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Goats again

 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
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I've posted a few times about these darn bramble hedges that we have - and that I think goats could do a good job of removing.  I've been out in the fields again today and I'm now itching to get on with this goat business.  I had thought that we'd put an electric fence round the outside perimeter of our property and then the goats could have free-range to find what they need for health and happiness in all the 5 fields.  Maybe put little bells on them so that we can find where they are (probably when they escape into the neighbours' fields!)

Trouble is currently, the brambles are so dense that I can't even get in to see the state of the fences let alone get in there to put up new ones.  So, the question is...  would it be OK to just get the goats, let them start munching away and then as the fences become visible, make them goat proof?  Is that a recipe for disaster? 

Next, once they've munched all this stuff down, I'm paranoid that they won't have enough browse.  Since reading all your expert advice and experience, I've been looking about and when I see goats I always look for the browse.  The sad thing is that there normally isn't any - just a grass paddock with a bald fence around it.  Even a breeder that I visited didn't have much browse for their goats (and quite a few of their goats were sick - I wonder why?).
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Two things:  first, you definitely need to at least make a close examination of your fences -- turning goats into a pasture with poor fencing IS a recipe for disaster.  It's possible that if there's plenty to eat and they can't see out, they might choose to stay in, but I wouldn't want to count on it.  When you do get goats, you need to keep them penned up close for a week or so, like in a stall in the barn or something, and hand-feed them, so that when you turn them out into the pasture, they know where 'home' is and don't just bolt and take off, never to be seen again (it's happened to people). 

Second, I would suggest fencing the pastures separately, and rotating the goats through in a modified Intensively Managed Grazing scheme.  If you have several pastures already, that's a good start.  Eventually you may want to cross-fence even more so you have more paddocks.  This should keep some browse available for the goats if you move them on to new paddocks before they've had a chance to destroy their favored foods in the one they are in.  Give the paddock a chance to regrow before you move the goats back in.

Kathleen
 
              
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I've never kept goats, being a city boy, but wouldn't a tether work?  I suppose it depends on how many goats you are talking about. Drive a sturdy stake into the ground near where you need the goat to do it's work, and tether him there with something he won't chew on.

One of these cork screw type Dog Tie-Out Stakes might do the trick. I have one for my dog that I use while camping, and it is near impossible to pull out.

http://www.amazon.com/Super-Duty-18-Dog-Tie-Out-Stake/dp/B001ELMBEM

I suppose the biggest issue would be shade, water and whatever else the goats need. I understand your desire for letting them roam and take care of themselves.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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david c wrote:
I've never kept goats, being a city boy, but wouldn't a tether work?  I suppose it depends on how many goats you are talking about. Drive a sturdy stake into the ground near where you need the goat to do it's work, and tether him there with something he won't chew on.

One of these cork screw type Dog Tie-Out Stakes might do the trick. I have one for my dog that I use while camping, and it is near impossible to pull out.

http://www.amazon.com/Super-Duty-18-Dog-Tie-Out-Stake/dp/B001ELMBEM

I suppose the biggest issue would be shade, water and whatever else the goats need. I understand your desire for letting them roam and take care of themselves.


David, here is where it's beneficial to have access to people who DO have experience with goats, LOL!

First of all, I've tried the cork-screw dog tie-outs, and even my dog (75 lbs.) could pull it out of the ground.  I wouldn't even attempt it with a 125-180 lb. goat!  I think they do work in some kinds of soil, but unfortunately, in a lot of places, the soil won't hold them.  Here, in the summer, the clay soil is baked so hard that you can't get one of those things into the soil in the first place; when the soil is soft enough to screw the tether into the ground, it isn't hard enough to hold it.  And I've tried them in looser soil, and again, it pulled out.

Second, goats don't generally chew on things like dogs do (it's a very common mistake for people to equate goats with dogs, since they are around the same size, but they are VERY different animals).  I HAVE had goats destroy their shelter by chewing and tearing at it -- one of those tarp-over-frame carports; they very quickly destroyed the tarp.  But it wasn't the same kind of chewing that dogs do. 

Third, NEVER tether a goat unless you are going to stay where you can see it!  If something scares the goat, it will bolt, hit the end of the rope, and break it's neck (had that happen to one of my milkers one time -- that was the last time I used tethering for goats).  If there is any way they can get tangled up, even on a clump of grass, they will, and then have no feed, and usually can't reach their water.  Being ruminants, they need to spend quite a bit of time each day eating, unlike dogs, which can bolt a bowl of food in a few minutes and then not need fed again until the next day.  And, being small prey animals, they are extremely vulnerable to predators, even your own dog who just wants to 'play.'  Tied, they can't get away, and without fencing to keep them out, any dog that comes along is going to be able to get at them.  If you tethered inside a dog-proof fence, you might be able to get away with it, but if the fence is dog-proof, it's probably goat-proof as well, so you might as well just eliminate the tether!

It is, or was, common practice in some areas to tether the household milk cow, but cows are not nearly as vulnerable to loose dogs as the smaller goats are.  (A single dog attacking a cow is likely to end up very sorry that it tried such a stunt.)

Leaving the horns on the goats isn't going to help much -- they do use their horns somewhat for protection, although they have several other functions that are probably more important in wild goats (horns radiate heat, are used as back-scratchers, and are used in dominance fighting and displays).  But horned goats are killed just as readily by dogs as disbudded goats are.  And horns are prone to getting caught in fences and so on, which has it's own set of serious problems.  (It amazes me that they can get their heads through the fence, but then can't figure out how to get the same head and horns back out!)

It was a good idea, one that many people before you have had, but unfortunately, with goats, it just isn't a practical way to deal with them.

Kathleen
 
                    
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
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If ever you must tether a goat your best bet is with a halter like you would use on small dogs.  Nothing around the neck.  Remember goats chew a cud, and they make all kinds of neck movements to get that cud up to chew it.  So you do not want to prevent a goat from digesting  its food by chewing its cud.

You could possibly go with some temporary fencing, kind of like they use for dogs, and just put it up outside the bramble.  Then replace it with more permanent fencing once you can get through the bramble.

Another idea, pen the goats, and as they are getting acquainted with you.  Hand cut the bramble, work from the outside inward, until you can fence it, and in the meantime, you made friends with the goats.

Just remember, goats are smart and escape artists, I don't care how much food you have before them, they want to explore and taste the whole world.  They can open the gate on a chain link fence faster than a 6 year old child can!  And they will test every weakness.
Mine are usually trying to get out to come follow me around.  Goats like people!
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
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Excellent advice thank you.  We're well on the way now with hand cutting a channel along the fence line so that we can put up proper fencing and should hopefully have one field done by next weekend    Hateful job though.
 
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