How should I use my land?

Thu Jun 23, 2005 5:34 pm

I'm playing with different ideas on how I should use my land.

We are going to build a house on it next year and move there so I've got some time to decide on how to use it.

Any books or websites that may help me to decide?


Free Help

Thu Jun 23, 2005 6:13 pm

Visit the county (University) extension office.

Visit the cluster of state and federal offices, located in the county, dealing with agriculture. They will have stacks of information, available programs, equipment to loan or rent, even assistance on completing a project. Depending upon what you want to accomplish there may be program(s) available with financial assistance.

In Missouri we have a Private Land Conservation Officer. This person will help the land owner improve wildlife habitat and suggest conservation practives. There are assistance (financial) programs available for conservation practices.


Thu Jun 23, 2005 6:22 pm

How many acres? If I remember right it all or mostl of it is now hay field. I would see the County Agent first. Our federal taxes help us here quite well.
Me I would try a garden behind the house, plant some trees for a wind break ( fast growing ones interspersed with slower growing longer lasting ones.) Then a couple of fruit and christmas trees. The rest I would see if some one would cut it for hay or pasture it with a proviso the can't let it grow up to brush. After I had that all figured out I would ask Beverly what she wanted? At that point she would say "I don't know. What do you think" Then i would casually and slowly drop my plan as if I were coming up with it as we speak. Then comes the part about flowers and shrubs I missed. Next the soil and conservation guy would come and we would do Beverlys plan. Dammed if it wouldn't be better than mine and encompass many of my thoughts but done better.


Fri Jun 24, 2005 5:35 pm

I have 20 acres. About 15 acres are in 2 hay fields. Of the remaining 5 acres about half is timber and half is a field of grasses/wildflowers/cedars/etc. that my wife calls the prairie field.

We're taking a portion of the smaller hay field for our house and yard. Some more of it will be used for garden, berry bushes, and a few fruit trees. Then there's my workshop that I want to build. I may raise a few chickens and/or rabbits for the table.

For the largest field I'm going back and forth between raising a few (3 or 4) head of cattle and just keeping it in grass and clover. I hesitate to raise cattle because of my lack of experience, the winters here, and my full time job.

A guy is coming in now and taking the hay (all of it, for free) to help feed his 15 horses. If I had something to consume hay I'd keep half of it. Once I get moved I could sell my half.

Instead of cattle I have thought about raising a few sheep since I could get them early in the year and sell them before winter sets in. I know coyotes are bad in my area and I've heard about several mountain lion sightings. Cattle might have a better chance to defend themselves.

Those are my ideas so far. It's still early so I don't need a definite plan yet but I'd like some comments from more experienced people to give me some advice.


Fri Jun 24, 2005 9:12 pm

One of the first things to do is to get a perc test. Perculation tests determine the suitability of the soil to pass water especially from your septic system. Another thing to do is determine the location of any streams, creeks or wet spots. Do they flood in spring freshets? Have they ever flooded? If there is a hundred year flood level and there has not been a flood in a hundred years, Guess What? Are you in a flood plain? That takes care of too much water. Are there any springs or seeps? Especially in the 5 acres not fields. There has to be a reason they are not fields. Was it part of an old home location? How far from you are neighbors? Do they have dug, driven or drilled wells? How deep are they? Are they mostly in the same aquifer? Is the water highly mineral? Have it tested for hardness and contaminents. Are farms pumping for irrigation from that aquifer? Are there any high volume water users near by injecting water back in to the ground? You don't want to put your well in spot that it is subject to contamination from Run off from near by farming or animal operations. (read that nitrates, nitrides, manua. Was there any mining activities in the past near by. Read that tailing contamination. Lead and zink are two that come to mind. There can be others. Were there any manufacturing or processing activities in the area in the past? that might turn in to nitght mares? Was there any waste disposal nearby?
Go see your county agent and the soil and water conservation People! Get a topographic map of your place. It will help you visualize grades( high spots and low spots and the natural flow of water.
We pay them to help with these things. I haven't brought up access to the home site but do you have to build any bridges or culverts? Be careful not to locate where you interfere with existin natural drainage or you may be maroned. If there is a feasable way to build so that shade from the existing woods will protect the house from excess heat yet not expose it to prarie or forest fires, do so. If not plant wind breaks and shade trees. Keep shrubbery and plantings far enough from the building so as not to grant easy access to ants and insects. Is there a termite problem in your intended area? What precautions can you take to prevent them with out contaminationg your well? This may seem like an overwhelming list of things but each one approached and answered is one less to look at.
Next plan where the shop and or garage will be located. Can't put in on top of the septic or the leach field. If you have animals where will they be located in reguards to the house and well? How will you water the animals? Can they obtain water if you are on vacation for a day or two? Do you want to be tied down like that?
Notice we haven't discussed basement or slab yet. When the first group of questions are answered you will need to know or make a reasonable guess as to the weight bearing characteristics of your soil. Some are so poor that you may have to drive piles or make a cement boat to float the house. Some are so good that just footings in undisturbed soil will do. Another expense is the proximity of electricity. Here in NY you get 1 free pole. The rest are on you. Far away is expensive. Then if the telephone co won't work with joint poles it is a second set or burial. Near to existing is good.
No I am not trying to talk you out of it. This is a partial list of what I had to consider when I planned my place. No I didn't get them all right the first time.


