Friday, February 9, 2007

Kelp Kelp and more Kelp

As I have commented on before we use a lot of kelp around here. One of the biggest reasons I mention it so frequently is that I strongly espouse it as a supplement for livestock. Since I saw the improvements in my animals after beginning to use kelp, I can't help but talk about it over and over.
So this year for the first time we will add it to our garden AND to our pasture. We purchase kelp normally in 50ish pound bags for about $34 dollars each. Feeding 16 sheep and 3 smaller cows uses about a bag per month---maybe leaning towards a bag and a half depending on the weather and their time of life (young, old, pregnant etc). Yes, it cost more than regular minerals---but it works way way way better.
Yesterday I went to visit my "supplier" -- Beatty Fertilizer in Cleveland Tennessee to make my pasture and garden purchases. It is pretty far away and I have to drive 45 minutes one way to get there. That works out better than what I used to do: pay an extra $150 dollars to have a 500 pound minimum of products shipped to me from a supplier in VA (which I then had to find places to store the large quantities). Besides, Mr Beatty is very nice and helps me with information about his OMRI certified and non certified organic products. He also tells me of the different ways of using the products --which can be interesting sometimes. (did you know they feed blood meal to cows? YUK!) Another point in his favor is that he has always remembered me---very flattering (blush :-)
So, while I was there, I purchased a couple of bags of kelp for my animals, some for my garden, some liquid kelp to spray on my pasture and a couple bags of green sand for the garden. Elliot Coleman, Gene Logsdon and other organic gurus recommend green sand-- which I have never tried. Though after all I have learned I would like to use it in my pasture too (another day, another dollar).
Recently I budgeted for a 30 gallon pull behind sprayer to use in my pasture. My little john deere tractor/mower will pull the sprayer and it's pto will drive a small pump that sucks up the goodies in the tank and applies them to the yard/garden/pasture for me. It was a bit pricey but since the only other sprayer I own holds one gallon (think of that in terms of spraying 6.5 acres) I think it will be worth it. Besides now with this new tool, not only can I spray kelp on my pasture this early spring but also humic acid if I want or manure/compost tea this summer, molasses to feed quick "sugar" to the grasses and raise their brix level, more kelp---why the possibilities are endless.
We have tackled many ideas about how to improve our soil in our pasture and after much reading have decided that spraying the kelp or teas will potentially do as much good as some other spreadable things--- worm castings, aged compost, green sand and other organic bagged amendments---but for a bit less cost. That is the only thing about being "organic" or "sustainable"----it can be costly. And not only that, but a lot of it is difficult to locate in pasture size amounts (think worm castings here). Supposedly studies show that in just a year, spraying compost tea only will produce noticeable tilth improvements in soil---which is exactly what we need. I don't remember how many times but it was more than once but less than say....5. And then, if you do it every year you should see very very noticeable improvements after three years. So here's to year one and my new sprayer.
Here's a little information on kelp if your interested.


Joe Greene said...

I plan to have my soil tested and begin investing in soil improvement through mineralization this coming spring/summer. It will definitely be an investment! I'm figuring somewhere in the low thousand $ range if we need lime, greensand and rock phosphate. It's expensive as you said but it is an investment that will pay off in the future.

El said...

So, do you rotate your pastures? I was wondering if your sheep and cows hang out together. When reading the Omnivore's Dilemma and learning about "grass farmer" Joel Salatin, I was very intrigued about having a chicken tractor following up behind grass-fed cows. With 6.5 acres, and a lot of electric fence, I'd bet you could do the same thing.

I was also wondering if you could section something off and plant clover, etc. to get that soil back and healthy.

I'm headed over to the feed store this morning. I will be looking into alfalfa meal to jumpstart the compost heap. They have greensand, too...there aren't many organic farmers here (and it's mostly orchards not fields anyway) so I am curious WHY they have all the things they do, but I am glad they do. But they don't have kelp!!

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Yes, I completely agree that it is expensive AND well worth it. Just liming twice (first time we misunderstood and used to little of an amount) has made an improvement that is noticeable (though not hugely dramatic) I am hoping the "fertilizer" and teas will make even more of an improvement---they say though that it takes at least 3 years to really really see a difference when you first start. So maybe spring 2008 or 2009 we will be able to look out and go "AHHHH"