We Have an Animal and Fowl Clean-up Crew. Should You?

On a small place many clean-up tasks can be accomplished by birds and animals. These workers often accomplish tasks for free, or maybe even at a profit for you. Here’s what I mean.

All kinds of creatures are glad to do clean-up work. Let’s just consider major farm creatures: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Realize geese, ducks, guinea fowl and a long list of other critters will join a clean-up crew too.

Every one of these creatures likes to eat. Each critter favors slightly different feed, and thus plays a different role in a tidy up system. What’s waste from one creature serves as potential feed for another!

Let’s list strengths of these creatures.

Cattle mostly like to eat grass in a natural setting. Yet most cattle today spend much of their lives eating grain and protein meal hauled to them at great cost in money and energy. That’s even true for cattle kept in just little tiny herds.

cows, raising meat steers

Grazing Cattle

But cattle are glad to eat away at pastures, fence-rows and all kinds of brushy areas, even cleaning away undergrowth from forests. Cattle are designed to graze, and graze they will, if given a chance. If you, as the orchestra conductor, steer the grazers where you need work done, as with moveable electric fencing, you’ll be amazed at improved landscapes.

As with all these creatures, cattle also deposit fertilizer materials neatly behind them as they go about their work. If the critters aren’t crowded constantly into the same area, their waste is all a positive product, not objectionable in any way. Now let’s consider an additional team player.

Sheep also mostly eat grass, but with some important differences compared to cattle. Sheep prefer to nibble on more woody plants than cattle do. Around here pastures constantly want to turn to forests, and gum tree sprouts and blackberry vines are always looking for a start. You could plow up pastures every few years and plant row crops to beat back the woody invaders, but that’s a lot of work. Sheep like to browse on such plant intruders, so their inclusion on a team means fewer woody pasture plants. Which reminds me of goats…

Goats prefer to mostly nibble plant matter that’s higher. They rear on their back legs and browse away on all kinds of leaves and stems. They’re mostly eating away at plants not preferred by the other grazers. Thus they keep the bushes and trees nipped back without really bothering cattle pastures much. They’re brush beater.

Thus cattle, sheep and goats work well together to keep landscapes clean as each has feed preferences available in typical grazing areas. They work well together.

Now pigs are a different story.

how to not waste feed

Woodlot Pigs

Pigs are great scavengers as everyone knows. They’re classed as omnivores as they eat just about anything that comes along. In many cases, when crowded they make a mess. And hogs are such prolific producers of offspring they often do get crowded. This need not be so.

Pigs can do what the grazing animals can’t.

Pigs are made to bull doze things and thus excel at digging out brush and clearing seriously rough spots. If you have woods or dense undergrowth the porcine team will change the landscape. As with the grazers, they leave waste behind setting up improved future conditions.

When trained to electric fencing, porkers are simple to confine and ready to go to work on projects benefiting from some digging and pushing. I wish you could see how two Berkshire barrows worked over an overgrown woodlot on our place.

In addition, pigs willingly recycle all kinds of kitchen scraps and every bit of garden produce you want to pitch over the fence. Your imagination is the limit to how pigs can improve a place. You’re thinking outside the box though if you keep pigs in moveable fencing, and not in a crowd. Give them a chance and they clean up messes, not make messes.

That reminds me of chickens.

Often chickens just hang around and eat expensive feed, constantly hauled in from somewhere off. That’s not for us. We need help. Chickens work for us, not us for them.

We like to eat eggs, fried chicken and chicken salad, but the chickens mostly subsist as a clean up crew. What do they clean?

Chickens, goats

Chicken Clean-up Crew

Any feed item around the dairy goat barn or the rabbit pens immediately gets vacuumed up by the fowl crew. That’s “free” chicken feed, but more importantly a clean barn is less of an attraction to mice and rats. That one clean up function justifies the chickens. By the way, mice aren’t safe around chickens either. They’ll nail a mouse fast if given a chance.

Similarly chickens near cattle keep manure stirred reducing fly populations. Again, chickens earn their keep as a free sanitation patrol.

They likely get a few ticks and other bugs too while on constant travel about the place. We’re all for that.

Traditionally all these critters worked for their keep. If allowed to perform their traditional roles, all these animals work for free and produce some kind of profit for their keepers.

They improve landscapes, keep the place looking good, all at little cost in cash or time. In addition, there’s a ready market for eggs, meat and milk from animals raised in a more natural way in simple uncrowded surroundings.

Now pulling all this together takes time and experience. Managing animals to keep everybody at works is not so simple. But if you’re like me, caring for animals, and giving them a chance to make a living by doing what they naturally do, is highly rewarding.

Consider putting some critters to work doing some of your clean-up work around your place. They work for food and have fun doing it.

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