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Goats Per Acre Using Mob Grazing?

 
Nick Mada
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I want to use the mob grazing method for goats. I have about an acre of land that would be ideal for goats (on a slope and lots of browse). I don't want to move them every single day, moving the electric fence can be a bit of a pain, maybe every three days or once a week? I'm just wondering how many sections you think I should split this acre up into and how many goats would be good per acre using this method?
 
Renate Howard
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It's a hard thing to answer because it depends on what's growing there and your climate. For mob/rotational grazing they talk about grazing days where you figure out about how much each animal eats in a day, space-wise and then use that number to figure out how many it would take to graze the space you want to give them. It also depends on whether you want this to be sustainable/long-term or are using the goats to clear the land so you can use it for something else. If you want to kill the scrub you'll obviously let them graze it a lot harder than if you want them to merely prune it so it can re-grow to feed them again later. If you want it long-term you might want to consider dividing it into strips with strips between them of scrub that can grow through the fences to feed them. A lot of woody plants, tho, grow rapidly in the spring then spend their energy hardening off to prepare for winter so they would only provide 1 or 2 passes of forage before they'd be done for the year.

I'd say, unless you're in a hurry, try getting 2-3 goats and see how much they eat and how often they need to be moved. If there's still plenty of grazing left get a few more. I've seen people use 12-15 to clear an area, but if you do that, what do you do with them when they're done?

You might also want to think about what you want the goats for - help you pick the kind. Nigerians are famous for being escape artists while fainting goats are supposed to be the least escape-oriented. I find the big Nubians are easy to contain; some say they're too noisy.
 
Nick Mada
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Thanks for the advice!

I'm wanting this to be long term sustainable, however, the goats will be out on pasture spring-fall with the the winter time spent indoors. The land they would be on is good, lots of fresh green growth, trees, shrubs, brambles ect.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Capacity for the land is one thing, but isn't it also a factor of how quickly the parasites in the fecal matter die off?

From what I've read (not a goat owner, YET!), you don't want to send in your mob into a section they've been in before without giving the lifecycle of the parasites enough time to exhaust itself. I've read of several goat keepers who don't even treat their animals for parasites because of how carefully they pasture their goats. So, the insects hatch in the goat poo, and then die off in a short time while the goats are in another section. I wished I could remember the time frame for how long you can graze in an area before you need to move them. The mistake some make, from what I've read, is that they send in their goats into a pasture section that hasn't been left alone long enough to let the hatched parasites die off or be eaten by other animals and insects. Again, this is all from what I've read. Not everyone moves their goats around and some people don't have a choice to mob graze. I'd sure like to hear from experienced goat keepers about this.
 
Renate Howard
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Most parasites are in the bottom 6" of the grass. If they're browsing on scrub mostly it's not as much of an issue.
 
Chris Kott
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Yet another great incentive to run chickens after goats! Turn a potential parasite problem into food.

-CK
 
John Polk
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Not specific to goats, or any other animal, but a general guide line for breaking the life cycle of internal parasites is:
One complete moon cycle as a minimum time.
If you move 'em out on a full moon, wait at least until the next full moon to bring them back.
And, as mentioned above, move a flock of chickens in there in the middle of the the goat's cycle (New Moon).
The eggs and larva will provide protein for the birds, as they cleanse the pasture for you.

Most of these parasites cannot live long, and reproduce the next generation, without a 'host'.



 
Doug Mac
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Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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I know an acre can seem like a lot of land, but I think you'd be hard pressed to feed two goats with just forage off an acre. Brush is different than grass. The time between grazing paddocks is much longer with brush. There are times of the year that growth slows to a crawl (even here in a mild 8b climate). So you have to make sure you have enough browse. If a goat weans at 25 lbs and grows to 100 lbs in a year, that's 75 pounds of growth from browse. Assuming a 10 to 1 conversion, that's 750 pounds of browse. Not branches, just leaves and bark. Goats are picky eaters, so you need a mix of different browses There are times they love blackberries and times they'll walk right past them.
And yes I did just pull those numbers out of the air, but I don't think that they are unreasonable.
 
Jackson Webb
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First post, I figured I would share my experiences with goats and grass.

I have been doing a mob/strip grazing scheme with about 13 goats (7 Angora, 2 Nigerian and 4 Nubians) with the goals of:

1.) Saving money on feed. I got very tired of doing/buying hay.
2.) Improving the quality of the fiber. Without dirt paddocks to lay on hopefully the dirt-load in the fiber would be less.
3.) Improving soil fertility. I was aiming to get vigorous regrowth and have more carbon deposited into the soil through the periodic trimming of the grass and also the deposition of the goat urine/feces directly to the pasture.

