I'm a new homesteader and have never dealt with animals besides our pet dogs. I'm bringing in some Nigerian Dwarfs here in the next couple of weeks. I have some great forested forage for them but we found that there is a large patch of poison hemlock here and there. I'm doing my best to pull up the majority of the plants that I am finding, especially the larger ones. I have been just pulling them up and laying them down on the ground to decompose in place.
So I have 2 questions about this.
1. Is it ok to leave the hemlock on the ground to decompose or do I need to try and remove it altogether? I have read that goats are not into eating anything off the ground, so I wasn't sure.
2. There's so much of this hemlock around so I'm obviously going to miss some here or there. Will the goats avoid eating it or do I need to get more meticulous?
I don't know about hemlock, but I do know there are some plants which become more palatable once they are dried. Ragwort is one example and must always be removed from the reach of livestock once it is pulled up. If you can't remove it it's better to leave it growing.
It will also depend on how savvy your goats are, and a lot of that will depend on their background and whether they have been raised by their mothers on varied free range browse. I would make a guess that with lots of other browse available they won't bother with the hemlock whether growing or left on the ground, but I would be wary of risking it.
Maybe you could escort them out to a patch and see what their reaction is. Goat language for "this is bad, don't eat it" is an explosive sneezing sound. If your lead goat goes up to the plant, nibbles it and makes that noise then walks on, you may find the other goats also try it and and repeat the noise, and this would be an indication they are not going to eat it. I've heard of people doing it themselves to demonstrate to the goats that something is not to be eaten.
so, are the goats going to be penned up with the poison hemlock, with no other browse to eat. If not, i would not spend the effort pulling it out, just so your goats don't eat it. Goats in my experience are only going to eat something to excess if they are very very hungry, without no other choice of browse to eat.
i would leave the poison hemlock where it is and move onto another project.
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