I'm a new goat owner. I have had my goats for about a week (one mama and her 3 6-week old babies). When I got them, mama was eating hay and browsing about 3 hours per day. I have a much larger area, so all four have been outside browsing. Mama is a little skinny and has 3 kids to nurse, so I have been supplementing with some grain. I got the goats primarily for poison ivy control as all my research showed that goats like poison ivy. However, mama goat doesn't seem to want it.
My pasture has grass (not sure what kind), goldenrod, clover, poison parsnip, milkweed, burdock, nettle, chokeweed, and another milky plant I haven't identified. I know that milkweed can be harmful to goats, but they leave it alone. If I keep them in an area after all the good stuff is gone, they will start to eat the PI, but not with the same enthusiasm as fresh grass or goldenrod, and they don't make much of a dent in the PI carpet. After the goats have eaten everything else, it is much easier to weedwack the poison ivy, but I would much prefer a system that uses animals instead of fossil fuels.
With mama nursing, I really don't want to force her to eat the poison ivy. It seems pretty clear that she doesn't want it. Does anyone have any experience with this? Will she be more interested in it when the babies are finished nursing?
We also acquired goats hoping to control ivy. Success is limited. Preference seems to vary between breeds. Some of our goats will only eat it at certain times of day, or after they eat other things first. I think raising goats exclusively on forage from birth is helpful, but still not 100% effective. I'm still hoping to find a breed, or line, that really loves it.
I think it's fine to "force" the mama to eat it, as long as she has a generally balanced and healthy diet.
I'm shocked your goats aren't eating the poison ivy. Mine adore it, and have been slowly killing it back. I can point to it, and they come running and snarf it down. I would go ahead and "force" them to eat some of it, but maybe not all. Moderation in all things.
Old timers say that if you drink milk from a goat grazed on poison oak (or ivy I would assume), that you will develop immunity to poison oak.
I know kids raised in the sticks in Northern California who are immune to poison oak and swear this is the reason.
L. Zell wrote:I'm shocked your goats aren't eating the poison ivy. Mine adore it, and have been slowly killing it back. I can point to it, and they come running and snarf it down. I would go ahead and "force" them to eat some of it, but maybe not all. Moderation in all things.
I went to an ag conference January /2013, and was lucky enough to hear Fred Provenza speak. He studied range science, was a professor and researcher in Utah and Colorado. One of the amazing things he had researched, complete with what substitutes for "double blind" in animal feeding behavior research, and animal nutrition research-- was that in what an individual animal eats depends partly on what the mama animal ate when pregnant.
This makes all kinds of sense, and leads to some astonishing conclusions, suggests many courses of action. In the case of the PI eating goats, it is likely that if you breed the females you have, and those females eat some PI while pregnant, the new goats will eat the PI more willingly, and will make better use of what's available in it.
Fred was able to get cattle to eat artemesia as a fall winter forage. The rancher saved thousands of dollars because he did not have to buy as much feed. A couple of important considerations: while they were eating the artemesia, mineral supplements were available, because the artemesia is not a complete feed for them, and they put the cattle on the artemesai range when the artemesia has the lowest levels of the compounds that make cattle avoid it.
Fred also quoted research which substantiates the idea that animals are able to choose feed (if available) that addresses any deficiencies the individual animal may be experiencing.
Get a few generations of goats eating that PI, and you should see a big difference in how much of it they eat. Keep the big goat caveat in mind: don't have the only feed available be toxic to them, because they will eat it in those conditions. Have diverse choices for them, so that they can get what they need.
I hope this is helpful. I certainly have found it so.