Things have been going pretty well with roughly 6 paddocks on a total of about .6 of an acre. My average stay on a paddock according to my spread sheet was about 4 days. The average period of rest was "only" 20 days. Within that 20 days the grass would go from roughly 3" to about 8-10". If the goats left an uneven cut or I was uncomfortable with the potential for parasites I would mow the paddock they just left to roughly 3". Also I would wait for the grass to regrow to roughly 6" and mow to keep the parasite load (hopefully) to a minimum. I have a 12'x12' hoop shelter I attached skids and a tarp to. I can move it alone but its a bit easier with 2 people. There is a small mineral feeder in the shelter as well. Water was close enough to just have on a hose fill-up every 2 moves. I used Premier fencing with a solar energizer.

For the most part I can reliably say I have hit all three goals. I am still waiting on soil tests to confirm the fertility goal, I know for sure I have saved money and have cleaner wool. Also I found the goats became much more active, their feet are much healthier and they are generally "happier" doing their thing all day. Also, since they are not in the same place, I don't have to touch poop/pee/bedding mix which is great for me. I did have to de-worm 1 goat who is prone to worms. The rest skipped their typical de-worm schedule and still have not had symptoms of worms.

Caveats:
- We have had an enormous amount of rain for the season since roughly March of '13 till now for my area. I can't say how much that played into regrowth times, but I am guessing a whole lot.
- When the weather got too hot for the fiber goats we transitioned to edge-forage along a friends hayfield. I don't have a whole growing season on grass alone to know if the .6 acre could support my goats in a period of dry, hot and slow growth of grass without abusing it.
- I will probably change my schedule to "run out" of grass more often and in those periods of hot-dry slow/no-growth move to more edge-forage. Giving more rest to the grass and avoiding the parasites, while also cleaning up some brush on a yearly basis. Also, the goats enjoy mixing up browse/graze.

Hope this helps. Again, limited experience (since April 11, 2013) but I am going to attempt to keep them "out" on forage/pasture until my "persephone" period in early December till late February. I attached a few photos where you can see the before/after and the shelter. That was earlier in the first rotation and the brown old-growth was eventually kinda trampled into the soil. I don't have a photo, but now its all very lush and green.
IMG_0178.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_0178.JPG]
Before (right) After (left)
 
Philip Green
Posts: 45
Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
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Jackson Webb wrote:First post, I figured I would share my experiences with goats and grass.

I have been doing a mob/strip grazing scheme with about 13 goats (7 Angora, 2 Nigerian and 4 Nubians) with the goals of:

1.) Saving money on feed. I got very tired of doing/buying hay.
2.) Improving the quality of the fiber. Without dirt paddocks to lay on hopefully the dirt-load in the fiber would be less.
3.) Improving soil fertility. I was aiming to get vigorous regrowth and have more carbon deposited into the soil through the periodic trimming of the grass and also the deposition of the goat urine/feces directly to the pasture.

Things have been going pretty well with roughly 6 paddocks on a total of about .6 of an acre. My average stay on a paddock according to my spread sheet was about 4 days. The average period of rest was "only" 20 days. Within that 20 days the grass would go from roughly 3" to about 8-10". If the goats left an uneven cut or I was uncomfortable with the potential for parasites I would mow the paddock they just left to roughly 3". Also I would wait for the grass to regrow to roughly 6" and mow to keep the parasite load (hopefully) to a minimum. I have a 12'x12' hoop shelter I attached skids and a tarp to. I can move it alone but its a bit easier with 2 people. There is a small mineral feeder in the shelter as well. Water was close enough to just have on a hose fill-up every 2 moves. I used Premier fencing with a solar energizer.

For the most part I can reliably say I have hit all three goals. I am still waiting on soil tests to confirm the fertility goal, I know for sure I have saved money and have cleaner wool. Also I found the goats became much more active, their feet are much healthier and they are generally "happier" doing their thing all day. Also, since they are not in the same place, I don't have to touch poop/pee/bedding mix which is great for me. I did have to de-worm 1 goat who is prone to worms. The rest skipped their typical de-worm schedule and still have not had symptoms of worms.

Caveats:
- We have had an enormous amount of rain for the season since roughly March of '13 till now for my area. I can't say how much that played into regrowth times, but I am guessing a whole lot.
- When the weather got too hot for the fiber goats we transitioned to edge-forage along a friends hayfield. I don't have a whole growing season on grass alone to know if the .6 acre could support my goats in a period of dry, hot and slow growth of grass without abusing it.
- I will probably change my schedule to "run out" of grass more often and in those periods of hot-dry slow/no-growth move to more edge-forage. Giving more rest to the grass and avoiding the parasites, while also cleaning up some brush on a yearly basis. Also, the goats enjoy mixing up browse/graze.

