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Amy Dunnington and David Borkman, Gilbert Stuart Road,
North Kingstown, RI

Setting: The farm currently raises between 6 to 10 sheep, four sheep dogs (trained as working herd dogs), and 12 layer hens. The home farm contains about one acre of land, with about 1/3 acre available for grazing. The farm also has access to about 4 acres of pasture land located one mile away and historically used about 0.5 acre of neighboring land for additional pasture. The farm also has a vegetable and flower garden (about 1,400 sq. ft.) which is planted to a winter rye cover crop in the fall and receives compost made from chicken and sheep manure and bedding collected during winter months. The home is served by a private drinking water well.

Area 1: pasture and animal waste management

The owners have been renovating the pastureland over the last two years to improve forage species, forage quality and quantity. Lime and fertilizer have been applied based on soil test results. White clover has been seeded to improve soil fertility and pasture protein and palatability. Portable electranet fencing and portable battery fence chargers are used to manage the sheep grazing on a rotational or management intensive basis. The layer hens have been raised in a coop with a small, permanent fenced yard and the manure and bedding are composted for use in the vegetable garden.

October 2003, moving the sheep to a new paddock, adjacent neighboring land.

April - October: Continue to improve the management and placement of grazing animals to improve desired forage species, forage quality and quantity, as well as the utilization of manure and nutrients to protect water quality. Additional soil tests will be collected over smaller management areas to monitor and amend soil fertility as needed. The sheep will be rotated between the home farm and the available pasture located 1 mile away. This will allow the pasture area at the home farm to rest and re-grow. Making use of neighboring land that is available for grazing also reduces feed costs.

Electranet fencing for sheep -- electrified netting
This fencing system is portable and is key in allotting the amount of pasture forage needed over a given residency time.

The owners generally use a two day residency time which requires a rough paddock sizing of 65 to 75 feet square (up to 5,625 sq. ft. ) when grazing all 10 sheep together. The key with this system of grazing is that paddock size can be changed as needed to provide the required feed for the given residency time while minimizing undergrazing or overgrazing. Paddock sizing will change based on the number of animals being grazed, the grasses present within the paddock area, the effects of improvements being made, soil type, current weather conditions and time of year.

The immediate forefront shows where the sheep grazed prior to the current fenced paddock. The area to the topleft of the photo shows where the sheep will move to next. July 2003.

White clover, introduced in the previous year to enhance soil fertility and pasture nutrition and palatability. Care must be taken to prevent bloat in ruminants such as sheep and cows. White clover should not populate more than 40% of the pasture. July 2003

pasture area recently clipped to eliminate ungrazed clumps and promote new leaf growth, July 2003

intellishock 20B battery powered fence charger system using a rechargeable 12 volt car battery -- it is very important that fence chargers are properly grounded and operating so that the animals respect the fence.

The car battery is heavy and needs frequent re-charging.

Solar panel and 9-volt dry cell battery (to be used once) was installed in August 2003. The dry cell battery is much lighter to carry and does not require recharging. The solar panel will increase the life of the battery.

Grazing poultry:
The owners began to graze their poultry during the 2003 grazing season as part of this project. The benefits include a more uniform balance and dispersal of poultry manure over the land available, as well as natural pest control--both with grubs in the soil and pasture parasites that can affect the sheep (by scattering the sheep manure and exposing it to the sun). The recommended management is to follow up the sheep paddocks with the poultry where feasible. In the case of layer hens, this also results in the need for a moveable coop. Bird predation from hawks and other birds of prey can be an issue with this system. Periodic soil testing should be conducted to monitor nutrient levels in the soil.

poultry net fencing -- electrified netting designed for grazing poultry.

For more information about grazing managment

Pastures, Fencing, and Watering on Small Acreages: Protecting Our Drinking Water, Families & Animals, Fact Sheet 3 of our small acreage livestock series

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Warwick, RI office, (401) 828-1300

The Northeast Grazing Guide -- Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium

The University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture Vermont Pasture Network

Small Acreage Livestock Education Program

Pet Waste Managment -- sheep dogs

The sheep dogs occupy a small fenced yard immediately behind the house when they are not in the pastures. The owners would collect the solid dog waste from the fenced yard about once each week and dispose of it in the trash.

Due to the well drained soil conditions on the farm, the owners were willing to try an in-ground dog waste disposal system that works much like a septic tank.

Doggie Dooley in-ground disposal system
not recommended for areas with poor soil drainage and high water tables. System is not effective when soil temperatures reach 40 degrees F (winter months). The unit does not need to be removed. Do not locate near a drinking water well, surface water body, or vegetable garden.

Model 3000 -- for up to 3 medium sized pets, installed June 2003 in the dog yard.

Water and solid waste must be added every day for proper operation. Digester enzymes are added once each week.
By September 2003, it was determined that the model 3000 alone was not enough to handle the solid waste collected in the dog yard. Too much solid waste began to accumulate. The owners liked the way the system operated and did not experience odor problems (a claim made by the manufacturer due to the special enzymes used). The owners located a new large capacity in-ground disposal system (up to 4 dogs) that became available during 2004. They plan to install this model in spring 2005. Stay tuned.

For more information: Pet Waste and Water Quality Protection

Area 2: runoff management and home made rain barrels