• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

how much of goats' feed can be done with forage?

 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello!

I'm doing that classic daydreamer forum poster where I don't yet know what I'm talking about but have all these daydreams that I think might work. So bear with me.

I'm here in Northern California (Santa Cruz Mtns) where much of the woods are green all year. (it doesn't really freeze here, and many species are 'evergreen' without being conifers). This area is also known as wildfire danger central. So I'm almost more interested in getting goats for brush clearing than for milk.

I've attached a picture of a typical area below my house that I need to clear out constantly. Picture was taken this morning, showing all the green... I hope the photo shows up properly.


Fundamental question: how much of a goat's diet can be taken care of through forage? Obviously, I'm interested in spending less money on store-bought food and getting more of my woods cleared.

Tys
11-6-12 013.JPG
[Thumbnail for 11-6-12 013.JPG]
west woods
 
rc jones
Posts: 6
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi day dreamer. A goat can live totally on browse. If they have green browse they may not need water. A variety of plants helps provide a balanced diet, but you will want to make sure that there is not a large quantity of poisonous plants in the area.

If your area has enough browse to sustain them, then they don't clear it. It grows back at a sustainable rate. If not, then you have to protect the trees that you want by wrapping them with chicken wire since they will strip the bark.

They will need shelter a place they can go when it rains. They can get hypothermia if they get wet.

I use goats for backpacking.

 
Barbara Rhoads
Posts: 26
Location: North Eastern California
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Goats are able to live 100% of off foraging if the plant life is sufficient for them. As the previous poster recommended check to ensure that the plants available on your property are not poisonous for the goats. You want to make sure that you either give them enough room to roam to find food or move them frequently so that they do not destroy the food sources.

If you are looking to milk one of them remember that the milk does pick up flavors of what they eat so you may want to supplement with a sweet grass/hay (alfalafa or similar)
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1401
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ditto to what the posters above said. When I raised goats - and I will again as soon as my new place is fenced - they get only an occasional handful of sweet feed out of my hand to keep them tame enough for me to handle them and trim their feet, etc.

They are actually healthier eating the forage as nature intended. You just need to learn to judge their health by the suppleness of their skin, how much meat or fat is between your hand and the ribs and hips when you examine them and learn what healthy gums and good capillary refill look like.

As long as those things look good and your goats are active and alert that is the best judge of their health and whether they are getting enough proper feed from the area.
 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
well! thank you everyone for the good news!

I have been interested in a close neighbor's goats and how they manage them, but was put off by how they buy all their feed... they don't have the same amount of land I do, I guess.

I've another simple question that can easily be figured out later, but since we're on the subject, what do you all think about the difference between the paddock style - moving fencing to move the goats around to make sure they get enough food and don't destroy the area vs. keeping them in a barn and walking them out to tethers every day - and moving the tethers?

(I sort of answered my own question there, I think. It sounds like the difference between working once a week and once a day, but there's also the expense of movable (electric?) fencing, and would still include a barn situation of some sort, which might mean walking them back and forth anyway)

thanks again!
Tys
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You can use movable shelters if you go with the movable fencing option. Where you are I'd imagine you could get away with pretty simple housing, they really just need to stay dry.

I have a permanently fenced area, but I take our three goats out most days and tether them. This can be somewhat tricky because goats are notoriously tangle-prone, and until they get used to it can easily strangle themselves/eachother. So I'd suggest first training them to leads, then tethering them while you're around, then slowly give them more space until you feel confident they won't hurt themselves. Ours are in their 4th month of daily tethering and I still check on them at least every couple hours, and try to stay within earshot.

peace
 
Barbara Rhoads
Posts: 26
Location: North Eastern California
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Super easy to build a portable barn for the goats just has to be large enough for the number of goats you have. A quick Google search will give you plenty of ideas based on your terrain and weather...
like this (with wheels)

or like this:
 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In the wet NW, I'd put two walls on that portable shed, or you'd have very unhappy goats. And my 130 - 200 lb goats would destroy the plastic one. Starting with my stud buck, the kids or the stupid yearling (think teenager).

