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The Perfect Goat Pasture

Posts: 113
Location: North East Ohio USA (Zone 6b)
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I'm designing my future goat pasture and I'd love to hear every ones thought about what their perfect pasture would be like!

If you were designing the perfect goat pasture;

- what plants would you plant?

-what ground cover or pasture mix would you plant?

-what trees?

- what shelter would you build?

- is there any special thing you think you would definitely want for it?
Posts: 286
Location: Ozarks
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I'm getting set up for goats right now so I'm interested in this subject also. Unfortunately, even the experts are just starting to study this.

First thing; Fence, good fence. Just got my third corner post set. One to go and then I can stretch my bottom wire. I'm doing 6 strand high-tensile electric. Started out aiming for 48" tall but I could only make it 42" deep with my holes due to post hole digger limitations and rocky clay soil. With 8' posts, that leaves 54" out of the ground so that's my new fence height. Might even be able to keep in those low maintenance kikos. I haven't decided on breed yet either but I really don't want to mess around with those high maintenance boers. Maybe a boer buck to make fat kids and something else for does. I added 1" between the strands to make the new height. 7 + 7 + 7 + 9 + 11 + 12 = 53" so my top wire will be 1" from the top of the posts.

As for ideal pasture, from what I've read, which has been anything I can find on the web, dozens of publications, given the choice, goats will consume approx 60% browse(tree leaves), 20% grasses and 20% everything else(weeds, forbes etc) I'm starting out with forest. We moved(hacked our way) in 6 years ago and I cleared forest for us and recently for a fence line of course and from there, I'll work my way in from the fence line on any somewhat level areas which makes up about 50% of my property, which is pretty good for the the Ozarks. I don't plan to clear cut the flat areas. I'm looking for something more like a savannah or glade. I plan to break things up into paddocks but it won't be a fast rotation by any means as I'm dealing with trees. Most all the goat farms I see have ended up with what looks like pasture for cattle and the goats end up standing there eating down near the ground. They literally look like little cows standing there eating instead of browsing. I want them to be able to browse which is that 60% of their preferred diet and it takes a year or three for an oak seedling to grow into something worthwhile.

I'm thinking if I keep my stocking rate fairly low, I can prevent the place from getting eaten down to cow pasture which is something goats are good at and used for but it's not in the best interest of the goat's future on a given piece of land. I'm not fully sure what my method of doing this will be and I was just looking up info on coppicing this morning. Since I've got hundreds of trees to get rid of, I thought I might coppice some. Most of the trees look like lolly pops due to overcrowding. All the leaf growth is way up top and goats can't climb quite that well, nor can they fly. Originally, I was going to just slowly thin the forest, culling the fugly ones and getting the needed firewood. Reading up on coppicing, my plan has changed to cutting in patches so the coppiced trees have enough light coming through to grow well. To keep using coppicing in the long term, that's where a long term rotation comes in. I want the regrowth to be a good size for the adult goats to walk them down like they like to do to get the top leaves/all leaves.

As far as planting pasture, when I clear land here, if I also get rid of the leaves and disturb the hummus, all kinds of stuff pops up. It's amazing how many grass and forb seeds there are in this woods. From the local history I've read, they mined iron ore in the 1800s and had to stop when they ran out of trees for the smelters. The iron ore was also getting harder to get, having to go deeper and wasn't as plentiful as other areas of the country. Since the lands were all cleared, cattle made sense which is mostly what goes on here now. I don't have much of anything for really old trees so I believe this property was clearcut at some point. That would help explain all the different seeds and also the two big gullies from erosion.

I do plan on planting something but don't have a definitive list yet. Our 5.5 soil ph makes some of the decisions for me as does the rocky soil on parts of it that can't be cultivated. Some spots are going to be, toss the seeds out and hope they grow. I've looked at different seeds and their cost. Anything designed for goats tends to be pricey and they don't specify whether meat or dairy goats and they do have different nutrient requirements. We're going with meat goats for the freezer and hopefully, some profit. Goats are cousins to deer and have a very similar browse preference and deer food plot mixes are cheaper than goat mixes. Then of course one can make up their own mix .Here's my list of potential seed/plant types pasted from my notes on the subject..

