Other grazing animals

laura_nash

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So, I have way too much land and grass (I know, first world problems). We were looking for somewhere with 3-4 acres and ended up with 8! For two good doers. On one side its great, my ROA horse can live out all year and never have hay which has done him the world of good (also good for the pocket). I don't need to poo pick. On the other side they are both constantly on a diet and I have one field hasn't been grazed for over year.

So far we've just about managed by topping, renting bits to a neighbour, and getting hay cut from bits by another neighbour. The renting isn't great though as I can't then use the field (to ride in etc), plus this neighbour rented the fields for a long time from the former owner and has a tendency to forget they are ours and muck spread etc. Getting hay cut is always a hassle, I feel I'm begging the neighbour to do it as they keep forgetting and the money discussion is always awkward.

So I'm thinking about getting some more animals to eat the grass. I don't really want more horses, so it would be good to get something that can cross-graze for grass / worm management (i.e. not donkeys). We don't want to be keeping animals in full time over winter, the fields have good natural shelter but a lot of the land is quite wet in winter, boggy rather than deep mud. There are dry / stony bits though (bare rock in places). The field boundaries are dry stone wall, re-enforced with electric where necessary, they are not goat or sheep proof (we have had sheep on them, but our neighbour seems to spend a lot of time re-catching them so I'd rather not). Ideally there would be the possibility of earning a bit of money in the future if we wanted to, but that isn't the main priority.

At the moment I'm thinking Dexter cows (2-3) or a small flock of alpaca's. The concern with alpaca's is the cost, and they seem a bit "pyramid-scheme"'y as the price seems to be based on re-sale to new breeders. I think we should be able to get a herd number for cows, we have an old cattle race and various outbuildings that have clearly been used for cows in the past. If we are going for a native breed it would be nice for it to be a local (Irish) one if one is available.

Any thoughts? Does anyone have alpaca's, Dexter cows, or anything similar?
 
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We have sheep with electric sheep netting inside drystone walls, which works well, even though the netting isn't actually connected to the battery. Ours are a commercial cross-breed now but the Rylands that we used to have were lovely sheep and are known as 'stay-at-home' sheep.
 

Orangehorse

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Are they going to be pets and live with you until they die or are you going to try and make some money out of them? I see you are in Ireland, but I expect there are as much paperwork there as in the UK. There maybe some courses run at colleges for people with a few acres.

Cattle and sheep are excellent for cross grazing, so that is a very good idea. But my gut instinct would be to find a local farmer who needs a bit of extra grazing and let them deal with the paperwork and lame/escapees/dead ones. It wouldn't be enough land for a big farmer, but maybe there is a some one who would appreciate an extra small field.
 

rabatsa

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There are Irish moiled cattle. Personally I would go for sheep as cattle can chew up the land in winter and sheep are better at cleaning up the fields.
 

laura_nash

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But my gut instinct would be to find a local farmer who needs a bit of extra grazing and let them deal with the paperwork and lame/escapees/dead ones. It wouldn't be enough land for a big farmer, but maybe there is a some one who would appreciate an extra small field.
Thanks Orangehorse, but as I said I already have a neighbour who is a small-time farmer (almost everyone is around here) and is happy to graze them and did for many years from the previous neighbour. After 3 years I'm finding I'm not really happy doing that, the money isn't enough to make any difference and TBH I might as well not own the land if I'm just going to rent it out to him, which is why I'm considering doing something else. Of course he wants to rent the best fields too, the one that hasn't been grazed in a year is the one with no automatic water or tractor access so neither of us want to use it!

I'm not sure whether they would be pets or I'd try and make some money from them, ideally we would make some money but it wouldn't be a disaster if they were just pets. I have no problem with doing paperwork. I have some experience with handling cows and sheep as I kept horses on working farms for many years and would help out, but I've never been in sole charge of the welfare of one. I wouldn't be doing any college courses or anything, I work full-time in a fairly challenging job, but my OH works from home part-time and could potentially take it further if there was the potential for earning any money.
 

FfionWinnie

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Get some yearling cattle on it through the summer ie not yours just rent the grass. Far better than the hassle of doing it yourself. Unless you’re near me then get me to graze it with cattle or sheep for you lol
 

DD

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having been re and got the t shirt I can honestly say either get sheep join a small holders group so that you can someone to shear and worm them or just keep mowing the grass even if it just gets composted or dumped at the tip. anything else is more time-consuming/difficult. all animals come with needs and wants and it can take over your life.
 

Orangehorse

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Cattle don't need as much care as sheep, mostly. So long as they are standing on 4 legs and eating OK. Of course they can get ill, go lame, etc. but they are generally should be less trouble. Cost more to buy obviously. Sheep always seem to be limping from one cause or another and their book of ailments is almost as big as horse's!

To make some money you would either buy as young animals and then keep until they are fat enough to go to market or have them produce offspring and rear those until old enough to sell. In calf or in lamb animals will need extra appropriate feeding.

Large numbers of cattle will poach the ground but if you have buildings you can keep them in during the winter. Also you have to think about winter forage for them so will you make hay or silage from your fields or buy in?

