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What can I plant for goat browse that they will especially like?

 
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I am planning on starting a goat herd next spring. I have a 1 acre pasture for their main home but will use portable electric netting to move them around the wooded hillside when I am available to be around for the day. My question is what are some favorite plants of goats (angora in particular) that I can go ahead and plant in the main pasture now so it has time to mature.
 
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Hi Stephen,

It really depends on your location. Every geographical location has different soil types, USDA hardiness zones, length of season and average annual precipitation. All these factors will determine what will be best to plant for your goats, so what you plant will actually thrive, to be of use. Goats love a lot of different forbes, and varietie can actually helps maintain balanced nutrition, since sometimes growing environment can restrict the use of more optimal forages. You will most likely want both cool and warm season forages, so when one goes dormant, the other will have taken over.

If you let me know those factors listed above, it will make actual relevant recommendations much easier to give, to increase success of your forage crops.
 
Stephen Cummings
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Sorry I left that out. I am in zone 5. North central West Virginia. What i plan to use as pasture has been planted for the last three years with a deer attractant food plot. Brassicas, red and white clover, and a high sugar perennial rye grass. I understand that goats probably wont eat much of that. I do have the wooded hill that I plan to rotate them thru 4 small parcels. My question is what types of browse can I plant in the pasture for when they are stuck in the pasture (Probably 2 days a week). I was wondering about willows, brambles, and other heavier browse for them. I know they will destroy much of it, so I was thinking of welded wire fencing around the plants to protect trunks and just let branch tips work through the fence for them.
 
R. Steele
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Hi Stephen,

I'll have to check and see what will do best in your area, but like I said soil type and annual rainfall are needed at minimum for me to make good recommendations. I don't think you need to plant woody browse though, many legumes and forbs are actually better quality food, and I'm sure your wooded area will have plenty of woody browse, at least until they over graze it. Goats will quickly over graze woody browse, and kill it. Trees won't regrow quick enough to provide much, even if their trunks are protected, as the trees will just regrow where the animals can't reach. Annuals and perennial forbes are much easier to replant and regrow. Legumes aren't grasses, and goats will eat them just fine, and in fact are some of the best nutrition. Goats will eat grasses to, but only about 15% of their diet.

Depending on how much light you get in the wooded areas, Berseem clover can grow in part shade, though I'm not sure how well it will endure heavy grazing under those low light conditions. So short rotations, allowing long recovery periods will be essential for plants to recover from grazing to regrow, plus without other livestock to act as a dead end paracite trap in rotation, those long rest periods are critical for the paracite larvae to die off before grazing the same susceptible species again.

Sainfoin is a good cool season perennial legume that helps reduce paracites and reduce bloat, if it can grow in your area. Biennial Sweet Clover is a drought resistant cool season legume, but you will need a good versatile mixture of cool and warm season forages for year round grazing. Since I'm not familiar with your area, like I said, I'll need to know the soil type and annual rainfall at minimum to make recommendations that will be effective and low maintenance.

Local extension offices and State Universities are great places to check for basic recommendations, but with so much changing in agriculture so quickly, the recommendations aren't current with newly released species improvements that could be employed for drastic improvement, plus they typically don't utalize permaculture applications.

Most people like perennials in forage feilds, since its lower annual imput, but if you have the ability to do at least broadcast over seeding with annuals, it can dramatically increase forage producion, while improving soil in no till processes.

You might consider keeping some sheep with those goats, as the sheep will help keep the grass under control to minimize feild maintenence. A paracite resistant hair sheep would be a good candidate for low maintenance animals. And since sheep and goats share the same paracites, you can just mix species graze them together in the same rotation.
 
Stephen Cummings
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Thank you for the feedback. I have fairly sandy soil and get alot of rainfall every year. There are some areas that receive plenty of light in the woods for me to plant. I currently have clover, perennial rye grass, and turnips growing in those areas to keep deer moving through. I plan on cutting quite a few older dead trees off that hill this winter to open up the canopy for some of the smaller trees. How often is rotation suggested. They will probably have access to the hillside 5 days a week. I plan on only using four, 1 acre  plots to rotate them through. Hopefully before long my budget will allow me to get additional fencing and could expand that to 1.5 acre areas. Should they be allowed access for 1 month at a time? Or 2 weeks at a time?  Whatever I plant, I need to keep erosion control in mind. It is a fairly steep hillside and I worry about them wearing paths that will start to erode. I am only planning on 4 goats for now, but hope to add if all goes well with these.
 
Stephen Cummings
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One more question. Do goats ever dig for food? Would they benefit from something like sugar beets or maybe carrots? Just curious as to how I could add some special treats here or there and possibly keep them occupied
 
R. Steele
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Hi Stephen,

Goats don't dig, so tubers won't help, except their leaves. Animals can wear paths, so proper rotations for adequate regrowth will help eliminate erosion, along with seeds and mulch. Your best bet for rotational grazing will be mob grazing small paddocks rotated daily. That means training the sheep and goats to electric netting like Premier 1 sheep and goat netting, that can be easily moved daily, then setting them up with 24 hours worth of forage. That will get you the best pasture usage, if you mix species graze goats and hair sheep.

Depending on the moisture, temperature and humidity will determine how long till the paracite larvea hatch, and how long they can live. So about 5 to 6 weeks before grazing again with the same paracite susceptible species, depending on seasonal conditions. If you break the paracite cycle by haying or fully grazing with a none susceptible species, that doesn't share paracites, then the management is just about AUMs and forage management for optimizing the ballence of animal and pasture health. If your pastures are adequately recovered in 3 weeks during certian times of the year, you could mob graze some cows or chickens, to keep that pasture in its nutritional peak, for the next round through with goats. Forages can loose nutritional quality like protien content if the forage get to mature, which can sometimes happen during 6 weeks of regrowth. Grasses heading up, or forages going into bloom are signals your protien content and digestible fiber are dropping quickly. So sometimes mowing becomes necessary if grazing with none paricite susceptible species isn't an option.

You have to keep a keen eye on your feilds, know all your forages nutritional value, and know what it takes to balance everything for all around optimal health, while keeping things low maintenance.

You said Angora goats? Regardless, animals bread for very spacific qualities typically loose other qualities like hardiness and paracite resistance. So proper rotations may be critical to avoid developing paricites resistant to dewormers, as some breeds are highly susceptible to paricite problems.

Have you considered a few beef cows or a large laying flock of chickens to use as dead end paricite traps, in rotational grazing, to help complement rotations with your goats? Otherwise you may have to mow.

Well for a cool weather mix, landino white clover or any of the hybrids like Patriot clover, is a good perennial to have in your mix, but not over 40%. Birdsfoot Trifoil, Common Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Biennial Sweet Clover, Annual Sweet Clover, Crimson Clover, Berseem Clover are all good annual legumes to have nutrient wise. Alfalfa and Sainfoin are good perennials to have nutrition wise if you don't get to much rain for the alfalfa. The Sainfoin is important to have if it will grow in your stand to reduce bloat from the other legume forages. Berseem is non bloating, and a good annual to have. Frosty Berseem is a frost tolerant multicut cultivar. The low tannin legumes will cause bloat if you don't balance your mix right. Goats aren't as susceptible to bloat as cows, but they can still get bloat. So slowly transitioning feeds is important. You can keep your perennial rye grass for a cool growing grass, but it may be smart to augment it with other cool growing grasses known for good nutritional content, like Timothy grass, Orchard grass, or which ever types of quality perennial grasses do well in your conditions. That way as you move through the cool season, each grass will have its time to shine.

