Converting Forest to Pasture

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by ArmyDoc, Jul 30, 2007.

  1. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone have any experience with this? We are looking to buy land for when I retire. My DW seems to have her heart set on, what I admit, is a beatiful parcel. Unfortunately, it is almost all forest. How difficult will it be to clear this and develop pasture?

    The area inquestion is sloping, but not too steeply. It's about 30 acres total, but I don't want to clear all of it. I was thinking about 10 acres initially, and then clear another 10 in five to ten years.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Hey.

    You have to decide if you want to sell any trees to a logging company;a forester can advise you. If the logging company wants them, part of your work would be done and you would get some cash. You have to be explicit with logging companies where they can log up to...lots of them play dumb and keep cutting past where you told them to stop. Logging will leave a mess with stumps,branches/limbs left on the ground, and small trees or species they don't want still standing.

    Clearing it yourself is alot of work. Some people clear a bit each year over a period of years. You need to leave a 4 foot stump. A backhoe is the best machine to pull over stumps. You can use a cat and shovel, but the backhoe is faster. The trees you cut can be turned into firewood or you can mill them yourself into lumber or you can have someone come in and cut firewood or you can have someone with a portable mill come in to make lumber. All of the above is dependant on what species of trees you have. Some are good for firewood and some are good for lumber and a few are marginally useable at best. The small limbs have to be burned, made into woodchips, or composted.

    After clearing, you have to prepare the soil for whatever kind of grass you want to plant.

    RF
     

  3. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    I had thought of going the logging company / paper mill route depending on the type of trees. I understand I would have to get a survey done to find out what I had to work with. My concern with going this rout is that as you mentioned I would have all the stumps left over. How would I get them out? Is stump grinding an option?

    I had two pine trees in our yard that had to be removed. When we ground the remaining stumps, the wood chips made a very nice mulch, which I guess would be a good thing for preparing the soil. But we're talking about a forest - probably 3-400 trees per acre. That's a lot of stumps!
     
  4. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    Pray for lightning? :shrug:

    Are we talking large hardwoods , tall pines or small diameter conifers?
    I have a "forest" of 3" to 14" Red Cedar weeds that are so close a rabbit needs a chainsaw to get through them. I sheared them - and sawed them - as close to the ground as possible. The stumps rot in about 2 years. If they are large trees, cut them about 2' feet up and hire and track hoe to come get them out.
    If you have a large amount of tall trees, DEFFINATLEY hire a logging company.
     
  5. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    ArmyDoc,

    You use a backhoe to pull them over or a bulldozer to push them over. That's why you need to leave a 4 foot stump...so there is something to latch onto and/or push against to get it out of the ground. The stump goes over on it's side with a big circle of roots around it.

    Having a stump grinder come in, they usually only grind it a foot or so below the surface. It is also more expensive than the dozer/backhoe if you're looking to do acres of land. It doesn't get the roots which may come back to haunt you if you want to plow later.

    RF
     
  6. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Here is my last Fall project, the area was tree covered rolling hills. The timber was harvested by a logging company, a track hoe was hired to pulled the stumps and I used a track loader to move the stumps and my agriculture tractor to prepare the area for planting. We have been in a drought condition since the planting but even so the grass is surviving but we do need rain badly.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Hi ArmyDoc do I know you? Welcome to HT. I'm FP trained at Gordon and Bragg and out since '96.
     
  8. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

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    If you aren't in a hurry, have a timber co CLEARCUT not selectcut. This will leave everything cut down with alot of stumps. After 4-5 years most of the stumps will have rotted to the point that they won't need pulling. All you will have to do is get a small bulldozer to clear the 10 foot tall regrowth and pile and burn it. It takes 1/3 the amount of time to clear regrowth than it does to pull stumps! So if you have 5 years to do it in, that would be my reccomendation.

    One advantage of this method, which we have used at our farm, is that you don't upset the topsoil as much. Scraping 3" off with the regrowth brush is much less destructive to the topsoil than goin 3 feet deep to pull up stumps. Around here soil is not very deep, so the less you do to disturb it the better off you are. Another option would be to clearcut then fence in and graze the regrowth. Either goats or cows would do a good job eating regrowth. Then after 2-3 years just bushhog it, watching out for not-yet-rotted stumps of course.
     
  9. MWG

    MWG Well-Known Member

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    I had two pastures made and a timber co used the proceeds of the timber to pay them to stump it (I had to kick in a little more). After stumping it I planted pasture mix seed and fertilized the heck out of it. I didn't reseed, but wish I had. It will be a couple years before you could put animals on it...
     
