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Goats or Sheep? for a newbie homesteader

 
Natasha Bailey
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History...
We are going to be starting a 20 acre homestead - moving in about 3 months. It is raw land and we will be building cob/straw bale hybrid within a year or two... in the meantime we will live in our fifth wheel (we have a 3 year old son and 1 year old daughter)... we currently have 12 chickens (no rooster because we are currently in an urban environment and keeping chickens is fine as long as neighbors don't hear a rooster). We are looking at getting an LGD though not sure which breed/cross.
This all leads me to...
We would love to keep goats or sheep as well - for the milk mainly and for brush clearing. I don't anticipate butchering them for several reasons, fibre would be a plus but not necessary, maybe packing would be useful around the acreage. So since we are newbies (I grew up with little pygmy goats but we weren't in charge of caring for them, though I wish we would have been, so I don't know much about them) what breeds would be ideal for us?
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think your choice should be decided largely on climate and food supply. If you have mostly woody browse, go with goats. Sheep do well on grazing and can handle more moist conditions. This thread explores some problems that were probably caused by feeding goats a diet that is more suited to sheep.

http://www.permies.com/t/29651/goats/chronically-skinny-seemingly-healthy-goat#230881
 
Natasha Bailey
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I think your choice should be decided largely on climate and food supply. If you have mostly woody browse, go with goats. Sheep do well on grazing and can handle more moist conditions. This thread explores some problems that were probably caused by feeding goats a diet that is more suited to sheep.

http://www.permies.com/t/29651/goats/chronically-skinny-seemingly-healthy-goat#230881


Ok thank you. We are in Northern California - the space has a decent amount of star thistle, oaks, digger pines and a little bit of poison oak (not much). It is not moist and wet grassland. It will have more moisture when it's not end of fall (right now) of course and have native grasses growing etc but for now that is what it loos like.
 
Natasha Bailey
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So is that more of a goat diet then? It definitely sounds like goats prefer the dry munchies versus sheep who prefer grazing on lush grass. Ok... goats are seeming to be the answer.... Now for which BREED??
 
David Livingston
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I wouldnt put it like that
More like goats eat a mixed diet and Sheep prefer grass
 
Dale Hodgins
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Goats are destructive and will completely eliminate their favorite foods, if allowed to graze too long in one area. They prefer tender growing tips, so do well in situations where browse has time to regenerate lots of that material before it is hit again. Stocking rates must not exceed the regenerative capacity of the food supply.

As part of a poly culture, they do well as the clean up crews for orchards and cane berry production. Young trees must be protected or goats will strip every leaf, twig and the bark. If well protected, fruit and nut trees and berry bushes are a great source of goat food. Often the food must be brought to them since they will breach most protective barriers around individual trees and bushes. I would only run them in an orchard if the trees are mature and pruned high enough to prevent climbing. Old apple orchards are good. I doubt that peaches could survive, since they branch out too low and goats love to strip the bark, no matter how old the tree.
 
Mike Turner
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Location: Upstate SC
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My sheep don't prefer grass. They will settle for grass if there isn't any browse available. Goats prefer to browse, but sheep will browse or graze depending on what's available. Goats are better climbers and are better at breaking out of fenced enclosures than sheep. My sheep won't eat thistle, but will eat pine, oak, and poison ivy.
 
dan collins
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Location: Nova Scotia
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I would get two goats based on the fact they provide dairy. Our goat provides us with: milk, cheese, sourcream, butter, manure, and high quality meat if you want

We love our goats





 
Su Ba
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Sheep also can be milked and the milk makes great cheese. Out of the flock I keep one of my sheep milking for us. The milk freezes very nicely in plastic bags or mason jars. I can defrost the amount I want for cheese, cooking, ice cream, or coffee.

I enjoy goats because they are thinkers, rascals, and make me laugh. But they are a challenge. My sheep are far easier to work with and confine. Having said that, note that all my goats and sheep are bottle fed babies. I'm beyond the stage where I want to wrestle livestock.
 
Joseph Fields
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I say both. Goat's to get rid of the brush, and to teach you how to be a master fence builder. Then latter sheep to manage the grass. Soay sheep eat little and my two are calm critters?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I'm with Joseph, have both. They will keep each other company, and choose different foods, so they are complementary, not competitive. Have you thought about rotational grazing? Portable electric fence with a solar charged energizing unit. You move the animals here and there,and in this way, they don't have the opportunity to kill their favorite plants by eating them and leaving the others.

Also, I think it is important to remember that browsing is a style of eating as much as it is a specific diet. "Browsing" equals "oh, a little of this and a little of that. A bite of roses in between the chicory dandelion and grass. Goats DO eat grass. That's what hay is made of (except alfalfa).

Another important difference between goats and sheep is how close to the earth they are able to bite off the plants. Sheep cut closer to the ground than goats. Sheep or goats will kill trees. Don't leave them in there with the trees long enough to chew the bark off. Bark is not their favorite. They eat the bark when there is nothing else.

Start with just a few, and spend a lot of time watching what they do, what they eat, etc. Then go with more of what you prefer.

Good luck. It sounds like a wonderful adventure is about to unfold.

Thekla
 
Celeste Solum
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Kinder goats are the breed that we love. They have personality, are hardy, and are a dual purpose goat (if one wanted to do that) such as milk to make soap, cheese, etc...

A Kinder is a cross between Pygmy and a Nubian.

They eat brush and grass.

