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create urban goat habitat and limit bought hay?

 
Jae eaj
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This site is awesome, I found through a google search and haven't left for days.

Anyhow, I live in a suburban flat area. I would like to transform my landscape into something for my little goats to enjoy. I would also like to simply grow their food and stop or dramatically limit, buying hay.

I originally got a single goat because someone who works with abused animals called me as the "human" (yes I use quotes to describe this guy), was in prison for animal cruelty and neglect for his domestic animals (dogs, cats, parrots). The goats did not fall under this law so the state would not find them homes. The owner had stopped paying rent for the land his goats were browsing and they were looking for a solution besides to euthanize. (goats had severe whip marks, broken horns, all had worms, lice, and mange). I am a vegetarian who had a super large, highly fenced in area, and had chickens for many years - hence my first goat. Who needed a companion, and then I have my micro herd of 3 goats. It's been an exceptionally wild learning experience for me but ultimately I intend to provide the with the best life they can. (btw, mange, worms, lice and scars are gone).

As of now there is a small 8 -10 foot diameter pond, surrounded by 6 fruit trees, which this year the goats have repeatedly stripped the bark off, despite the metal wires around.

The goats are still babies/teens. I would like to create a space for them to live natural and free, well as much as they can, in a suburban environment. (btw, the neighborhood kids LOvE the goats! Never seen anything so cool) I am thinking a mountain with a cave, a mini forest (that they can nibble on). Don't mind at all if they eat fruit from the 6 fruit trees, as they are super freaking prolific, and it's kind of hilarious seeing them with peach juice on their lips, but I would like them to stop eating the bark, as it will eventually kill the trees.

Ideas?


 
Elouise Brown
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Location: Maine, USA
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You might be interested in checking out "Goat Husbandry" at your public library and reading Chapter 15, "Cropping for goats". I've been reading the book excitedly all week, it's chock-full of information.

You'll have to read it for all the details, but here's some ideas:
Though I don't support the feeding of grain to goats... Corn, kale, oats, barley, buckwheat, ryegrass, radishes, beets, and swedes (rutabagas)

Here's more: http://fiascofarm.com/goats/feeding.htm
Of particular interest the "Pasture" section.

A relevant thread: http://www.permies.com/t/6769/goats/Goat-Nutrition-Management#60137
 
Rose Pinder
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How big is your section? Goats in the wild would normally have a much bigger browse area than an suburban section. Goats will turn land into a desert if they don't have enough feed (because they can eat most things). Please do something immediately to protect your fruit trees (if you lose those they will be hard to replace).

Also what is your climate, soil etc (not just zone)?
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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1 acre can support 7 goats 100lbs do not stock any higher than this, without supplemental feed.
Divide the pasture in 4 parts and give the rotate the goat giving the grass time to regrow.
Goat love grassland/shrubland.

As for your pasture plants the main thing to remember is that you want 4 types of plants 1.N-fixers, 2.Drymass, 3.Pest control/medicine, 4.Aerating roots
I would plant 7-12 plants in each category.
mustard
burdock
alfalfa
lamb's quarter
fava bean
sweet clover
lupine
landino clover
buckwheat
hairy vetch
daikon
black-eyed peas
comfrey
sun flower
yarrow
borage
chamomile
dandelion
turnip
bee balm
lavender
mullein
pea (pisum arvitiuse)
stinging nettle
chard
maximillian sunflower
sorghum

As for the goat eating the bark off the fruit trees. Not too sure what would stop them. I guess you could wrap it in some type of amour/chain link fencing +chicken coop mesh.
 
Sally Hurst
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I have found, that my own goats (Nigerians and Oberhaslis) eat more tree bark when they have no other good source of minerals. I'm not saying that you can eliminate the bark eating by suppling a good mineral mix, but you can minimize the damage. By "good mineral mix" I mean one that 1) does not say "sheep" anywhere on the label, even if it says "sheep and goats." Minerals labeled for sheep don't have enough copper for goats. (Goats, especially dark colored goats NEED copper, while it can be toxic to sheep.) 2) A loose (sandy) mineral mix rather than a block. The exception that has worked for me is BlueSeal's molasses based mineral tubs (but the Equine Choice, not the Sheep/Goat/Deer.) 3) One where salt is not the first (and therefore most abundant) ingredient. These bags are usually cheapest. The best I have found is Golden Blend out of Georgia, but the shipping (to me) is amazingly expensive, and no one nearby carries it, so my second choice is the goat mix at Countryside Natural Products.