Hancock Seed's
Goat Forage Mix 50 lbs aka $200 per acre - seems high as hell

Spring/Summer Blend:
30% Pensacola Bahia
10% Common Bermuda Unhulled
15% Pearl Millet (Leafy 22)
15% Alfalfa (needs pH of 6.5+)
10% Sunn Hemp (non-seed bearing but good cover crop - legume)
10% Soybean
5% Crimson Clover Coated (most need high pH - check with mo ext - white is best)
5% Sericea Lespedeza Hulled
NOTE: The Spring/Summer Blend is shipped April 1 – October 1, unless requested otherwise.

Fall/Winter Blend:
40% Hancock’s Pasture Ryegrass (sound good but not cheap - do more research)
15% Grazing Fescue
15% Alfalfa
10% Grazing Winter Pea (Try Austrian aka Field Peas)
5% Forage Chicory (part of sunflower family)
5% Red Clover
5% Daikon Radish (yup)
5% Birdsfoot Trefoil (good stuff - tricky to grow - not for hay)
NOTE: The Fall/Winter Blend is shipped October 1 – April 1, unless requested otherwise.

Deer Plot Mixes

Spring Mixture, March - August:
• LabLab (seems decent - is for summer)
• Soybeans
• WGF Sorghum (maybe)
• Sunflowers
• Iron Clay Peas

Fall Mixture, September - March:
• Blue Lupine (maybe)
• Oats
• Winter Peas
• Grain Rye (good in winter and good for mixes - is a tall thin grass)
• Forager Wheat (sounds decent)

Hancock's Fall & Winter Wildlife Seed Blend contains:
25% Grain Rye
25% Oats
15% Winter Peas
10% Dixie Crimson Clover
10% Chicory
5% Purple Top Turnip (yup - grow lots)
5% Daikon Radish
5% Sugar Beets  (yup)

Hancock's Spring & Summer Food Plot Seed Mix contains:
10% Hulled Aeschynomene (good for wet areas but not flooded - warm weather)
10% Alyce Clover
10% Sunn Hemp
10% Dwarf Deer Corn
10% Japanese Millet
15% WGF Sorghum
15% Peredovic Sunflowers
20% Iron/Clay Cowpeas

Deer Greens (winter)
This blend contains:
25% Purple Top Turnip
25% Daikon Radish
25% Kale
25% Rape            

Sericea Lespedeza and any of the peas will definitely be on my final list and probably oats, brown top millet and red clover.

As for the paddocks, I really don't have a set plan but I have time to experiment since I'm not going out and buying 20-30 does and a buck which is what I figure I'll top out at. I'll be starting out with a breeding pair or a buck and 2-3 does on 12.5 acres. I've got one area in the back that would make a decent homesite and I have a sister that's going to end up like me, living on SS when we get old. I don't think she'll be able to afford to stay in Florida and she's jokingly(maybe) talked about me making space here for her. So that area is where I'll experiment with different clearing techniques and paddock rotation timings.

Every different piece of land is going to be different. I've got some sand willow on one end of the property and a moist area on another so I plan on brining some of the willow up to it. Willow is supposed to be one of the best for coppicing due to it's fast growth. Cut it and a year later, the goats can eat on it.

Cattle farmer's have it easier when it comes to knowing when to take them off of a paddock. The seed companies recommend a certain height for the pasture to get eaten down to and then you remove the cows from that paddock. That doesn't work with browse and goats will kill of most anything if that's all there is to eat.  Just going to have to eyeball things and pull them off when I think most everything will recover. I'm torn when it comes to poison ivy. I'd love for it to be all gone but I know it's good goat food. Being such a favorite, it's also one of the things that they'll kill off in one season, given the chance. Since we don't want them eating low to the ground where the parasites are, that should help with the decision on when to take them off of a paddock.

Here's my numbers but it doesn't have any costs taken from it yet.

20 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $5712.00
30 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $8568.00

That's for nice thick little goats with all of them reaching 60 lbs which naturally won't happen. They'll most likely range from 50-60 lbs so I should have based it at 55 lbs. Selling them as livestock or breeding animals brings more. Then of course. I'll have to feed them for 5 months out of the year which will take a big chunk out of that as I don't have enough level land to make hay so I'll have to buy it. There are a few things that can be grown, harvested and stored like the turnips and sugar beets. I've got hoops here for a high tunnel so I can grow some stuff for them in that. If I can make a couple grand a year, I'll be happy.