Fri Jun 24, 2005 9:46 pm

Sorry beaconlight. I'm just asking about agricultural use of my land. I have the house, outbuilding, garden, driveway, septic system, electric, rural water, telephone, propane, etc. under control at this point.

I called the county extension office earlier in the week and I've been reading the extension information on the Iowa State University and University of Missouri websites.

Cattle, sheep, hay, or what? Those are what I'm wondering about.

Fri Jun 24, 2005 10:05 pm

Great glad you have the important stuff down pat.


Fri Jun 24, 2005 10:50 pm

Any way you please :!: :!: :!: :lol:

Fri Jun 24, 2005 11:08 pm


One magazine that I like is titled "Small Farm Today". Their web site is Annual subscription rate is $24.00???. Wide variety of topics discussed.

I would not consider any type of livestock for a while - specially if you have a full time job off the farm - and considering that you are not set up for livestock - building, water, feed storage, etc.

I would either cash rent (take beef, hog, cash to pay the taxes) the farmable land or let the neighbor have the hay for keeping down the weeds.

You might look into CRP (Conservation Reserve Program). CRP may have been discontinued by now.

MY thoughts.

Last edited by Eugene on Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:01 am

As for being set up for livestock, that's the beauty of raising cattle. Regularly move them into another paddock of pasture, make sure they have plenty of water every day, and check the fencing for secureness and that's the majority of the work. I won't need storage for feed because there is no grain to feed them. Hay can be stored outside.

I work with a guy who will be a neighbor when I move. He says cattle are simple to take care of. Books I've been reading agree with him.

I'm not familiar with cattle ailments so that would be new.

I'd keep some hay through the winter. Buy a few steers in the early spring. Feed them hay until the grass comes on. In the late fall I'd sell all but 1 steer and take it to be processed. I'd keep one beef for ourselves and our family.

I would think that sheep would be similar to take care of except for trying to keep the coyotes away.

But, as Eugene said, with a full time job I hesitate to get started with livestock. I tend to think, again like he said, just stick with hay.

Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:31 am

Eugene, I get site not found when I click on the smalfarmtoday link. Do you by chance have another source for it? alos Be careful of some of those Conservation Reserve programs, they can give good tax benefits, but some of them are permanent, even restricting future owner uses.

Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:39 am

Fixed the link - removed the period at the end of the sentence.

We checked into CRP about 3 years ago when my son purchased his acreage. The acreage didn't qualify because it had not been farmed in 3 years. My father used CRP on his farm in Iowa. At that time I think he was getting $65.00 per acre for a 10 year period. But, that has been some time ago.

We (son and I) use a program sponsored by the Private Land Conservation Office. We planted trees and shrubs. The government payment was about 25% of cost of the plants. We have to maintain the plants for 3 years. In our case the government payment was $67.00 - almost not worth the filing effort. However if we had a larger project 25% would be a big help.


Sun Jun 26, 2005 1:22 pm

Just got back from walking my land. The guy that takes the hay timed things about as perfectly as could be hoped for. After weeks of rain, off-and-on, he hit a dry spell and mowed, then left the stuff laying for a few days. He baled the stuff just before it rained 1 1/2+" Friday night.

He got 27 round bales, 6' in diameter.

I wonder what a 6' diameter, round bale of hay sells for? Anyone have a ballpark figure? :D



Sun Jun 26, 2005 2:54 pm

Paid $25.00 a bale delivered last spring - previous summer's hay. The hay was mostly fescue.

Frequently along the hiway, central Missouri, are hay racks with square bales for sale. Price per bale is $2.00 to $2.50.


Sun Jun 26, 2005 3:32 pm

$25 per round bale is it in deleware county NY too.