Micro-Farming

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by pointer_hunter, Apr 24, 2005.

  1. pointer_hunter

    pointer_hunter Well-Known Member

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    I am looking for information on micro-farming or close-loop farming. I am really interested in tying several things together such as the rabbits, worms, chickens, pigs, compost, raised bed gardening and fish. I’ve found a few articles that help lay out the plans that keep all of the livestock and crops on two acres without having to purchase much of anything to maintain. The only problem is the setups that I’ve found are built for pushing out 60 meat birds and 60 fryers a week with 72 4’x8’ worm beds. That is a bit much for me. I’m looking for ideas or layouts on a much smaller scale. I’m thinking I’ll have to keep most of it indoors as I’m in Michigan and today we’re having a snow storm! I’d like to run all of the lights and electrical from solar if I can as well as running a drip irrigation system to the plants and animals.

    Any direction, advice or comments are greatly appreciated.
    Ervin
     
  2. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    Try doing a search on sustainability, which is what it sounds to me like you're after.

    I have found articles in the past on small scale sustainable agriculture, including using rabbits/worms/fish waste-aquaculture/hydroponics/poultry all in a loop. Have not seen anything with larger livestock, which would require a higher volume of food...like dairy goats. I don't have any links to offer, but the information you're after is out there.

    Meg
     

  3. pointer_hunter

    pointer_hunter Well-Known Member

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    I'll continue my search, but I thought maybe someone here was trying this on a small scale. I got the idea from Ken and his book, which I recommend. None of the articles that I have come across give me an idea as to how many rabbits/cages it takes to produce enough worms to feed the fish, chickens and new bins, or how much compost mixed with corn to feed the pigs.

    But thanks for the post, it gives me something else to search for. Sometimes I get out there and can't think of anything to search on :bash:
     
  4. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    I haven't seen the information you are looking for anywhere. Perhaps you could do your own studies and publish the information for the benefit of all? That's how most of our useful information has come about!

    Kathleen
     
  5. QueenB04

    QueenB04 Well-Known Member

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    Pointer_Hunter,

    We have 7 acres that we rent on. We have the following, 1 horse, 2 donkeys, 2 sheep(ewe and lamb,) 2 pigs(one hog one sow,) 3 cats, several chickens(still working on building up our chickens) and 3 ferrets. We have 3 pastures. One about 1 acre, the other about 1/2 acre with barn, in wooded area, also our lambing area, and for the horses when the smaller pasture needs a break also our winter paddock, and one about 3 acres with woods and stream. We're still working on it but our plan is as follows.
    The first pasture is going to be strictly for sheep when we expand, and maybe a feeder steer or two. This also has a smaller paddock we plan on holding more sheep when lambs are being introduced outside. Also our working lot for worming, vaccinations, or if any animals are sick.
    The seccond like I said we primarily use for when that pasture needs a break, also a good wintering lot, and lambing area. We sowed grass about a month and a half ago with last snow and it's taking off really well even when the animals were in there.

    We're in the process of fencing the 3rd pasture in, the horse and donkeys go in there.

    Our pigs connect to the first pasture in an ajoining fenced area divided into 2 lot's. The first is about 30X30, the second is about 30X20(empty until summer.) They are currently in our 2 mobile garden lot's also reffered to as a pig tractor, we'll be pulling them out next weekend. Mean while our chickens were placed into their lot to break down their ummm 'left overs' shall we say, and we suppliment with scratch and organic products we find around here, worms, compost etc. The chickens will go back into their run once we move the pigs back in. The pigs will go back into their first lot until summer time after the 2nd lot grows up, when they eat that down we'll move them back into their first lot, and then into the woods, especially as fall arrives foraging is great for acorns and leaf clean up.

    Next weekend we plan on plowing up the garden, we've waited because I had a feeling about the weather and sure enough we've hit 30 a few times in the past couple of weeks, we've also hit 90 as well. And we've had to hard and driving rains the past few days for gentler seeds and plants, so we'll turn everything up Saturday, till, and plant on Sunday. We had a very prolific garden last year and hope to have the same. We collect alot of bug, beetles and such to feed to the chickens from them, and also great for the pigs end of picking time.

    Our plans are to breed our pigs for meat, same with the sheep. We're in the process of finding a ram right now. Donkeys protect everything, we haven't seen a skunk, fox, stray dog etc since we've had them. We have only a few chickens right now, so we're in the process of building up with them now, I would like to be able to sell eggs and keep a few extra fryers in the freezer, nothing big, but enough to sustain us, a few family, friends and buyers.

    My other plan for the chickens is to set up raised beds for worms and insects that also aid in composting organic material on the farm and by doing so feed the chickens a more natural diet. I'd like to be able to move the chickens out with the sheep as well and put one of the doneys in there for extra protection. I'm a big fan of free ranging my animals.

    We do this on 7 acres, if you need any more info let me know, I'm glad to help. We're still kind of undercontruction phase, but we take it slow and steady so we use so it can produce healthy crops in the long run, rather than overwhelming it. :) Good luck and enjoy!
     