Last week I had 20 tabs open on meat goats forage management and I thought I saved them all to my favorites before closing them but I don't see them in there now. My favorites folder is huge and has been accumulated over a period of years so they might be there somewhere. I also use more than one browser so I'll have to search around and come back here with some links. New Zealand and Australia are ahead of us with goats but the problem is, they have different plants and/or even the ones that are the same as what grows in the USA have different names.

If you do a web search for "goat forage management" or "goat pasture management" you'll get some results. You can prepend those with "meat" or "dairy" and get a little more targeted results. There's actually more studies being done for meat goats since raising dairy goats tends to be more of a hobby. Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas are where things are happening. Little bit in Missouri and other SE States.
Posts: 823
Location: Southern Oregon
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I'm also very interested in this, as we are also looking into getting goats. We know that we want dwarf nigerian goats for milking and brush clearing. Our property has a lot of buck brush, which goats are supposed to like. I hadn't actually planned on planting anything else for them. I think that what's available here will be suitable, but I'm deciding how to provide their water, and am looking at movable shelters that will also carry mineral supplements for them.
John Pollard
Posts: 286
Location: Ozarks
homeschooling goat dog tiny house chicken cooking building solar wood heat homestead
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https://www.homesteadingtoday.com/threads/goats-favorite-forages-fodder-etc.392889/ (big list and on page two, someone commented on their experiences with some of them)

I didn't address shelter.

5-10 sq ft per goat is what I've read. A three sided shed facing South is supposed to work fine but a lot of our rain comes with wind from the SW so I'm going to put a long overhang on our shed(s). Moveable sounds great and is what I'll use at first when there's only a few goats but when/if I get up to 30 goats @ 5-10 sq ft, I'll call it 7 sq ft because I remember seeing that number more than once. 7 sq ft x 30 goats = 210 sq ft. One example would be a 10'x21' shed which is a bit big to move. With the big ravines I have running down most of the middle of my property, it's going to be hard to try and use one shelter for all paddocks. I may end up with two shelters. Then again, I do have a little tractor so I might be able to build one big portable shelter and move it just a little ways.

Something they're doing in India is building raised goat shed with slatted floors so that manure can be easily collected. I noticed looking at the pics that they look like jail cells up on posts. In India, they don't have to worry about cold winds so they don't need any solid walls  and they might have theft issues since their poor people are about the poorest in the world.

So I guess my ideal shelter is going to be a repurposed travel railer since the frames tend to be lighter in weight than something like a landscape or car trailer. Three sides on it that go all the way down to the manure shelf, slatted floor but the sides and manure shelf will prevent drafts from the East, West, North, two axles, one on each end with one being able to pivot a little or maybe even both with the ability to lock them straight. Basically like a hay wagon that's two directional because I don't have room to turn it around. And a prepared path for it.

For now, two 8 foot pressure treated 4x4s with then ends cut 45 degrees. Those would be the skids. Build a floor on top, three walls and a roof. Total size, 4'x8' = 32 sq ft which will hold my initial 2-3 does and their kids. That'll get me by for a year, maybe two.

I had the interesting thought of making it a regular dual axle trailer and get them all used to getting treats in there. Make a kid sized door, throw some treats in to get em all in there, close it down and head for the sale barn. Easy way to herd goats into a trailer ~ make it their house.
Posts: 2841
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Great topic.
I'm not in the market for getting goats,  but the city I live in is filled with green  hillside plots that are hard to build on.
Over run with honeysuckle, they seem perfect goat territory.
I have only seen a couple of urban goat herds in all the time I've lived here, but that might have more to do with anti homesteading laws and culture than anything.

In a city or suburban area I wonder if they would enjoy deliveries of forestry "waste".
After being  surprised to see that the Alpaca on a local farm loved autumn leaves, I figure  fresh loads of leaves,  twigs and branches along with some logs and lots of wood chips,  would be welcome addition to the diet.

Just curious, but would running chickens or guinea behind the goats help with preventing parasites?
Adrienne Halbrook
Posts: 113
Location: North East Ohio USA (Zone 6b)
homeschooling goat kids forest garden foraging books chicken food preservation bee medical herbs homestead
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Thanks everyone for all the great information, ideas, suggestions, and links! Lots to checkout now!  
please buy this thing and then I get a fat cut of the action:
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