Do you have to TB test cattle in Ireland?

There is quite a lot to think about, but many people just go out and buy something and learn as they go along. There are plenty of books in the library on how to keep animals. My friend had some sheep to cross graze their fields and in the end she couldn't bear to take them to market so she kept them until they died of old age! I think the oldest was 12. But she was happy as they were doing the job she wanted. The biggest trouble was finding someone to shear a small number of sheep and things like wormers tend to come in packs for 100, so a friendly neighbour who can do yours at the same time as yours is always a help.
 

Wimbles

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We have sheep and alpacas. The sheep, in my opinion, do a better job of land management but I find that they're a lot more work to keep happy and healthy. The alpacas are brilliant fun and quite easy to care for (I learnt an awful lot off my own back and do all toenail trimming, shearing, worming, vaccinations etc. They are very gentle on land because of their soft padded feet but you do need to clean up their latrines regularly (it makes the most amazing fertiliser by the way!). Although some of ours are were ones that were rehomed to us at well below their value, you can get reasonably priced alpacas that maybe aren't breeding quality or don't have such nice fleeces. I personally don't think that there is much money to be made from them and you have to be quite strict with numbers (at least groups of three) and it's not great to mix the sexes. They also have to have vitamin supplements regularly throughout the winter months as they do not get sufficient exposure to sunlight with the shorter days and thick fleeces. TB testing is also something to be aware of with alpacas.

If you do go for sheep I would look at one of the steadier breeds. We have Ryelands which are great first timer sheep, as are Southdowns and probably lots more breeds. Our shearer hates them though due to hairy legs and faces! Stay clear of Herdwicks if you have fencing doubts, ours are the most incredible escape artists! The Hampshire Downs are like raging, mental bulls and I find them really hard to handle and the Leicester Longwools are just massively dramatic!

Just wanted to add that I'm by no means an experts and still relatively new to it all. Both sets of animals take up a lot of time but I wouldn't be without either!
 

only_me

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We have alpacas and they are great fun :D

Fleece is worth quite a lot and otherwise they are quite low maintenance to look after, although not sure how good they would be at grazing down a field.
 

Antw23uk

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having been re and got the t shirt I can honestly say either get sheep join a small holders group so that you can someone to shear and worm them or just keep mowing the grass even if it just gets composted or dumped at the tip. anything else is more time-consuming/difficult. all animals come with needs and wants and it can take over your life.
This.

OP it sounds like you want an easier life and getting more animals does not make life easier. Difficult most likely but can you ditch this farmer and get someone else? I would personally cut it for hay and sell. Get a good mix of seed going in it and a good reputation for decent herb filled hay and you could be onto a winner!
 

Polos Mum

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I'm struggling to think of animals that are no hassle, won't damage land and will earn you money. I let my local farmer use fields for nothing just to get rid of grass and tidy up.
Have you thought about selling the excess land? If you really don't want the hassle. Renting for sheep isn't big money here few £hundred a year - so if you're paying a mortgage on the land then I can see why you don't think that adds up!
 

only_me

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I'm struggling to think of animals that are no hassle, won't damage land and will earn you money. I let my local farmer use fields for nothing just to get rid of grass and tidy up.
Have you thought about selling the excess land? If you really don't want the hassle. Renting for sheep isn't big money here few £hundred a year - so if you're paying a mortgage on the land then I can see why you don't think that adds up!
Alpacas don’t damage the ground, and they only poo in one place so relatively easy to look after. We could have alpacas in the garden and they wouldn’t damage it . Hassle wise they need teeth & feet done about twice a year and clipped once a year, there is a duo who come over from England and do the lot in the summer.
If you want to breed they have gestation of 11 months but the cria is definitely worth it :D
 

MagicMelon

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Personally I wouldnt get cows purely due to the mess they can create of the ground which will be annoying if you still want to ride in the field? I would go down the sheep route personally as they'll help control the weeds etc. best and I assume would be lower maintenence than pretty much anything else. I know nothing of alpacas though! Really though, if i had spare land then I'd be doing my own hay (and getting someone other than your neighbour to cut it, get someone proper who will do it on time etc.).
 

laura_nash

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I would go down the sheep route personally as they'll help control the weeds etc. best and I assume would be lower maintenence than pretty much anything else.
Its funny you say that, because everyone else I've spoken to has said sheep are by far the highest maintenance option.

If we are going to rent out the land or get others to graze it then it really has to be our neighbour - anything else will be WAY more stress than its worth.

With cattle, we were thinking Dexter's because they are a good bit smaller than most cattle and supposed to be much lighter on the land (as well as being originally from the area we are in). We would get 2-3 to see how it goes and maybe look at breeding from them and selling the offspring once we'd had them more than a year and were happy we could keep them ok.

Most people around here farm a few acres on the side so we have the stuff in place for that (e.g. no problem buying small amounts of sheep / cattle wormer at the local chemist, the local butcher offers a "bring your animal and we'll butcher it for you" service).

Thanks everyone, lots to think about.
 
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