Reader Questions: Ruminants, Fire Goats, and Fixing Bad Soil

Reader Questions: Ruminants, Fire Goats, and Fixing Bad Soil

Reader Questions: Ruminants, Fire Goats, and Fixing Bad Soil

Here’s another group of reader questions on permaculture and other topics. Today there are three questions. The first is on using ruminants to improve the soil , the second on fire mitigation by goats and broad acreage soil stabilization, and lastly two questions on fixing bad soil.

HEY! If you want your question answered, please see the end of the article.

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Ruminants and soil

I want to know more about animal integration, specially using
ruminants to improve soil conditions and restore grasslands. Thanks
for the great work you do!!


Hi Luc,

I haven’t covered this much as I don’t have ruminants.
I think you want to look into: Allan Savory‘s work in Africa, Gabe Brown in North Dakota, and Seth Itzkan.
It’s critical to manage the grazing land properly to have success.

Also, look into the Holistic Management techniques.
I almost forgot to mention Joel Salatin, who has also done great things with soil.

Fire and goats

Hi Jed and the Crew

Thanks for all the hard work you are all putting in to this fabulous website.I’m farming in the mountains in Portugal:goats, milk, cheese and meat. It’s a brittle landscape and we lost 325,000 hectares to fire last year in this zone alone.My immediate area escaped probably because of the goats grazing the brushwood and heathers.

Ok so animal manure is an essential part of building and activating the shallow soil in my gardens and those of my neighbours and we are getting great results using it in different ways but what about degradation of shallow soil higher up…after the fires we had torrential rain which created a lot of erosion.

The land is government owned & there is no investment there and it’s not practical to carry manure up the mountain so any practical ideas about regenerating land like ours using seeds to stabilize the soil that aren’t going to need mollycoddling!

Wet cold winters and high temp dry summers. 1,200 metres up Snow line is 800 metres. Any ideas would be gratefully received or if you have already covered regeneration of brittle landscapes could you send me that info.Thanks again. maggie

Hi Maggie,

Yes, I think you are correct in your assessment.
You’ll need some fast-growing “pioneer” native or hardy seeds to hold that soil in place.
I think a plant with a “net” root system would do well in that role.
I would also consider shrub and tree seeds in addition to forbs and grasses.
Some nitrogen-fixing plants in the mix like cowpeas, alfalfa/lucerne, vetch, or field peas would also be good to add.
Beware that some types of vetch will take over everything else.
Generally you want to plant or broadcast seeds just before the rains, and give them a light scatter mulch to retain moisture until they germinate.

It sounds like fire is also a major concern.
Are the fires because of mismanagement?
Is it government land where fuel plants are allowed to grow until you get a large fire?
You know that you have a large fire sector and sounds like you have a management plan for those fuel plants.

These articles might be helpful for you.

Fixing bad soils

Hello all, First of all congratulations for your great website and thank you for all the information you make available for the Permaculture community.

I am quite new to Permaculture (or any other kind of agriculture, for that matter) and I have two questions regarding the fix of bad soils. I just rented a small farm to start practicing permaculture on it, but I feel I need to fix the soil before I plan anything. I will follow your suggestions and just cover the land with compost and mulch the entire field afterwards.

My questions are: – Should I till the land to make sure the compost is well integrated in the soil? This would be done just once and from then on I will just add more compost to enrich the soils ongoing. – For how long should I wait until the soil is good enough for the first seeds? Thank you very much for your help, António

Hi António,

Some of the approach will depend on the climate and how much (and when) you get precipitation.
I have an article on fixing bad soils here:

I would consider whether it’s worth doing on a rented farm, though I know Curtis Stone from Kelowna, BC Canada does this all the time on smaller plots.
He’s on YT as The Urban Farmer.
You could till the fields/beds if it’s really compacted or you have a large area.
Personally, for smaller areas I prefer a good broadfork. I bough a Meadow Creature broadfork years ago and it’s been very useful.
Just a warning though – it’s a lot of work.

I would only put compost on the places you know you will be growing crops – good compost isn’t cheap and it seems like I never have enough.
So don’t put int in the foot paths or non-growing areas.
You should also be careful about what kind and where you get compost from.
David The Good AKA “The Survival Gardener” has a YT video on killer compost. Herbicides can last through the intestines of cows and horses. Speaking of composting, you might want to check out Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

You don’t have to wait to plant as long as it makes sense for your growing season.
I would plant soil-enriching plants immediately like beans, peas, large (daikon) radishes, beets, etc.
If you have patience to develop a landrace variety, saving seeds from the plants that do well in that first year’s soil will grow better the next year.


Three great readers got their questions answered. If you’d like to get your question answered, just email me at info @ and ask away!

OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about soil, fire, or ruminants, sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything else? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info @

Thanks from TPL

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