You mentioned that goats were eating peaches off these trees. Please be aware that stone fruit (peaches, apricots, cherries) tree leaves can be toxic. Choke or wild cherries are the worst. The leaves aren't a problem when they are green and growing on the tree, nor when they are dry and crackly on the ground, but when they are wilted they can be deadly.

My goats have daily access to young woods because I "walk" them for about 2 hrs each day. This consists of me opening the barnyard gate and calling "Come on goats." Then I walk toward whatever area I want them to start grazing, and they follow. Once they get tired of that area though, my job turns into keeping them away from dangerous areas (the road.) To get them back in I wait for rain, or dark, or give them hay or grain as positive reenforcement. The first two times I tried this (in desperation during a drouth, when neither grass nor hay was available) I went really heavy on the bribery (higher than usual grain feeding) to get them to go home, but now (more than three years later) all I have to do is go to the gate and call again.

I'm not sure it is possible to grow all the feed a goat needs in a small area since what they prefer is browse and that grows so much more slowly than pasture. Certainly rotational grazing would give you the best chance, but you'll have to manage your plants very carefully indeed. The list in the post above is certainly quite comprehensive, and I don't see any thing on it that would hurt goats, but, in my experience, finding seed for most of the list won't be easy. Also, I bought sorghum hay once and they absolutely refused to eat any. On the other hand, they go crazy for oat hay and will graze any grain plant as well as soybeans.

I have found older editions of "Goat Husbandry" much more useful than newer editions.
 
Miya Tabor
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My husband and I are preparing to get goats and I have been reading up on this as well. I am curious as to whether I need to be worried about bloat? I've read a good amount of material saying to feed hay before they head out to pasture, is this because these goats are only getting grass, and not as a primary food source? Are their bodies just used to hay?
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Miya Tabor wrote:My husband and I are preparing to get goats and I have been reading up on this as well. I am curious as to whether I need to be worried about bloat? I've read a good amount of material saying to feed hay before they head out to pasture, is this because these goats are only getting grass, and not as a primary food source? Are their bodies just used to hay?


Its just that their body is used to eating woody twig/bark/branches because they are browser.
 
Sally Hurst
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Bloat CAN happen in goats, but it is more of a cow and sheep problem. Any time you switch an ruminate's (an animal with a four-chambered stomach, like cows, sheep, and goats) food you need to give them an adjustment period. Ruminates rely on bacteria that live in their stomach to help with digestion. If they have been eating one food exclusively (say, hay) and you give them a large amount of another (say, grain) they won't have enough of the bacteria that helps digest the new food and it can get slowed down in their digestive tracts and, essentially, rot. Which causes problems, as you might guess. This is what happens when goats have endotoximia aka. over-eating disease. If you give a ruminate a small amount of the new food, gradually increasing the amount over several days, it gives their digestive tracts time to grow enough of the bacteria to help digest that food, and therefore, no endotoximia.

When going from hay to grass, the problem is water. Hay doesn't have much, and new spring grass has an abundance. This can cause 1) runny feces - which can get out of control and cause dehydration or 2) bloat - which is digestive gas that can't escape. I've read lots of discussions relating to cows suggesting that farmers feed hay in the morning and let cows out to graze in the afternoon, thus mixing the dry and wet and ameliorating the problem. I have not, personally, had this problem with my goat herd. Yes, I have had goats with diarrhea. Yes, I have treated goats for endotoximia (I have lost some and saved more.) Just not in relation to spring grass growth. My go-to treatment for any digestive issues has become pro-biotics, available in paste or powder form from farm supply stores and catalogues. I use it on any baby goats with runny feces, and in circumstances where I have had to change feed quickly. (Or the time they broke into the grain bin and ate WAY more than was their daily allowance. In that case I mixed a slurry of pro-bios and water and gave everyone a huge syringe full orally. All digestive problems were averted.)

Yes, absolutely, a goat's natural food source is BROWSE (plants growing up off the ground like bushes, vines, leaves, bark), not grass. And we as goat keepers need to do all we can to provide as much as possible. But you can't buy bales of browse, and bushes don't recover from grazing as fast as grass does. Goat keepers need to mitigate those circumstances by providing as much food variety as possible and adding a good mineral mix.
 
Miya Tabor
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Thanks for all the info, Sally. Really helpful.
 
Doug Mac
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Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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Buck brush - Purshia tridentata, Cotoneaster, and Ceanothus are my goats favorite browse bushes. Cotoneaster is invasive here, so it's a double good. I don't know how much land you have, but a mix of brush and forbs will probably be your best chance to stop buying hay. Look around for the weediest hay you can find. It's actually better for your goats and usually much cheaper. Just no mold or poisonous plants. Stone fruit (peaches, plums, cherries etc.) leaves are ok when fresh or dried, but very poisonous when wilted (cyanide).
 
