My gosh we're lucky, but we're also overwhelmed!!

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by AliCT, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. AliCT

    AliCT Member

    Messages:
    5
    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2016
    Location:
    soon to be Western South Dakota
    Hello folks, this is my first thread! DH and I live in New York City now :shocked: but in July this year we're quitting our jobs and moving to South Dakota to take over our family's ranch property out in the very western part of the state.

    Realistically, we have financial obligations which mean that at least one of us and probably both of us will need to have town jobs for at least a little while but we want to hit the ground running and start putting this long neglected 400 acres to work!

    Our neighbor has been running about 50 cow-calf pairs on the land long as I remember, but clearly we have more space than we know what to do with. I don't think the land is in super shape though; I am no horticulturist, but I can recognize a lot of weeds out there.

    I think my biggest concern is getting the pasture areas into good shape. I'd love to use a rotational process combining chickens and cows and probably pigs around the wooded edges, but I worry a bit about taking on more than we can chew too early on. And will the livestock avoid the weeds? I've identified leafy spurge, sowthistle, spotted knapwood, tons of thistles, and mullein so far, and these are all over pastures that cows have been grazing for years. But I don't think our neighbors are quite as diligent with minding their cows as I'd like to be.

    Any advice on how to start slow and ramp up would be much appreciated!
     
    dsmythe, MoBookworm1957 and Jen_Jen like this.
  2. Rosepath

    Rosepath Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    674
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Welcome! And get ready for major culture shock :) You are wise to want to start slow, so often people jump in with both feet and then find they can't handle the learning curve.
    So congrats on having common sense. One resource that is excellent is Stockman Grass Farmer, https://www.stockmangrassfarmer.com They have books, DVD's, etc. which are reasonably priced and have solid info.
    Know your soil types, water availability, and how to renovate pastures? All would be good to find out before making plans. And check your fencing, the good fences make good neighbors rule is pretty important. Just ask anyone (me) who's chased the neighbor's bull and heifers off the garden in a pouring rainstorm, at night, wonder how that happened? Are the family currently there to help in the transition? Meet your neighbors, even those who are several miles away are neighbors out in the country, and maybe listen to what they've got to say about living and farming there, the voice of experience is good, you can make your own decisions but getting input often saves time and mistakes.
    Enjoy the wide open spaces, and keep us posted on your journey!
     
    fordy, Wolf mom, Raeven and 6 others like this.

  3. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    9,240
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
    ..........If , the owner of the cow\calf operation hasn't worked to continually improve the pasture(s) then he must be feeding the animals from his own hay field and\or buying hay from an independent source, either way it is expensive ! If , the pasture rental is cheap , OR TOO CHEAP(?) , then maybe he can afford to purchase hay for his animals .
    ..........Maybe it's time to re examine the owner\renter agreement and let him find another property for his cows , OR motivate him to renovate the grazing , which he may or may not want to do . Sounds like he maybe a 'friend' of the family or a relative who , is taking a little too much for granted . 400 acres may or may not be an adequate sized property for a 50 c\c operation , depending upon soil conditions . , fordy:coffee:
     
    MrSmith and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  4. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

    Messages:
    19,043
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2003
    The weeds your speaking of are very hard to rid of. I think I would start from scratch work the ground up and resow a good legume grass mix. And you will probably have to keep spraying the weeds.

    big rockpile
     
    SueBee, dsmythe and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  5. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    12,537
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    Human nature to take the bits of information and create a picture in your mind of possible challenges.

    Much of my experience is in soil and climate that creates wonderful hay fields and pastures. Even in this environment, battling weeds is a real challenge.

    If I wanted to eliminate every palatable plant and propagate a variety of noxious weeds, I'd graze cattle for 40 years without regard to annual accumulations of fresh weed seeds.

    As most gardeners will tell you, once weed seeds are sown in the soil, they will germinate over and over for a decade or more.

    If you are willing to become educated about various herbicides that can eliminate the pest plants and nurture desirable plants, that is a start. Having sunlight to grow pasture is universal. Adequate amounts of water, throughout the growing season, not as common. Soil ph and fertility is the next challenge. Most plants require a neutral ph and sufficient amounts of N, P and K.

    Rural communities, with low populations make, "I'll go to town and get a job or two." unlikely. While the Canadian tar sands and North Dakota oil fields employ many, your slice of heaven might not have the Help Wanted sign out.