Hope this helps. Again, limited experience (since April 11, 2013) but I am going to attempt to keep them "out" on forage/pasture until my "persephone" period in early December till late February. I attached a few photos where you can see the before/after and the shelter. That was earlier in the first rotation and the brown old-growth was eventually kinda trampled into the soil. I don't have a photo, but now its all very lush and green.


Can I ask what your hoop shelter is made from? I know goats are rather rough on shelters and a lot of what I've read about them (and my own experience) involves collapsed hoop shelters.
 
Jackson Webb
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Philip Green wrote:
Can I ask what your hoop shelter is made from? I know goats are rather rough on shelters and a lot of what I've read about them (and my own experience) involves collapsed hoop shelters.


I used 3/4" conduit that was bent on a hoophouse hand-bender for a greenhouse. I used some leftover 12' 2x6's to make a base. I thru-bolted the hoops to the boards with some carriage bolts. There was 1 ridge pole at the top. I laced a very cheap blue tarp with some 1/4" nylon line to for a 2 sided structure.

The goats themselves didn't destroy it. The worst they would do is to play with the string and unlace 1 section of the tarp. Never enough to make it blow off or anything like that. Thunderstorms on the other hand destroyed it 1 time. I patched it back and its holding up. v2 will have a larger diameter pipe (like 1-3/8"), swaged joints at the top of the hoops, 2 purlins on the sides, some 45* supports for the base and some wheels/handle to move it by hand easier. Hopefully all that will make the structure stand up to the weather a bit better. Might be a touch heavier though...

I found that moving them every few days really got rid of a lot of the "plotting" the goats did. They were more interested in figuring out how to get a low-hanging branch into their mouth or finding delectable weeds in the grass than they were with being escape artists or wrecking the few items in their paddock.

I also briefly considered having 2-3 smaller shelters (like a 5' tall by 6' wide hoop) and moving those. I thought they might be more stout, but given the materials I have the larger house is more in my budget.

Hope that helps.

-Jackson
 
Philip Green
Posts: 45
Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
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Jackson Webb wrote:
Philip Green wrote:
Can I ask what your hoop shelter is made from? I know goats are rather rough on shelters and a lot of what I've read about them (and my own experience) involves collapsed hoop shelters.


I used 3/4" conduit that was bent on a hoophouse hand-bender for a greenhouse. I used some leftover 12' 2x6's to make a base. I thru-bolted the hoops to the boards with some carriage bolts. There was 1 ridge pole at the top. I laced a very cheap blue tarp with some 1/4" nylon line to for a 2 sided structure.

The goats themselves didn't destroy it. The worst they would do is to play with the string and unlace 1 section of the tarp. Never enough to make it blow off or anything like that. Thunderstorms on the other hand destroyed it 1 time. I patched it back and its holding up. v2 will have a larger diameter pipe (like 1-3/8"), swaged joints at the top of the hoops, 2 purlins on the sides, some 45* supports for the base and some wheels/handle to move it by hand easier. Hopefully all that will make the structure stand up to the weather a bit better. Might be a touch heavier though...

I found that moving them every few days really got rid of a lot of the "plotting" the goats did. They were more interested in figuring out how to get a low-hanging branch into their mouth or finding delectable weeds in the grass than they were with being escape artists or wrecking the few items in their paddock.

I also briefly considered having 2-3 smaller shelters (like a 5' tall by 6' wide hoop) and moving those. I thought they might be more stout, but given the materials I have the larger house is more in my budget.

Hope that helps.

-Jackson


That does help, thanks. I've been thinking of giving a hoop shelter a try (mostly because they are light and thus more mobile) and this gives some ideas for design. Do you do anything special (insulate more) for winter? It seems like this could be easily setup to hold multiple types of livestock at once (chickens, goats, pigs etc...) Then perhaps have a smaller hoop shelter or two for separating the livestock into different pastures as needed.
 
Jackson Webb
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I have not gotten through a winter yet. Again this is only since April.

The plan right now is to re-fit the structure to be stronger, a heavier tarp (old blue one is just beat up from the sun/rain) and for winter i will add a plywood wall on the one end of the shelter, maybe both if I feel the need. I don't plan on insulating right now. The wind usually comes from 1 primary direction in the winter and the angora's coats are very well equipped for cold weather. Using it as a windbreak and getting "off" the grass we will stockpile by around the end of November/ middle December shouldn't push it too hard on temps. Who knows, if i have the dormant growth to use i may stay out longer. We will see.

Good luck with your hoops.

-Jackson
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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