Doug Mac
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Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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I forgot to list blackberries! They love blackberry leaves and the tips of the vines. Another invasive plant here in northern California. P.S. They also eat poison oak!
 
Jae eaj
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Lots of great responses. thanks.

BTW, the space for the 3 goats, (1 medium size, 2 very small dwarf goats), is 50 feet by 40 ish feet, plus 2 longer side areas, not counted. Right now, I provide lots of leaves and browse from neighbors with larger trees, good hay, plus a mineral block, and they get misc. kitchen vegetable scraps. They are pretty happy and healthy goats.

I am thinking about trying the Sepp bone sauce on the trees. Have yet to find anyone who actually has done it, lots of theorists. I was thinking about trying a pressure cooker as an alternative.

My yard is completely flat, so I'd like to build a sort of mountain and cave for them to play in and on. I would also like to build a small forest for them to play in and nibble on.

Anybody know if goats destroy pine? oak? pecan? or fast growing firewood trees? My front yard is also 50 feet across but only 30 feet wide, so I was thinking maybe I could put all my fruit trees in the front yard, and not worry about the goats stripping the bark. There is an invasive tree that grows here called a Chinese elm, that I try to encourage the goats to eat. It grows about 10 feet a year, even when you are trying to stunt it's growth.

Has anyone fed goats hops? As I understand it, its a vine that grows 6 feet in a year. I was thinking that if I covered the side walls in hops that could be a nice spring- fall browse plant for the goats.

oh, and somebody asked about the climate, I am in 6-8, in New Mexico.

thanks everybody, Jae
 
Sally Hurst
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My climate/terrain is so very different from yours, (I am on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge mountains) so there are plants that I just haven't had any experience with. Chinese Elm is one of them. But my personal policy is not to plant anything invasive unless I am sure that some animal on this farm will eat it, and I take a set of garden clippers with me on our walks to cut down/back any non-native species I come across. The goats look forward to this activity <g>.

I concur with the blackberry plant recommendation. In fact, I don't know a berry bush they don't like. Mine like pine needles, especially this time of year, when green things are hard to come by, but they don't eat the pine bark. Pine (along with a number of other plants) is a natural dewormer. Oak leaves and nuts are dewormers as well, because of the tannins they contain, but be careful that the goats don't overindulge. And not only do goats like poison oak, but they go crazy for poison ivy. Mine hunt it down, especially in the spring. No, it does not effect them at all, but I get the rash on my forearm from contact with their bellies when I milk. As for pecans, they will eat leaves and nuts. (I had sheep who would stand under a pecan and listen for nuts to fall.) Yes, they have eaten a hops vine. That happened (accidentally) in the summer while it was still growing.

My goats really enjoy eating cedar trees after the trees are more than 3' tall, and especially when they are in milk, which makes sense since cedars need calcium to grow. They like dogwood after it flowers, honeysuckle after it is touched by frost, floribunda (wild) roses when they are growing, wisteria leaves but not vines, mimosa tree leaves, bark, and flowers, grape vines and leaves, privet hedge, mulberry leaves and bark, and almost all of the plants in my husband's garden except tomatoes, strong smelling herbs, gourds, and broccoli.

There are three plants that grow in my area that are truly poisonous to goats AND that they will willingly eat (choke cherry as discussed before, mountain laurel, and bracken fern) and I have made a point to be able to recognize them, so as long as it isn't one of those, I let goats try it. (There are all sorts of plants that get listed as poisonous that they don't want anyway (holly, vinca, ink berry.) Since my goats have the choice not to eat them, I don't worry about those.) I have seen all kinds of plants that my goats regularly eat on "poisonous to goats" lists because they are a problem under very specific circumstances, so check with a goat keeper in your area to see which ones you really need to absolutely avoid. And it would be a good idea to keep both baking soda and activated charcoal on hand for any emergencies.

Sometimes it takes a while for a goat to become willing to try new foods. I bought a doe from a farm that had no pasture, so when she came to my house and saw the green stuff on the ground, she didn't know what to do with it. She spent several weeks watching the rest of the herd before she tried some, but now, six years later, she is my most adventurous eater.

My county fair has a goat exhibit every year where they take one of those pre-built wooden sheds (with asphalt shingles) and build ramps or steps up to each of the eves. The goats climb up the steps/ramp, onto the roof, and down the other side. Their steps are made of small boulders on one side, and a wooden ramp on the other, but you could use any number of other material. (Do keep in mind how you might want to clean the whole system, as you can be sure they will poo on it.) You could even include a rough section to help wear down their hooves so you don't have to trim as often. The goats seem to really enjoy it, and so do the people watching.

