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Goats and ramial wood

 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi all. I was just posting about ramial wood in another thread, and it got me to thinking (For those of you to whom it is a new word, which it was to me just days ago, ramial wood refers to branches less than 3" in diameter whose composition is mostly inner bark, containing mostly starches and minerals). You know how goats will bark trees for the minerals and starches in the inner bark? If I had fresh ramial wood chips, or even relatively fresh cut woody browsing, would goats chow down? Or perhaps a better question, if I had goats barking my trees and I gave them the same thing, but in ramial wood chip form and mixed in with silage or cut forage, would they stop barking my trees? My main reason for asking is that I'm doing some heavy pruning on a Manitoba Maple, and I'm leaving the chips on-site, but also because I have a source of tonnes (metric tonnes) of the years-old stuff for mulch and soil-building, and a regular supply of the fresh stuff, from a city arbourist, and we don't spray our trees here since forever. No financial call for it, except for bad orchards (oxymoron?).

Any thoughts?

-CK
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Goats are very picky, and wisely resist eating anything they know has been on the ground or has dirt on it, unless they're practically starving. They also won't mess with anything moldy, which your woodchips will turn if you leave them lying around at all. Eating bark isn't the same as eating bark with splintered wood attached to it.
But cut leafy branches are another matter. I fed some goats most of a winter by setting up circles of wide-mesh fencing both in their shed and in the yard....two or three feet tall and as much in diameter, and stuffing these with cut branches, cut ends down and leafy tops spraying out the top. The goats would eat on these, leaves, buds and bark, just as though they were eating on live bushes. This enabled me to keep them confined in a small yard while I worked at fencing a larger area. I gathered evergreen stuff from some distance, even from town, and from my occasional landscaping jobs. As a aside, this time also taught me what their favorite greens were. (since this was in Georgia, not many of them would also apply to Toronto, except maybe elm)
 
Alder Burns
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Also, I haven't tried this myself (instead always relying on rings of fence around trees, or triangles of electric fence), but I've read, and it makes sense knowing goats, that a paste of goat manure painted on the bark will repel them....
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I keep remembering more from my goat days! Another trick was to tie bundles of branches together near the cut ends and hang them up, tops down but not touching the ground, in convenient places in the shed and yard. I used this idea to increase the amount of browse I could give them at a time beyond what the fence-feeders could hold, like when we would be gone all day or overnight.....
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Okay, so cut branches, got it. I can probably make a request for some. Unfortunately, while I have two elms on site, they are ~150 and ~200 years old respectively. So ramial wood is out. I thought that would be too easy.

-CK
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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As food, I mean. So I suppose that means I can still use the chips in enclosures for mulch and as a component of deep-litter systems? With no danger of the goats wanting to chow down on them, I mean.

-CK
 
Alder Burns
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Since goats don't paw up the ground at all, you might find that the litter, of whatever origin, might pack down and the lower layers get soggy. I always fluffed it up with a pitchfork to prevent this, preferring the stuff to compost in the garden rather than in the goat shed. Having a few chickens living in there with the goats is another solution.....
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Well that's one of the main draws for me to deep litter. A litter pack that virtually controls its own smell and part of a resilient food system for the chickens, too (bugs). Plus, I have limited space. If I was out in the country, I would probably do the mobile bottomless shelter and enclosure for paddock shift pasturing, at least while its warm out. I'd probably do deep litter in the winter for the added heat of the compost. I figure I'll experiment with bokashi innoculation for the chips, and ensure proper air circulation, and the added heat will benefit the animals. Though to be honest I'd have to try it all to see what appeals personally.

-CK
 
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