    Raising pigs along the edges of the woods will be great for the wolves and bear. They tend to prefer to eat baby pigs away from open areas.

    What a journey! Fixing up a place to live, mending long neglected fences, building and repairing farm buildings, buying and repairing farm equipment. Learning about livestock nutrition, repairing the soil, plus all the other fun stuff like cooking, canning, butchering, perhaps milking, making your own soap, jams and jellies, maybe shearing sheep, carding wool, spinning and making your own dyed yarn. Plus learning and holding down a job in town. Wow. Makes me wish I was 24 again.
     
  6. Bret

    Bret Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,463
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Location:
    IN
    And for a moment, and when ever you choose, you are. :)

    A fun reply. And wise. Thanks.
     
    MoBookworm1957 likes this.
  7. Bret

    Bret Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,463
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Location:
    IN
    Grazing is a fun part of my day if only for a second. Get fences up as you can...or improved. MIG is your friend. Poly wire is your hired hand. Step in posts will be your helpers. Pig tales step in posts will last longer than plastic. Grazing makes me happy, the cows happy, the plant diversity happy, the soil happy, earth worms happy...

    While you stand with coffee in hand seeing it all happen, every thing you need to know comes pouring into about grazing and all other things. Glad the trail has brought you to this point. See you on the trail.
     
    Gravytrain and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  8. AmericanStand

    AmericanStand Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,683
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2014
    Does the place come with any equipment ?
    Will it still be there when you get there ?
    I'm not a expert on that area but it seem to me from traveling through there that it takes a LOT more than 400 acres to make a living.
     
    Allen W, Nimrod and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  9. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

    Messages:
    2,257
    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    My city slicker parents did what you are about to do, albeit, full on prairie (no woods).
    Dad/Mom had zero farming experience, but Dad had a mechanical background, which is very important on a grain farm. He went to night school over the first winter - agriculture. I suspect it made a difference. We prospered, over time.

    Neither of them got 'town' jobs. Farm just grew in size...1 section (640 acres) to 4.2 sections...nowadays, on a grain farm, that is on the small side.

    Later, he did mechanical work on other farmer's vehicles, and picked up odd work using his heavy machinery to make roads. But, making the land produce was front and center...we eventually ditched the cattle operation and went all grain. Obviously, depends on what you have...maybe your land is only suitable for grazing. Maximize that, if that is the case.

    I was 8 when they hauled my ### onto the prairie...we were well taken care of, food wise....us kids would have unofficial competitions to see who could eat the most steaks....lol. Big slabs....I've been trying to get my stomach back to normal size ever since...
     
  10. manolito

    manolito Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    101
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Location:
    North eastern California
    Welcome and may your dreams develop. Many here talk about 400 acres like it is a lot in the city. For the Iowa flat lander it is. To a city person it is very big. I was excited until you said you have financial obligations and will work in town. Each farm produces offspring that the farm can't support. Hence even Mc Donalds has a list to call when an opening occurs.

    Have you priced T posts lately or field fencing or Barb wire? Tractors are better today than in the past in every way but cost. You don't mention water but in the west where I live if a cow can get its nose wet there is an attorney and a claim WHO OWNS THE WATER. No offense to Atorneys meant. Cost of feed is crazy lately. Three years ago test Alfalfa sold for $300 a ton today the buyer sets the sale price if you don't want to watch it mold.

    Being able to go off the back porch or shoot a gun any time you want are perks worth considering. Nurturing a group of saplings and then have deer shed their velvet by rubbing the bark off every tree is awsome. I feed the local bobcats fat chickens at no cost to them. That is my story to the Warden and I am sticking to it.

    I live 20 miles to a gas station or store 60 miles to a town and have dreams of walking down to a Deli for a coke and sandwich. Reality is I will have to slice off meat from yesterdays roast slice homemade bread and drink water.

    Would I move to town No but then I am not the sharpest knife in the box.