As for food scraps, beware of too much sugar, and too many brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc.)

It sounds like you are trying to do your best for these goats, and I applaud you for it.
 
Doug Mac
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Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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It sounds like your goats are going to have a good life. I don't think you'll be able to grow enough browse in that small an area for all there needs. So when you are buying feed, here are some tips.

1. There are lots of products with 'goat' in the title that aren't so good for goats. Look for products that have little or no grain. Grain is ok for treats, Alfalfa pellets are better.

2. Make sure your mineral supplement is for goats - NOT goats and sheep. Goats need copper.

3. Check around different feed stores for 'weedy' hay. The feed stores will think you're nuts, but when you see the difference in your goats response to 'weedy' hay, you'll get it. saves a ton of money too.

4. Find out what poisonous plants are in your area. Here we have a low growing member of the azalea family, poison hemlock and some ferns. My buddy packs with his wethers and almost lost one to that azalea.

5. Provide variety in the diet. That's the best way to make sure they are getting a balanced diet. Some times of the year they'll love one thing then later something else will be their favorite.

6. I don't put feeders in corners. Goats will butt each other.

Have fun. I wish my neighbor had goats when I was a kid!
 
Renate Howard
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Putting out baking soda will help a lot too. It prevents the problems they can get from their reumen getting too acidic. Leave it out free-choice and they'll eat it when they need it. It's also a remedy for when they eat some poisonous plants and are feeling sick.
 
Sherry Jansen
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Our Saanen goats distroy nearly every maple and willow they come in contact with. They seem to like to show off as to how high they can go on the bark and we use them to clear areas to plant for sheep pasture.

That said, if you want a low cost alternative, which can be food for the goats and chickens, try some sprouting grains. We have a book on it and Advanced sprouting, but for your needs, a 5 gallon pail should be enough. We add minerals like rock dust or kelp to the sprouts for added super health. And, I think the rock dust works like diatanacious earth in reducing or eliminating parasites. You can find the sprout book on MyBackAchers.com or email me for a free copy.

The cost of sprouting grains should be a fraction of the price of grass hay (for now) and it can help keep your small holding from turning into a desert from them eating and trampling down everything.

Watch the horns as you can tell if the animals are healthy by the solid shape of the horns as they grow for years. And like they said above, add baking soda when changing foods.

Also, make sure you have no fescue in your lawn as we found it to be our biggest issue with loosing goats. Endophytes can kill goats and fescues all carry endophytes. We switched our lawn to NoMowGrass in part for that reason.

As for building a cave or rocky play area....I'm thinking the goats will have those trees dead sooner or later so just cut them down and let them climb away.
 
Renate Howard
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Some goats just develop a taste for bark, but according to Pat Colbey's "Natural Goat Care" eating bark can be a sign of copper deficiency. Whether they kill your trees or not depends on how hungry they are for fiber or just hunger and how crowded they are. People with ample space and few goats complain that they don't do a great job of clearing, while too many goats can turn anything into a desert (as can too many chickens, turkeys, pigs, or cows). I know a lot of folks who are like me - their goats stay near the house or wherever you interact with them the most and wait for you most of the day, not ranging very far unless you take them for a walk. In their own pasture. I'm looking at portable fencing options for mine to try to force them into the berry patch that's 25 feet from the corral they always stay in, so they'll start clearing it out for me. You really need to rotate goats or they'll build up high parasite loads from grazing too close to their own droppings.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Anyone feed their goats amaranth? I was thinking they might like the leaves. And, if I could grow it away from them and harvest the seed head and give the rest of the plants to the goats, I'd get a dual-purpose crop. Any insights?
 
John Polk
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Annual plants expend most of their energy/nutrients in the process of 'going-to-seed'.
The rest of the plants would have more nutritional value for the goats before they went to seed.
(The 'soft-dough' stage.)
But, then they would not be dual-purpose, serving both you and the goats.

The plants will still have value to the goats, just not the maximum value.
The goat manure created will add yet another purpose.

If you have a surplus of seed, try throwing a few seed heads to the chickens...
...let the party begin!



 
Joseph Fields
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I put up a couple Sunchoke stalks after the frost to dry in a out building. I feed them to my sheep in January, they really seamed to prefer them over hay.
 
