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Posted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:59 pm
I stumbled across a book yesterday by Pat Coleby titled 'Natural Farming'. Full of some very interesting ideas, some of which are echoed by Peter in his books. I would be interested to know if anyone here has tried any of her ideas and how they turned out?
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 5:54 pm
Hi there, Pat Coleby is something of a legend in natural horsecare circles. Many who don't own their own property use her feeding guides to make up for having no control over the pasture their horses are on. I didn't track her book down for many years as the way I'd seen some feeding their horses on her theory seemed rather weird and didn't fit my instinct for natural land management. I finally bought the book about 3 years ago and was amazed to find it such a detailed reference on natural pasture management! We had already started managing our land 'naturally' in the sense of replacing synthetic with natural rock mineral fertilisers, slashing instead of spraying where possible etc, and I found the book a great fit. The book was really helpful, particularly in understanding the mineral profiles of the soil (more comprehensively than the standard Soil Test Kit) and plant symptoms the paddocks were showing us once we knew where to look. It also showed to us the previously-unheard-of danger of horses grazing limed paddocks. It also convinced me to put into practice the 'weird' feeding practices, to match the mineral profile of our soil, and my horses have never looked so fantastic for so little money week-to-week. Everyone comments on how wonderful they look. So for me her theories on mineralisation and animal health has been proven beyond a doubt, so anything she has to say should be considered. She is I understand now in her eighties yet still offers over-the-phone consultations for property owners.
We also have cultivated our dung beetle populations, which help to get paddock manure under the soil instead of sitting on top oxidizing.
Results? Our paddocks have definitely improved since Pat's book gave us the confidence to completely give away spraying in favour of slashing, and using our own on-farm nutrients to spread back on the paddocks. Despite drought our grass has been thicker, key weeds (sorrel, salvation jane, capeweed, flatweek) have been thinner, and the grass has a much deeper green colour.
Peter's books are adding another dimension entirely though - it's so Australian, so broad-scale applicable, and has more ideas about turning paddocks around quickly and economically (rock fertilisers are no cheaper than synthetic ones - they're all expensive inputs). Controlling our water inputs to make better use of our on-farm nutrient (we have stables - lots of nutrient!!!) we hope will see even better turnaround results. Peter's idea of focussing the nutrient uphill, with water to spread the nutrient, is very appealing as we have struggled to spread more widely across the paddocks - very time and effort intensive without proper machinery.
But from what knowledge I've gained, I think that Peter and Pat's ideas generally would go hand-in-hand.
Maybe in a year or two I'll be more qualified to comment
Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:47 pm
I'm a big supporter of Pat Coleby's approach to animal and pasture management and can give first hand examples of the amazing power of Vitamin C, which she talks about a lot. (If anyone is interested, ask me about the recovery process of the stud cow which nearly cut its rear foot off after getting caught between the concrete floor and tin wall of our hay shed.)
Also a regular user of a mineral additive called Nutrimol, which is a liquid version of Pat's mineral lick, without the calcium.
I'll repeat a question here that I've asked elsewhere in the forum. Pat, like several others, is a vociferous proponent of the use of calcium minerals to return land to balance (lime, dolomite, gypsum) and we have tried this in a number of our paddocks with aeration techniques. Peter, on the other hand, is quoted as saying putting lime down in paddocks is likely a waste of money.
Given the consistency of so many other aspects of Peter v Pat Coleby v Joseph Cocannouer (Weeds Guardians of the Soil), I'd really appreciate a comment here on what seems to be the largest single difference between Peter and the others ie: the use of lime.
Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 5:25 pm
Hi there, again I'm no means any kind of expert but my personal thinking around this came up with maybe some slightly different angles. The thing I remember from Pat's book Natural Horse Care is that lime does need to be limited. Spreading too much at a time (rates commonly recommended by agronomists in our experience) has severe health risks for grazing horses and cows (causes sudden magnesium depletion). So while she indicates lime is useful she does say it should be in accordance with a soil analysis showing how far out the calcium/magnesium balance is and then treat that without exceeding the relatively low safety limit. I also think context is important - too low calcium in our soils ALSO has serious and very common health impacts for horses, so addressing that as the priority soil issue via lime/dolomite has probably been best practice for horse managers for a long time. And as I said earlier, in my experience it certainly has produced excellent health improvements in my own horses and does make a start to bring a lot of other pasture problems into balance.
What Peter's more recent knowledge (he's a good bit younger than Pat's 80 years!) adds to this view is that plants can fix this for us, more naturally and at much less cost (lime is another expensive input). The example of salvation jane lifting pH to 9.0 is a startling example that I doubt Pat's experiences could have envisaged.
The other key is that everything Peter suggests is actually about improving how we manage hydrology. Liming the land does neither help this or work with it. So yes, liming appears to work, but doesn't do anything else to help the soil, it just sets the scene for other inputs you choose to spread on top. Whereas managing water instead of liming does all of this while watering the plants to boot.
So I guess I don't see these as 'different' or 'opposing' views at all. It's just knowledge that grows and expands over time and in differing circumstances. Pat's books indicate that a lot of her experience has been with excellent, traditional English-style pastures and it may be that her remedies for pastures did not originally have to encompass completely broken-down systems choked with salvation jane etc as we have these days. Liming such vast tracts of land would be prohibitive and still needs other material to be spread as well - Peter has elegantly identified a better way. The decline in our farm soil quality and rainfall patterns has been frightfully fast and accelerated in the last 10-20 years - for me, Peter's learnings fit the time and the need without necessarily being 'opposite' to all that has gone before.