    Did I say welcome?
     
    fordy, Bret, au natural and 3 others like this.
  11. thekibblegoddes

    thekibblegoddes Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    132
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2014
    Location:
    Sylvania, GA
    Just some quick thoughts. Read Joel Salatin's books. He talks a lot about rejuvenating a farm using portable structures & fencing, letting the animals do the work, and making do with what you have. I do know that goats will improve a cow pasture faster and with less work than herbicides, tilling and re-planting. Our two have cleaned every weed and bramble out of an acre in less than a year.
     
    dsmythe, MoBookworm1957 and Jen_Jen like this.
  12. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    12,537
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    I have a contrasting opinion.
    IMHO, Joel Salatin keeps his farm running through the paid lectures and sale of books. I doubt the weeds you have identified will sustain goats or be gobbled to the ground by goats. Western prairie is different than Eastern Seaboard. Water availability and soil fertility are challenges not dealt with in the same ways. Clearing every weed and bramble in a year on land with soil full of a decade supply of weed and bramble seeds is a start, not an accomplishment.
     
    Allen W, manolito and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  13. dyrne

    dyrne Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    79
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2015
    The weeds are fine. Honestly I don't really think of anything as a weed. When cows or other animals are sick with a particular ailment they may migrate to certain of those weeds to address whatever upset they are feeling. As folks say the dose makes the poison. Of course I wouldn't leave something like a cherry tree in the pasture but I'd not worry much about it otherwise.

    The simply edible ones that could be a staple of their diet? If they do ignore them as daily food (many do) you can slowly introduce them to the good forage plants along with stuff they already recognize as treats.
     
    MoBookworm1957 likes this.
  14. DryHeat

    DryHeat Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,145
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    My wife and I are presently suburbanites who've never pulled the trigger on buying rural property but have been keeping an eye on the possibilities for some time. Aging health issues are making such a lifestyle change increasingly implausible now, so perhaps I'm just feeling cranky reading through this thread but I think you should focus very carefully on the various warnings contained in it. Just looking at your first post, as a non-homesteader, I had an instant reaction of "How in the world could anyone make a living in SD on 400 acres? That climate? In debt from the start?" Don't let an emotional attachment or sense of family obligation to that particular plot of possible pasture keep you from considering that it could be closer to being an albatross around your necks than a wonderful opportunity. I would advise both working jobs, possibly somewhere lower overhead than NYC if you can, but still working *to save money* after getting out of debt. If you can't budget to eliminate conspicuous consumption and overhead with jobs in an area that's frankly living off the fat of the land already, you'll be ill-prepared to cope with cold, isolated, rural scrub land unless it's all *very* well capitalized with housing, equipment, and so on and likely not even then unless some big cash estate inheritance is involved also. First, get out of debt and put money, over $10K, $20K in the bank. Have at least one of you with job training that you know gives certain employment in some more southern "homesteading" area then start searching for a property from a position of strength.
     
  15. Alder

    Alder Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    761
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2014
    Location:
    Zone 3a
    Start communicating now with the county extension agent.

    In S. Dak, he/she should be very tuned in to the issues you describe, and should have a lot of resources for you such as soil testing, weed eradication solutions, grazing systems, fencing ideas, etc. If he is any good, should be up to date on the latest, and know your area well.
     
    MoBookworm1957 likes this.
  16. DonMo

    DonMo New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2009
    Location:
    Confusion
    You'll need some heavier winter coats!!
     
    AmericanStand and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  17. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    12,537
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    No, the weeds are not fine. I doubt cattle can subsist on leafy spurge, sow thistle, spotted knapwood, tons of thistles, and mullein, unless starving. No, cattle do not select noxious weeds for medicinal purposes. Pure, unadulterated nonsense. Great that you acknowledge poisonous cherry leaves.
    The purpose of growing beef cattle is to grow beef, not test theories on what awful weed you can force them to eat to exist. Cattle know what good forage is, no need for any formal introduction. Sure, cattle will eat the sweetest, tastiest plants first. Managed grazing will insure that all eatable plants are consumed. But to broadly state weeds are fine, when the OP has listed weeds that cattle won’t and shouldn’t be eating, is IMHO irresponsible.
    Sure, if your pasture has dandelion, quack grass and birdsfoot trefoil weeds, then, yes, weeds are fine.
     
    nehimama, ksfarmer, Allen W and 4 others like this.
  18. manolito

    manolito Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    101
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Location:
    North eastern California
    Please listen to haypoint I have never met nor spoken to him or her but I can tell you they are speaking from well grounded knowledge.

    Ask your vet what happens when a foxtail gets between the tooth and gum and becomes abscessed?

    $250.00 in my area for a vet to come out before they do anything.