A Philipsen
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Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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Anybody know if goats destroy pine? oak? pecan? or fast growing firewood trees?
Yes. Unless they are already huge. Anything you plant in reach, they will pick at, even if they don't particularly like it, until it's gone unless there are parts of it they can't reach. If it's already a big, mature tree, it might be ok since they may not strip the bark and they can't reach all the leaves. Mine have never met any fruit tree (I have lots of volunteers in my woods) that they didn't love, bark and all. My neighbor's goats girdled their mature fruit trees, even though they were wrapped in wire and those are well-fed goats.
Has anyone fed goats hops?
Yes. Not on purpose, the little boogers.
Anyone feed their goats amaranth?
Yes, again, not on purpose.
My county fair has a goat exhibit every year where they take one of those pre-built wooden sheds (with asphalt shingles) and build ramps or steps up to each of the eves. The goats climb up the steps/ramp, onto the roof, and down the other side. Their steps are made of small boulders on one side, and a wooden ramp on the other, but you could use any number of other material. (Do keep in mind how you might want to clean the whole system, as you can be sure they will poo on it.) You could even include a rough section to help wear down their hooves so you don't have to trim as often. The goats seem to really enjoy it, and so do the people watching.

Yes, to all of this ^^^ Mine love to lounge on the highest spot they can, especially if it's got some morning sun to warm them up and/or afternoon shade to cool them off, and even the "mature" ladies like to play king of the mountain. My neighbors on the other side like to hang out on their porch in the evening and watch the kids.
 
kadence blevins
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goats need A LOT of space to forage from or else they will strip everything, no matter what, and no matter if its good for them or not.

i think that in your situation the best i can think of would be sprouting grains to feed them. plant one side area heavily with things and keep the goats browsing on the other side. then once that grows in good, plant the other side and keep the goats rotating between the middle area and eating the grown in side pasture while the second side pasture grows in good.
once the side pasture plants are established good then you can rotate them between the three. if you let them roam over all of it they will most likely just eat it all down to nothing. but if you rotate then you even out the droppings on the ground areas and the ground will be able to utilize the droppings to help the plants grow.

have you heard of moringa trees?
i am just getting into them (waiting on my seeds to start) but they seem like they will work super good for small steads. fast growing, super nutritious, easy to grow, droughtproof. only problem with it is its a more warm weather tree but i'm in ohio and gonna try it and see how it does. maybe work on growing a bunch that do ok up north here.
though, again you wouldnt want these planted in the goat area or else they wont last long. so grow and feed them cuttings.
not sure your location. if you are interested i can dig up the links and things for you.

and yes, i have YEARS experience (unfortunately) chasing goats. and several years helping neighbors (thankfully my grandparents) replant things and trees. once they got out while we were all gone and came home to 5 pine trees totally demolished. the trees were like 7inch diameter trunks, so not young. and in just that day 5 goats totally killed em all.
 
Renate Howard
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They do the opposite of what you want, imho. Ours started out as bottle babies and they rarely forage much - stay in the corral waiting for us to come out again. And I know others who have the same problem - the goats stay closest to the humans and don't go in their nice big pasture with all the food. If you are too much of a "herd leader" they'll not go anywhere without you - unless, of course, you DON'T want them to.
 
Doug Mac
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I am raising 13 bottle babies now. I start at one week giving them cotoneaster, ceanothus, redwood, blackberries and other forage that are common here. At first they just mouth it but later they start to chomp it down. After they are weaned, they aren't fed during the day. They all come in at night for predator protection, so they get some hay and or alfalfa pellets for the night.
 
kadence blevins
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Renate Haeckler wrote:They do the opposite of what you want, imho. Ours started out as bottle babies and they rarely forage much - stay in the corral waiting for us to come out again. And I know others who have the same problem - the goats stay closest to the humans and don't go in their nice big pasture with all the food. If you are too much of a "herd leader" they'll not go anywhere without you - unless, of course, you DON'T want them to.


huh.. i've never seen that before. only with pet goats. which you want to be pets and follow you and all. unless you will be herding them around places then this obviously isnt something you want. very odd that happened.
 
                    
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They eat hops first. Totally love it!
 
August Salmon
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Location: Colorado. San Juan Mountains. Zone 4b and Virginia. Clinch Mountain. Zone 7a..
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kadence blevins wrote:

have you heard of moringa trees?
i am just getting into them (waiting on my seeds to start) but they seem like they will work super good for small steads. fast growing, super nutritious, easy to grow, droughtproof. only problem with it is its a more warm weather tree but i'm in ohio and gonna try it and see how it does. maybe work on growing a bunch that do ok up north here.
though, again you wouldnt want these planted in the goat area or else they wont last long. so grow and feed them cuttings.
not sure your location. if you are interested i can dig up the links and things for you.



Hello Kadence, how did it go with the Moringa in your climate?
 
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