Jo Hunter wrote:I've been planning Nigerian dwarf goats for years (literally-- it's part of year 5 of our 5 year plan). They're very expensive in South Africa, as they are relatively unusual here (in fact, they may not be the same breed as is classified as Nigerian dwarf in the U.S.-- i.e. same look etc, but possibly bred from a different line). Anyway, so I've found a few farms that breed them (though they seem super tiny-- may have been bred primarily for tiny-ness) and have been planning seemingly endlessly, and now we're getting close to the point where we could actually get them.
My reasoning for Nigerian dwarf goats: they're small, the milk is richer and seems lovely, the babies are in demand so, from what I can tell from local sales, we could sell goat kids to be pets, rather than having to slaughter (we started breeding ducks for meat and it was really difficult for one of our kids to cope with). Con: we'd also need to have a male as there are no bucks around for breeding. I.e. we'd probably start with a breeding pair and then have 2 females and a male. (So my first question is whether I'm thinking logically about breed. We have a large herd of a mixed dairy breed kept at a nearby farm, so could easily and cheaply get goats there, BUT the issue of males is a big one for us-- they're actually currently trying to breed a line that is meatier, so that the males have more of a purpose...plus the milk there tastes not great, though the cheese is awesome.)
We're on 1 acre, and have a little less than 1/2 an acre set aside for them, which we are currently dividing into 6 pastures for rotation (each pasture at least 10mX10m, usually larger)-- we've been saving up poles, wire, etc. My plan was that such a rotation would allow each pen to remain relatively lush, and to keep pest/parasite pressure down. I was also thinking of having ducks then chickens in some kind of rotation, perhaps occasionally also with a crop (we have ducks and chickens now and feel more experienced managing their needs). Still, there are a few things I'm still pondering and I may be making things more complicated than necessary.
We're in a Mediterranean climate- no frost but cold-ish (down to 5C) and wet in winter.
Sorry, now for a slew of questions, some of which I know just have to be lived out to know the answers to:
1) Housing: would it be better to build a simple lightweight shelter that could be moved from pasture to pasture, or is moving a shelter practically difficult? Alternatives would be to have a small goat house near our own house-- then, my question is whether parasite pressure would build there because they're always sleeping there. And could we milk the goats in that same shelter? I tend towards having them close by, for safety/potential theft.
2) Crop rotation: If we have 6 pastures, would it be practically possible to use at least a couple of pastures for vegetables in the rotation? Here, I'd been thinking in terms of whether spending around 20 days in one pasture would be doable. I wonder how quickly 3 small goats would flatten an area, and how quickly the parasite load would start to build. if this kind of rotation sounds standard, doing some crops in 90-100 days would be feasible. The alternative I"m thinking through is allowing the acacia saligna to continue to grow in the pastures (an alien which goats really like) as a goat feed, and growing more tagasaste/tree lucerne in or around the pastures. It may be that a mix of both options would be best, because irrigation will not be possible everywhere so some areas may just be for winter crops, when irrigation is not needed. Anyway, I'd love any ideas on rotation so that we're using the goats as an asset (and getting them a variety of food).
3) Landscape waste: I can get fresh landscape waste (branch clippings from a variety of trees and shrubs-- I use the grass clippings for compost) and was pondering whether this could be a good source of feed, or if it would be too messy and labour intensive to sort/remove etc. Has anyone met someone who feeds their goats partly from such clippings?
4) Male/female together?: If we get a breeding pair to start with, is it ok to keep them together for companionship? I hear it's not a good idea to keep the buck and the doe in the same area, but also that you shouldn't keep a goat alone, so I'm not sure how to approach this, and if I actually have to start with 2 bucks and 2 does so both have a friend, which seems a little crazy. If I'm always using 2 pastures, it also affects rotation quite a bit.
Whew. Sorry- lots of questions. I think about goats a lot, and can't wait to have them. Thank you so much for any thoughts!