earlier grazing will result in having to replant that
          pasture soon.
          Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
          Elmwood, Wisconsin

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
            unless you buy a dairy farm that has pockets of methane gas underneath...
            The soil does not get 'saturated' since excess gets washed away.

            You hire somebody with a tractor and a seeder. but the seed out (in early fall or spring depending on the region.) and let the grass grow. horses don't pop enough to have an impact on the fertilizing (matter of fact, horses don't eat whee they crap, so there.) and they are very destructive on the vegetation.

            I am sure Tamara can explain it better when she comes in.

            While stuff will grow when you stop working the field for agriculture, what you will see growing while you have horses on will be what they don't eat. You save yourself a lot of trouble by doing it right (but that does not mean you can't have a couple of dry lots/sacrifice paddocks in the mean time. Chances are you will need them anyhow.)

            This is what we did. Our barn and pasture are on former crop fields. I think it is great, it was already flat, with good drainage, we paid the farmer that had been farming it to lime, disc, plant and fertilize for us. Do it right the first time, and save yourself trouble in the long run!!!
            http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

            http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
              You will need to wait a year from planting before
              you graze the land if you want the pasture to establish
              well; earlier grazing will result in having to replant that
              pasture soon.

              Also great advice! We waited 2 and a half years before putting the horses on ours, because our barn took that long to build, and cut it for hay in the meantime.
              http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

              http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
                unless you buy a dairy farm that has pockets of methane gas underneath...
                The soil does not get 'saturated' since excess gets washed away.

                You hire somebody with a tractor and a seeder. but the seed out (in early fall or spring depending on the region.) and let the grass grow. horses don't pop enough to have an impact on the fertilizing (matter of fact, horses don't eat whee they crap, so there.) and they are very destructive on the vegetation.

                I am sure Tamara can explain it better when she comes in.

                While stuff will grow when you stop working the field for agriculture, what you will see growing while you have horses on will be what they don't eat. You save yourself a lot of trouble by doing it right (but that does not mean you can't have a couple of dry lots/sacrifice paddocks in the mean time. Chances are you will need them anyhow.)
                I know this is probaby true...

                But I love knowing, for example, tobacco was never grown here.
                "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                ---
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                Comment


                • #9
                  finding out the previous crop and if it was plowed or no till would start the discussion the right way :>
                  I think you'd be blessed to start with real farmland and not someone's weed patch

                  Tamara
                  Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                  I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It doesn't sound like it was an old apple orchard, but fyi those are known to have soil contaminated with arsenic.

                    It sounds like this land will take a year or more to be ready for horses . . . are there any other parcels that could be ready immediately?
                    https://www.facebook.com/SugarMapleFarm
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                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ummm, lime is a chemical!

                      If land is saturated with chemicals, how do you expect it to produce anything? Do you realize that the crops coming off that land are used to feed animals that feed humans?

                      I just baled over 102 bales per acre of fairly high quality grass hay on my formerly saturated commercial ag ground. All we did was plant seed (no tilled), spot spray for some Johnson grass, and wait for it to grow!

                      Yes, it can take up to a year to be ready for pasture, but if you treat it right, it is definitely well worth it. You can do small sections at a time. but it is easier to do it all at once since the equipment is already there.
                      "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cutter99 View Post
                        Ummm, lime is a chemical!

                        If land is saturated with chemicals, how do you expect it to produce anything? Do you realize that the crops coming off that land are used to feed animals that feed humans?

                        I just baled over 102 bales per acre of fairly high quality grass hay on my formerly saturated commercial ag ground. All we did was plant seed (no tilled), spot spray for some Johnson grass, and wait for it to grow!

                        Yes, it can take up to a year to be ready for pasture, but if you treat it right, it is definitely well worth it. You can do small sections at a time. but it is easier to do it all at once since the equipment is already there.

                        LOL, you get that precise, water and air are chemicals, too!

                        Also a good point though: you take stuff off the field you have to replenish it: you harvest grains you have to fertilize as well as when you cut hay and bale it. It's actually the same with your house lawn: if you bag the grass clippings and haul them away, eventually you have to fertilize...

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks for the replies everyone!

                          I love the idea of finding out what was farmed there, because that obviously has an impact on the soil. We'd need to do soil testing as well obviously.

                          This parcel actually backs up to another lot with a home that is for sale with 2 acres on it, and we could use that as temporary pasture I believe. Most of the homes for sale around here that have enough acreage for horses are either too far from our places of work, or are very far beyond our price range. It's difficult, if not almost impossible, to find enough acreage (5+), that has a liveable house on the premises in the under 100k price range. If I absolutely have to, we will do our first house without horses, but not having them is killing me. My parents also offered us land on their property, but the SO isn't so crazy about building a home literally on top of them.

                          This property has a fabulous location, and backs up to an adjacent lot that we could live in, while we build, farm etc which is why it is ideal.

                          Once seeded the pasture definitely sit by itself for a year. I'm wondering if there's any other resources that explain the mechanics of actually reseeding a field for pasture. I haven't contacted our extension office yet and there's some local farmers we'll also probably lean on a bit if we get this far.

                          Also what type costs can I expect to incur in this endeavor? Obviously seed, but how much? And what else?

                          And the million dollar question, is it possible to do this without a tractor? Or can I get away with buying a really old tractor for a couple thousand dollars to avoid spending the amount of a car on a tractor?
                          [i]Only great sorrow or great joy can reveal your truth.~ Kahlil Gibran
                          My current project of local food/sustainability http://community.fingerlakesfoodie.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            First, go to your local Farm Service Agency and you can ask for maps of the land and all the records of what was planted there.