  6. blufford

    blufford Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Heres another link that may be helpful. I think this was the person who used rabbits to heat her greenhouse.
    www.solviva.com
     
  7. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'll be no real help to you, but:

    There is an ecconomy of scale to consider. Each of those enterprises requires some capital & some labor & some long-term investment. If you make each of them too small, you will never be able to pay the start-up costs.

    You need to consider if you are using a compost pile for heat, you need to be big enough to generate enough manure to sustain the composte pile & create enough excess heat to actually work - this would require enough poulty to move forward. And so forth.

    While you will save input costs, you do need a lot of labor for each enterpise. Fewer numbers of each likely will not save much actual time - the cost of labor is in dealing with that segment at all. As it is a loop system, you will need to start & learn each thing all at about the same time - a huge start-up cost & investment of labor as you learn.

    I would be careful not to start out too small in this, or you will set yourself up for failure. You need to be big enough to cover the startup costs, and collecting 5 eggs or 50 eggs/ watering & feeding 10 chickens/ 75 chickens is _almost_ the same amount of time needed. Don't get yourself so small that it is pointless.

    Solar for heat & light gets spendy. Typically the sun is pretty low & weak up here when it is cold & the nights are long. Might want to do underground heat tubes, compost pile heat, and so on. Plot out the solar parts carefully, you are not quite as cold as me, but you might have a bit more clouds in winter than I do. Solar is difficult in winter when most needed around here.

    You need to be big enough to be successful at this. Now, if you are just going to try a bit or 2 of the pieces to see if you like it/ can make it work, fine. But a closed loop system, to be successful, would need to be big enough to sustain itself......

    --->Paul
     
  8. pointer_hunter

    pointer_hunter Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Paul,
    That is kind of what I am looking for right now. I just want to see what size I need to shoot for before getting in too deep. I thought of going small as a hobby just to see if I could make it sustainable. I don't know if I want to go out and find a market for large scale poultry and rabbit. I'm just looking to see how many rabbits I would need to produce enough waste for the worm bed; to produce enough worms to feed a small flock of hens and a tank of fish as well as how much compost or worm dirt the bins will provide to start a few raised beds of greens for the rabbits and corn for the hens and to mix with the compost for hog feed. The solar was just an idea to keep DW from yelling about spending too much on electricity for lights as most of this would be inside a greenhouse type atmosphere. I don't want to go too small, but again, don't want to go too large as well. I want it juuuust right :D
     
  9. hollym

    hollym Well-Known Member

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    I'm in the process of trying to figure this out too, only I also want some hydroponics in the loop. One book on worms that is very good is just called "Earthworms", can't remember the author, but it has a section on rabbits feeding the worms, also good info on bin construction.

    hollym
     
  10. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

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    Has anybody read this book? I would love to know how to heat a greenhouse with rabbits and chickens, but $35 is a bit spendy for me.

    Shane
     
  11. Lisa A

    Lisa A Well-Known Member

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    You might look up permaculture. That's largely what that's all about - closing
    the loops in agricultural systems so you don't need external inputs.

    One thing I've learned is every place and situation is different, so even if
    someone provides exact data you may not get quite the same results (could
    be better, could be worse). And there's a learning curve on all these ventures
    so start small with a few elements, like raised beds and chickens, expecting
    to buy inputs to start with as you get the worm beds into production, see
    how fast compost bigs fill up, etc.

    These no-input-maintance plans, do they call for breeding your own broiler
    fryer chicks? Or just their food, and you buy day-old chicks? I'm also skeptical
    about pigs; raising weiners is one thing but breeding size pigs are huge and
    must eat a ton.
     
  12. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    You might try John and Martha Storey's "Basic Country Skills". It's a very generalized but extremely informative book that covers everything you need to homestead on a small acreage. It's a very large paperback book, retails for $25 but you might find it cheaper on ebay or thru a book club if you belong. Once you really get into a particular subject you will probably want more information than is offered in this book alone - but we found it extremely useful on our place. Good luck. - Liz.
     
  13. flutemandolin

    flutemandolin mark an eight, dude!

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    Sylvar- I recently read Solviva; my local library was able to get it for me so I didn't have to shell out the $$. It was good, but I was a bit disappointed to find out that the greenhouse is no longer in existence and the concepts have not been applied (to my knowledge) anywhere else. What I do remember about the heating with rabbits and chickens was that they had to design a special vent system for dealing with excess ammonia vapor, which was damaging the plants. It wasn't too high tech, but it would be worth it to buy the book to see how it was done if you seriously want to get in to this.

    pointer-hunter: A lot of the concepts you are interested in seem to be still in the experimental stages with varying degrees of success. Every so often someone or some organization comes up with a plan, they work on it for a few years, get some promising results, write a book about it, then for some reason or other the operation goes belly up. I'm not trying to be cynical, I really would like to see some of what you've described be applied successfully and sustainably, but no one seems to have come up with a system that works in the long run. Perhaps it would be good to study, along with the methods and techniques applied, the reasons why some of these ventures did not succeed. I'm thinking of Solviva and the New Alchemy Institute as examples. Also do a search for "aquaponics"; there is a couple in Missouri, and I can't think of their names right now, who have had some success and they host a listserve on the subject.

    Good luck!