If you are doing meat, pack or brush goats, forage-only is actually the best, but ask around about mineral content of the soil. Oregon seems to be very copper deficient, and WA is selenium deficient. So they need a mineral supplement (loose is best). I've lost babies to selenium deficiency.
If you have milking goats of any quality, they need clean water and may need good quality hay and/or a little grain, depending on the bloodlines and milk production, to keep up their body condition. Mine each give about 2000 lbs of milk a year at 3.5-7% butterfat and 3-5% protein, so more than just forage is needed to keep them going. They do better with less grain and more hay/forage. Eventually I want to transition them to hay and forage only, but we'll see. I need more land first, and will probably have to let their metabolisms adapt.
 
rc jones
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The plastic one will not stand up to goats at all.
In my experience, plastic pipe gets brittle and doesn't last many years in the sun.
Plus the goats can just decide to shred it.
You don't really want them chewing on plastic sheeting, it is one thing that can jam up their intestines pretty quickly.

My goats require 6-8 ft of sturdy fencing.
They can hop over 4 ft sheep fence and climb over 5ft horse fencing.
One of them can climb over 6ft chain link.
One day he went over the fence in the back where there were a couple big playful dogs. It panicked him a bit.
So I started over the fence to help him. While I was on top, sort of straddling it, he jumped in my lap.

They had been contained with a wooden slat fence on one side for nearly a year, then one day they decided to knock it all down.
They can push over fencing built with those poles you pound in the ground.
They can tear the welds in garden fencing.

On the other hand, they generally don't try to get out if they are well fed. I currently have them in 5ft temporary horse fence and have not had problems.
I put them in angling about 15 degrees which seems to discourage them from trying to stand up on them.

At my old place, the guy across the street came over just laughing at my goats.
They had been just hopping my fence shortly after I left, and hopping back in before I came home.

At my new place, when we first moved in, one of the goats kept getting out. So I sat and watched from the window. He had found a place in the fence where he had broken the welds.
He would wait until the other goats weren't looking, then dash through.

When we first got them at ten weeks old, my daughter wanted to put a tunnel under the fence so the ducks could get through.
We put a 14" duct in the ground that sloped down under the fence, turned a right angle, then sloped up the other side.
First the ducks just walked through the fence and didn't need a tunnel. Then one of the goats actually squeezed through the duct to escape.

I am not so sure what I would do for a portable paddock. When I do tie them I use a low line instead of a highline so that if they do get tangled, at least they're not dangling.



 
rc jones
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, yeah. I have used a zip line successfully. I strung a 60 ft length of plastic banding tape and had a 1" ring that could slide on it.
It was about 4ft off the ground. And a 5 ft lead attached to the halter and the ring. I had to put stoppers at the end so the goat wouldn't wrap around the trees at the end.
He could browse the whole length of the zip line. Four of the five goats did well. The fifth can tangle himself in an un-mowed lawn.
 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've had goats for 10+ years. The way I describe goat fencing to people at the fairs I exhibit at, is "horse-high, bull-strong and child-proof". If a small child can go over, under or through the fence, then so can the goat. The best fencing I've used is a combination of a wire mesh (4-5ft high) with a couple strands of electric inside. The electric will keep them off the fence, and the mesh provides protection from dogs and other predators and provides a visual barrier.

Speaking of predators, if you don't want to lose animals...locking them into a shelter at night is a good idea, and the purchase of a good Livestock Guard Dog is advised. The most common breeds are Anatolian and Great Pyrenees, there are also Maremma, Kuvasz, Komondor and if rare breeds catch your fancy: Karakachan, Spanish Mastiff, and Pyrenean Mastiff. All bred to be safe with livestock, and dangerous to predators. Anatolians have a reputation for taking a long time to mature, and Pyrenees have a reputation of requiring good fences themselves to keep them from roaming or running away. You would want to buy a pup from a breeder who uses their dogs as livestock guardians. As soon as I'm out of school, I will be looking for one. Goat horns are inadequate for self-protection and are dangerous to people, especially children.

You have a good chance of the breeder refusing to sell you a goat if you are going to tether them. There is a high rate of strangulation in tethered goats. So either find a breeder who doesn't care, or a salebarn goat. A problem with a sale barn goat is that they frequently have health problems. Sale barns are generally where culls, incurably-ill and unsaleable animals end up.

Actually, if you want some good, healthy and friendly goats, a local 4-H'er is a great source, and then you can support a child's project.
 
greg patrick
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tys Sniffen wrote:what do you all think about the difference between the paddock style - moving fencing to move the goats around to make sure they get enough food and don't destroy the area vs. keeping them in a barn and walking them out to tethers every day - and moving the tethers?