                            They will also direct you to the Soil Conservation Agency right in the same office and there you can apply for up to 75% cost share to put that land back in grass, if you qualify.
                            Yes, the government programs will pay up to that to help you turn farmland into grass.
                            Some programs will even pay you so much a year for leaving it in grass, for as many years as you sign you will not return it to farm land.
                            Your taxes at work.

                            Here, you have to leave newly planted grass land ungrazed for two years before you can graze it, to help it get established with a good root system, but where you are that may not be so.

                            Planting grass is easier than a regular crop, just put the seed in and let it grow.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              [QUOTE]
                              Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                              First, go to your local Farm Service Agency and you can ask for maps of the land and all the records of what was planted there.

                              They will also direct you to the Soil Conservation Agency right in the same office and there you can apply for up to 75% cost share to put that land back in grass, if you qualify.
                              QUOTE]
                              sorry Bluey...

                              OP you stay the hell away from those people in both the FSA and the SCA...their help is not free and "their" money given to you is taken from others...very often at their idea of "gunpoint"

                              and they will haunt what you do on your own land for the next 5-10 years depending on what they convince you to sign up for.

                              trust me.do it yourself and avoid them

                              Tamara
                              Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                              I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by JenL View Post

                                And the million dollar question, is it possible to do this without a tractor? Or can I get away with buying a really old tractor for a couple thousand dollars to avoid spending the amount of a car on a tractor?
                                if you have never fiddled with tractors, just pay someone with good equipment to help you...it is very romantic granted,but unless you buy new with GREAT dealer support your tractor sits idle/broke most of the time.


                                find a real farmer in your area with good pastures...they did not fall from the sky after all

                                if you are sincere in the asking,most of them really will be glad to help you...even more than we/I/me can online....

                                esp since I've never lived in the "Nawth" and growing things there is as foreign to me as growing somthing on the Western African Coast

                                Tamara
                                Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                                I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  [QUOTE=Tamara in TN;6405261]
                                  Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                                  First, go to your local Farm Service Agency and you can ask for maps of the land and all the records of what was planted there.

                                  They will also direct you to the Soil Conservation Agency right in the same office and there you can apply for up to 75% cost share to put that land back in grass, if you qualify.
                                  QUOTE]

                                  sorry Bluey...

                                  OP you stay the hell away from those people in both the FSA and the SCA...their help is not free and "their" money given to you is taken from others...very often at their idea of "gunpoint"

                                  and they will haunt what you do on your own land for the next 5-10 years depending on what they convince you to sign up for.

                                  trust me.do it yourself and avoid them

                                  Tamara
                                  Sorry, Tamara, those offices and their contracts have been around here since 1956, when the first "land bank" programs started, then in 1986 the CRP program.

                                  I know many farmers that put marginal land in those programs and have re-signed on and on and lived off those payments just fine, not harassed at all.

                                  We have never participated, but our county is 50% CRP, has been since 1986 and would be higher if they accepted more.
                                  Most everyone here has some land in that program and are more than happy.

                                  I don't know what farming in NYS is, what those offices are there, but it would not hurt to go by, get the maps and ask some questions, pick their brains, then decide what you can use from that information.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Ours was in wheat when we got ours. After the farmer harvested, he came in and sprayed round-up. We did a soil test. He then came in and put in the seed. We purchased the seed and he charged us not a whole lot above cost as long as we were flexible with schedule, so we could be a low priority. The fields sat for a year before horses and some areas weren't fenced for 2 yrs.
                                    Epona Farm
                                    Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

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                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      [QUOTE=Bluey;6405281]
                                      Originally posted by Tamara in TN View Post

                                      Sorry, Tamara, those offices and their contracts have been around here since 1956, when the first "land bank" programs started, then in 1986 the CRP program.

                                      I know many farmers that put marginal land in those programs and have re-signed on and on and lived off those payments just fine, not harassed at all.

                                      We have never participated, but our county is 50% CRP, has been since 1986 and would be higher if they accepted more.
                                      Most everyone here has some land in that program and are more than happy.

                                      .
                                      of course they are happy...it's welfare for farmers and no the soil conservation offices are not fully forth coming with the amount of power they actually wield over you....

                                      we have had to deal with them for a decade with TOTALLY negative results... nothing in my heart or soul can make me say any thing good about them now or ever.

                                      they are disgusting and I will warn the others when ever I can

                                      Tamara
                                      Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                                      I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        [QUOTE=Tamara in TN;6405300]
                                        Originally posted by Bluey View Post

                                        of course they are happy...it's welfare for farmers and no the soil conservation offices are not fully forth coming with the amount of power they actually wield over you....

                                        we have had to deal with them for a decade with TOTALLY negative results... nothing in my heart or soul can make me say any thing good about them now or ever.

                                        they are disgusting and I will warn the others when ever I can

                                        Tamara
                                        We are in a semi-arid region, with record breaking droughts since 1991, only one year we had above normal moisture most other years since not even half of normal, to barely nothing.

                                        That may be farmer's welfare, but without those programs, we would be back in a dustbowl.
                                        I think they serve their purpose and honestly, no one has ever resented signing at all, in fact, the line up to get in the next sign up if possible.

                                        Maybe where farming is easy, you get regular, dependable reins, etc. you can do without and resent if you do sign and have to follow some guidelines, because you can do fine without them.

                                        Anyway, the OP doesn't has to sign anything, if she qualifies for any fencing, planting grass, water development, whatever.
                                        The FSA and others offer all information and maps free.

                                        Comment

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