  10. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    Hmmmmm. Around here, they just use a track hoe to rip it right out of the ground - no need to leave a 4' stump. 2' is more then enough. It's a different process in different parts of the country.
     
  11. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Does your wife love the property BECAUSE it's wooded? Might want to ask before cutting down all the trees.

    For pasture, shade is important. When you start cutting, do it a little at a time. Take out all of the little stuff and see what you have. You may find that you have a nice, shady pasture with areas of full sun. You probably want to keep trees on the slope.

    Trees will not only give your livestock shade in the summer, but a stand will give them shelter from the wind in the winter. What I'm getting at is, don't take out everything. Leave trees for your livestock, for the birds, and for the value they will bring in the years to come either as lumber or at some time in the future when you'll want to sell. Nice big trees are very valuable in the residential market.
     
  12. js2743

    js2743 Well-Known Member

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    if it is timber sell it and make a deal with the logging company to pile the brush and leave the stumps they will rot out. then put a fence around it as soon as possible and seed it with a native grass KY.31 fescue works real good as pasture grass. then get you some livestock, on 10 acres maybe 5 to 10 goats and couple cows or steers they will keep the regrowth from coming and it will be clean in a couple years.
     
  13. donsgal

    donsgal Nohoa Homestead

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    Despite that your dw has her heart set on it, I would buy pasture land if I wanted pasture land. Spending the time and money clearing forest land is not cost productive. Start from zero not -100 by having to completely re-do the land. There is plenty of work to be had just running a homestead without having to deal with that. IMHO

    donsgal
     
  14. Farmerwilly2

    Farmerwilly2 Well-Known Member

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    I think I'd have to agree that unless there was a special reason for wanting the property you might be better off finding a parcel that already has pasture. Guess I just hate to see trees cut off if it can be avoided.
     
  15. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Scrounger,

    Stump length is determined by species,tree diameter,soil, and equipment used. Real sandy soil, you can use a chain and tractor. You get better leverage with a longer stump.

    RF
     
  16. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    Yeah - I know - we have sand, loam, clay - a mix of everything. They STILL only leave a foot or two of the stump. They usually dig them out, not lever them out. I've pulled small cedars (up to 6"- 7" in loam) with my tractor. I've also cut 24" Hedge, Ash, Cottonwood, Mulberry and Locust at 1' and dug them out with a hoe. Just different ways of doing it in different parts of the world. What ever works for you!
     
  17. ArmyDoc

    ArmyDoc Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the replies! I'll try give a bit more information.

    First off, I haven't actually seen the land yet, as I'm currently in Iraq. We were planning to buy a different property which actually had a large pasture, but the deal fell through. God's providence I think, since I got deployed shortly after what would have been the closing time. So now we are again in the process of trying to find land.

    Unfortunately, but in this area most properties are completely forested and any pasture land is more of the exception than the rule. I found a 40 acre place on the MLS, with a beautiful 10 acre spring fed pond/lake. DW went to look at it the other day. She seems to be quite taken with the place, but the remaining 30 acres are in mixed hardwood and pine.

    If I understand the majority of the posts, the recommendation is to have a timber company clear cut the areas I want to convert to pasture, and then either let the stumps rot or have them pulled depending on my time frame. Consensus seems to be stump grinding is too expensive and not as effective. What does it cost to have the stumps pulled?

    Maura, I don't want to clear the whole place - I like trees myself. What I was thinking about was clearing 5 - 10 acre pastures with 50 - 100 ft of brush cleared "forest" between them. I'd like to leave about 200 ft around the perimeter of the entire property essentially as it is now. The only thing that concerns me is how practical this is, and the fact that it greatly decreases the "usable" land.

    RosewoodfarmVA, you suggested grazing in the clear cut area and letting the stumps rot in place. Is this safe for the animals? I imgagine the stumps are not a problem at first, but as they rot do they cause holes that the animals might step in and hurt themselves? I would only be starting of with a few cows and maybe some goats for the first 4-5 years. Eventually I would like to raise about 10-15 cattle.

    Jenn, we probably do know each other. I did my General Surgey Residency at EAMC and have been stationed there off and on since '93. I'll send you an e-mail.

    Thanks again for all your help!
     
  18. Thoughthound

    Thoughthound Well-Known Member

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    No help here.

    I'm trying to go from pasture to timber.

    You e-mail me some trees and I'll e-mail you some sod.
     
  19. gracie88

    gracie88 gracie88 Supporter

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    I have stumps in my field. They were big trees (doug fir). They are partially rotten now but it will be a loooong time before I have holes. Really, the only trouble I can see is that they are unattractive. My goats love climbing on them. I would be more inclined to worry about horses with their long, spindly legs than goats or cows.
     
  20. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your service!