I've been obsessively researching this myself and have come to the conclusion that semi to intensive pasture rotation is the way to go. Run the goats until they've eaten 60-80% of what's to be had, then move 'em. Don't run them on the same paddock again until it can take another hit.

The best book on the topic I've read yet is: 'All Flesh is Grass' by Logsdon. Includes stocking rates, etc. Great resource.
 
Philip Green
Posts: 45
Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had a pygmy buck that survived quite well on only browse (gave him away, now I have only does). The others I give just a little bit to keep them friendly (though I have had them on only forage at times to and they seemed fine). I give the doe who's pregnant I give a little extra (she started to get a bit skinny during pregnancy).

As for fencing... Mine are fenced in with like 40 inch fencing and they stay just fine. They were originally jumping the fencing with ease, but then we set it up so they were right next to the house (literally the fence connects to the house). Why? Because they'd jump the fence then come to the house. They were mostly bottle fed so they like being near people. Now they are right next to the house and they have plenty of acres to eat from (the two main things they seemed to want) so they never jump the fence. I'm positive there are areas of the fence they could escape with fairly little effort. But then again a devoted goat can jump 5+ foot fencing. The trick (in my view at least) is to figure out why they want to escape. If they don't have a reason to escape, then they put minimal effort into escaping (literally at one point I could leave the gate open and they wouldn't go out of it, though I eventually brought them out to eat some stuff and they decided they kinda like it out there - but it's not worth their effort unless there is a really easy exit) and the fencing doesn't have to be great.

As for fencing, I'm a big fan of permanent wire fencing if it's possible. True it cost a lot to put up and it takes quite a bit of time. But after that you don't have to worry about it. At most you move their shelter once a week or two. Mine live in a permanent shelter (though I wish I had a mobile bottomless shelter, but the permanent shelter is already there so I might as well use it), but I do open/close different gates to force them to rotate their grazing a bit. Moving fencing once a week is still quite a time consuming process, and I'd guess that because they are constantly being moved they won't have a "home" they are familiar with and will be more likely to try to get out. Still probably better then tethering though.

When I got goats the two main things I read were 1) give them shelter because they hate rain and 2) your fencing must be at least 5 feet or they will escape. Well I've seen my goats wandering around outside in pouring rain and 45 degree weather (they had shelter available, just didn't want to go inside I guess) and they stay inside fencing that's under 4 feet. My guess is that the rain is more of a time thing, they can survive for several hours in rain just fine, but if it rains all day they will eventually go inside the shelter to warm up and dry off.

 
Bonnie Johnson
Posts: 25
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You can do all of a goats feed with forage if you have a big enough area or much better if you use rotational grazing. I have been using rotational grazing with goats
for two years now. First we used step in posts, twine and tape, but now we are using electronet. We do give a bit of feed each day to the goats. This keeps them very happy
to see us and when we move their electronet, we put feed in the bowls and they come running and go in the new pen. Honestly, they come running as soon as I get near the
bowls to move them to the new pen. We couldn't afford to buy enough electronet to have two complete separate pens.

By the way that moveable goat shelter pictured in a below post is ours The one with the metal roof. We only use that in the summer and move it with a riding lawnmower although I have threatened to
move it with one of my horses that are broke to drive or a new draft pony. LOL In the winter the goats go in a run in shed that kind of uses a deep litter system. The goats
eat hay in the shed, they drop hay on the ground. They do their business on the hay and sleep on it and things just get deeper and deeper. The hay and manure start breaking down
and by summer it is really nice stuff that can go on a garden. We built that shelter exclusively from materials we pounced on at local auctions at a very cheap price.

All of the goats we own have been bought at the local animal auction. We have not had much in the way of problems with the health of the goats. We don't worm at all when we are rotating
the goats on forage with the electronet as we leave the worms behind.

Even my dairy does who don't go in the rotational pen unless they are dry do quite well on fodder only that is if I can afford to buy alfalfa hay to give them in the winter. Sometimes that
is not possible so other feed is used. I don't use sweet feed.

We use moveable pens for our poultry (although they free range during the day and are on a deep litter system in the winter), rabbits and goats. The horses have three pastures to move through.

This is the first time I have posted on one of these forums. My husband posted the picture of our goat shelter on a forum that he joined earlier this year.

enough for now, gotta go milk a goat A nigerian by the way with a nice udder that I can use my whole hand to milk not just two finger and a thumb!
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic