What are some good milk goats that can live in wooded/forested "pasture"? I live in Oregon and have about a 1/3 to 1/2 acre free for goats, but it is primarily wooded with a mix of pine, fir, oak, and maple trees and ferns, grass patches, poison oak, blackberry, etc. below. Any suitable goats for this terrain?
Check out kinder goats. They're a cross between nubian and pygmy. Kind of a dual purpose breed. Either that or just straight pygmy but you would have to find pygmies from a breeder. Most people that have them, have them as pets and the milk production has gone away over the years.
1/3-1/2 isn't much and you can't have just one goat. They're such social animals that they won't do well alone. You'll probably need to supplement feed them especially for milk purposes.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
ANY goats will bark your trees and kill them. If you have trees that you don't want killed, wrap them with wire, or fence around them such that the goats cannot get their teeth through, or 'walk down' the wire, to get at the bark. I've seen even large trees killed by goats. They probably won't eat the ferns, but should eat just about anything else you mentioned. Just make sure that there isn't anything poisonous in there.
We are in a similar situation but with more acreage. The breeds we have looked at purchasing are; Nubian, Kinder, Nigerian Dwarf, Pygmy, Toggenburg, La Mancha and Boer breeds. First thing to decide is really what size goats do you want and can handle easily, we are getting older and so have decided on smaller goats both for fencing requirements and ease of handling. Being without small children (all of ours are grown) we will not need large amounts of milk, which has us looking more at the smaller breeds. I have noticed a decline (in our area) of breeders of the Kinder goats which has led us to move away from them as a breed for us. All goats will adapt to your area with perhaps the exception of the La Mancha. These goats do not take well to cold winters (our neighbor just lost theirs this past winter because of the colder temperatures we experienced. Never get just one goat, they the company of other goats. Goats will pasture but do prefer browse, we are using them to get rid of the extra blackberries, the poison ivy/oak and sumac trees that came with our land. In our heat, the forest is a great place for them to get out of the sun and they do so as the temperatures rise. As has been said, goats will girdle trees so always protect the ones you want to keep alive. We use horse panels to create temporary grazing areas since these are tall enough and still short enough for us to move around and still keep the goats where we want them, we try to move them once a week so the plants we want to keep are not destroyed and to let the browse recover. Our long term plan is to have milk goats and some meat goats so we are sustainable for our food needs.