Celeste
 
Cortland Satsuma
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Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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We have goats and Alpacas. We decided against sheep for now, since we do supplement with feed (goat and sheep can not eat the same feed). Our land has dense natural oak/hickory forest areas and loblolly pine forest. When we bought it, the cleared areas had turned to 8' meadows, that lacked diversity. We started with two bucklings for clearing only. (We had so much to do, milking was one too many chores to begin with.) They taught us we knew nothing about building fences, lol! We learned and rebuilt. The boys did a great job of munching down areas we needed cleared. We kept ALL our food sources in temporary areas; fenced, in our zones 1 -2. We then sold off one of the bucks to buy does for breading and milk. Our buck is a pygmy x kiko. All does we are getting are pygmy's and pygmy milker crosses. We plan to have at least one doe of each milking breed crosses with pygmy. This will give us different butter fat ratio's for different uses. The buckling kids will be sold off...pet, breeder, or dinner. We will keep the herd size low, balanced to the forage we have. With your situation:

Do you have money for solid fencing?
No? Do not get goats.
Sort of? Then fence in a safety zone for starting your growing and let them free range with a goat house next to your RV. You should get horned bucks to start. The cougars and coyotes in your area will hunt them; does are more vulnerable. The bucks may hold a predator off until you can get out with a gun.
Yes? Great! Fence off their area, get a buck and does and a guard donkey. (The donkey eats the same and provides compost material; less costly to maintain than a dog.)

As to a breed:

There are pluses and minuses with each. Dual purpose goats give you options as the need arises. Dwarf or Pygmy's can be easier to manage. They also do not scale the trees as high when striping the lower branches. A full sized goat will knock out the lower section of a tree high enough to let you walk under it. That is more open than we wanted. No matter which you decide, pet quality is the way to go. Ours all raised to think they are pet dogs. Tame livestock is much easier to manage.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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The question of fences! How did we not mention that before? I have a very secure perimeter fence, and within it a large guarding dog. Also within the perimeter, the goats have a portable electric fence set up with a solar powered energizer. My set up is from premier1supplies.com which was recommended elsewhere on these wonderful forums. I have been very satisfied with the product and the customer support.

There are videos either on youtube or findable through the premier site which show bee hives being protected from bear with the premier1 fence. It's worth considering. They also make chicken fencing, and lots of other options. The solar powered energizer would be compatible with any of their mesh fences.

I bought a 165 foot long piece of fencing, and it was a struggle to put up and move in even low vegetation. When talking to my neighbor, she said the secret is in having lots of small pieces. And she is right. I got a few extra pieces, and cut my long piece into three smaller pieces. YAY, it's wonderful.


One of the things that accomplishes serious clearing of underbrush, is confinement to small area. With the portable fence, you can direct their clearing efforts according to your priorities.

What an adventure you are embarking on!

Thekla
 
Celeste Solum
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We share a valley with 300 grizzly and every other sort of critter. We do electric fence, but also let our girls & kids out to free range.... all is well.
 
Celia Revel
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I would not get Nubians. We have them, and although they are great milk producers, they are loud. If you have neighbors, this may be an issue. I have heard that Nigerian dwarfs are great and well behaved as well as giving good milk supply. If you do have goats and sheep together make sure the goats get their copper instead of the sheep. Sheep do not need much and can become copper toxic while goats need a lot or they become sick and parasitic. Goats have a high requirement for calcium, magnesium, and copper because of their natural diet which is twigs, brush and weeds, which have high mineral content due to their root's ability to penetrate deep into the subsoil and grab onto mineral. Make sure you have copper boluses to jet down their mouths and lots of dolomite, the right kind for goat ingestation, kind of hard to find, but it will save you hours and money in vet bills later on

I prefer goats because they are like dogs and are sociable whereas sheep stay away from you and don't like to interact much. Goats are a challenge on the fencing, but if you have a lot of nasty brush like star thistle and poison oak, they will take care of that pronto.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Celia,

Too bad you got the noisy ones! I thought all Nubians were talkative and LOUD, just as you say. Someone told me, much to my surprise, that it's a family and herd trait, the loud and constant talking. Just like flavor of the milk, another surprise for me.

Anyway, when I think about all the things that are inherited and learned in humans, I can see it could be so.

Lastly, I have a Nubian who hardly says anything, and rather than the high pitched Nubian cry I thought was part and parcel of Nubian-ness, she is quiet, calls to me when she sees me, in a low sort of moan.

I also have a Nigerian Dwarf doe whom I bought bred last spring. She had 4 kids, and she makes wonderful milk, but Nigerians are not a hungry breed, not voracious eaters. The five of them together could not eat all the forage in the pen before it was time to move the pen (rotational grazing to prevent high parasite load, I have to move the pen whether or not the food is gone). Not only did they not eat it all, but they barely made a dent. I took the lawn mower in after I took the goats off). Since my first priority for having the goats is that they eat eat eat, I sold the Nigerians and am switching to meat crossed with dairy breeds.

The Nubian I have is quiet, and her flock mates are quiet, and I am hoping that the kids born to my Nubian will not learn to talk a lot, nor will they be genetically predisposed to loud talking.

Wish me luck! Before I found out it was not true of all Nubians, I would never even consider one.

Thekla
 
Rex Nichols
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Location: Indiana, USA
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I have Lamancha's and I love them. They are quiet and gentle. They will escape, but they don't go too far, usually straight to my grape vines.
 
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