For a warm season mix I would just recommend broat cast seeding annuals like Sunn Hemp, Sorghum-Sudangrass, cow peas, Forage Sunflower, Millet and what ever good forage crops will do well in your warm season. The annuals will drastically improve your soil health and organic matter with no till practices. If they graze through and destroy the warm season crop, just broadcast seed again to grow a new one. 6 weeks of growth with warm season annual can create alot of forage. Many farmers seed and in 30 days graze it. You could even broadcast before you mob graze, letting the animals firm your seed bed.

So if your not happy with your deer mix, which belive it or not, goats will like, they just wont evenly graze. Check out the forage suggestion I made to see if they will work in your area.

Hope that helps.

 
Stephen Cummings
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Thank you so much for all the information. I do have chickens that I can rotate with the goats. One last question about parasites. How do I control them in the shelter and small pasture near the barn? I use DE in the chicken coops and add a little to their feed every so often. Is that safe for goats as well?
 
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Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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“I was wondering about willows, brambles, and other heavier browse for them.”

Yes. Heavier browse is usually a good idea. If you can keep goats eating above knee level, you’ll have way less parasite problems. I read an article a while back (and of course I can’t find it now to link here) about a study done on black locust as goat feed. It’s good quality forage, high in protein, being a legume, and the authors suggested that, since bl is high in tannins, it ought to have at least some anti-parasite function as well, though they hadn’t evaluated that in this particular study. I’m trying it, but this is the first year my tree is big enough to feed to goats so we’ll see. From personal experience, I can say that roses/berries/fruit trees are extremely palatable to goats, as are scotch broom and hawthorn.

A good rule of thumb for goats though, is if deer browse it, and it has near-invasive growing characteristics in your area, it’s probably good goat forage.
 
pioneer
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Location: California Coastal range
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goats love mulberry leaves and chestnut leaves and blackberry brambles.  Grape vines too.  In my location I would make sure that alot of what I planted for goats was mulberry and coppice it so they can reach

Angora goats need high protein for good fleece growth so they get fed like dairy goats,  Mulberry leaves are high protein.  They also love alfalfa, but I dont think I would let them graze too much of that fresh, but do grow some for them if you can ( The darn quail like to fly in and eat teh alfalfa here, but leave the mulberry alone)
 
R. Steele
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Hi Stephen,

To help control internal paracite proliferation from within your shelters, you can put down bedding, and change the bedding frequently to help keep things clean. As long as you change your bedding before the eggs hatch into larvae, you should be fine. I think during warm temperatures, the larvae hatch in about 4 days, but I would verify that before establishing a regiment on bedding changes. DE is often already in many feeds, and has some alleged help in reducing inturnal paracites. Some people also do seasonal regiments of things like ACV and garlic dosing to help reduce internal parasite issues. But DE will definitely work to help external paracite control, if applied to the bedding.

The good thing about high tannin legumes, they are no bloat, they help reduce bloat from other legumes that can cause bloat, and they have been documented in trials to reduce internal paracite issues. For what ever reasons in ruminates, the internal parasites don't proliferate with high tannin forages. Any of the no bloat legumes like Birdsfoot Trifoil, Berseem Clover, and Sainfoin will have some helpful effect, though I think the study I'm refering to was conducted using Sainfoin.

Hope that helps point you in the right direction.
 
Sue Reeves
pioneer
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Location: California Coastal range
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There is nothing about the bedding that will give them parasites.  They are not eating the bedding, if they are, change what you use for bedding. And, the feed should be off the ground in a feeder of some sort they should not eat off of where they poop.  SO no DE is needed.  Now, if the goats get lice then DE applied to their bodies will kill the lice.  Goats can get worms or liver flukes off of pasture, eating at ground level, they will do better on not getting parasites by having Browse to eat -- bushes, tree branches, etc....  Not all pastures have worms in any case, depends on your area or if the goats you buy ALREADY have worms then they will come out in their poop and then your land will also then have them.  I do not have barber pole worms at my location, for example, or even the regular kind and I do deep bedding that is changed seasonally.
 
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