    Lets get real do the hard work.
    1. How much rain per year?
    2. Talk to the AG commissioner he will know the property in the area and will know the soil tests and their results without you paying for them. Or your extension program depending on the area.
    3. Walk the fence line are the posts wood or metal how far apart are they has the barb wire been involved in a fire (becomes brittle and useless)
    4. How many trees per acre remember a single tree can use 50 gallons of water a day during the summer.
    4. Where is the water and how is it year around. ( get the water tested it is amazing where naturally occurring radiation and other things are present in water) If there is a well how deep is it has it ever been brushed? Age or the pump and depth of the well. Then do your homework on the water table in the area. What is the well pump rated at GPM
    5. Don't underestimate the tribal knowledge of the community. The community is like government it defies change at every corner. My place as long as I have owned it is still called the old Cramer place. Listen to what they have to say.
    6. The biggest killer of homesteads and farms is Debt. The earth does not give up its rewards easily. My Son became a deputy Sheriff his parting words I am not going to work that hard for that small amount of money. Medical, Dental and Liability insurance are not cheap.
    There is a list of a couple of thousand things you need to do before you make a move. Follow each question to its end and then read what you found every night before bed and figure how you are going to overcome this problem or that problem.

    Full and honest disclosure I retired from corporate and my wife of 44 years also retired from corporate. I have lived and ranched for many years before retirement and found I didn't know anything when it became my real job. My neighbor has forgotten more than I will ever know and he doesn't share it very easily either.

    The final thought is acreage can teach humility like no others. The hard work you put in now will pay rewards down the road. ( our name common Goats head can lay a seed that can germinate 10 years down the road.

    Good Luck and God Bless .
     
  19. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

    Messages:
    2,257
    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    AliCT - As I re-read your opportunity, you listed off a whack of weeds, but you also mentioned your neighbor is using the land for grazing 50 head with young. I doubt the neighbor would put his herd in harms way. And cattle eat only the good stuff, most of the time.

    Obviously, the weeds cannot be that big of problem, unless the neighbor is utilizing a small portion of the 400 acres. BTW - pretty much all grazing land has noxious weeds. We never sprayed pasture for weeds. And cows are good at trampling most of them, especially after a good rain. They can turn a pasture into a mosh pit.
    Are the 400 acres fenced into feed lots? Is the neighbor rotating his herd among the lots?
    And as mentioned, 400 acres is a start, but not enough land to subsist a cattle operation. I suppose if you got bare bones about it, were content with a meager lifestyle, it could be done. Be more of a hobby farm.

    Any haying/silage equipment on farm? You'll need to acquire some feed for them over winter. We were lucky, in that we had plenty of sloughs that we acquired plenty of hay and we could supplement their feed with grains. Our neighbor made silage from alfalfa etc (corn didn't grow very well in our area). So, finding feed for them over winter is very important. I'd find out what the neighbors are doing to feed their animals over winter. Maybe some of your land can be used to grow feedstock?

    When we were doing both, cattle and grain, it was grueling...cattle require a lot of effort (acquiring winter feed, pasture rotation, and calving season). Then there is the salt blocks, ensuring water supply, supplements, keeping preds at bay, etc...

    Heck, grain farming was no picnic either, but I found it much easier (as a teenager). Plus, I got to be the truck driver (great experience for this 12yr old kid), morning greaser (you know how may grease zerks are on a combine!...lol), mobile dinner server (the machines went all day long and the men had to be fed). At least with a grain farm, there were lulls, like winter and high summer (other than machinery rehabilitation).

    Aside: we plowed under our pastures and planted grains. It was amazing the yield we got off those fields in the first few years. I was always interested in yield (like counting money). One Barley field grew so tall and thick, it was almost to the top of our heads (albeit, we were not tall kids). It was a special field, as that grain was sent to a brewery for testing. It passed and we got a premium for that field.
    I'd look for unique, out-of-box opportunities like the above...except with cattle.
     
    manolito and MoBookworm1957 like this.
  20. ksfarmer

    ksfarmer Retired farmer-rancher

    Messages:
    2,990
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Location:
    north-central Kansas
    Haypoint is right. I'm not familiar with all those weeds, but Leafy Spurge for one I do know. There are some areas of range land that has been taken off the tax rolls because spurge has rendered it useless. Very hard to control and even harder to eradicate. Cattle will not eat it because the sap is caustic. A starved critter will try to eat anything. Spurge and thistles are state listed noxious weeds in most areas. Look very carefully at what you have. Have a extension expert or range expert look at what you have to give you a more educated opinion on what you need to consider .