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Small acreage paddock rotation and content

 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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Hello! I'm new here and after reading through a few threads (where did the last hour go?) I figured I would join and ask a few questions specific to my situation. I hope this is the right place for them.

I currently have four dairy goats- two dry yearlings who will be bred this season, and two bottle kids. They are LaManchas and Alpines, so full-sized goats. Four is definitely not our number cap as I'm sure there will be doelings we'll keep, perhaps a buck someday, etc.

We have what I estimate to be just about one acre of land on which I can fence these guys. We share a four-acre property with my mom, who owns the majority, and our one-acre parcel is really where the goats need to stay except for occasional trips to the other end. I realize that a mere acre is not enough to sustain them and am happy to continue to supplement feed, hay, occasional tree trimmings from neighbors, etc. However, I don't want everything to turn into a complete dry lot. I've taken a snapshot from Google Earth of the property and outlined the tentative plan.



Paddocks one and two are currently not bi-sected, and that's where the animals are for the time being. Almost the entirety of paddock 3 has been dug up for septic and is now just dirt- mostly a very very fine sand.

So, questions..

1) Will rotating the goats on these paddocks once per week help to keep everything healthy and give the goats plenty to keep them busy and perhaps help a bit with the hay bill? I would also love to add a feeder pig or two to the rotation at some point. They wouldn't be permanent additions, obviously, but it is something I would like to consider. We do keep chickens as well.

2) What should I plant in the paddocks (particularly paddock 3) to help form and maintain healthy soil as well as very happy goats (and other critters, but the goats would like you to know they are the priority)? We are in zone 8b.

3) Will anything actually grow in the poor soil of paddock 3? I was thinking that a grazing and rotating schedule would help it, and it did have greenery before it was torn up for septic. What can I do to help it that won't cost me an arm and a leg?

Thanks for reading!
 
wayne fajkus
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I'd love to hear input from others, but I don't see this as being viable. I see your scenario dozens of times just driving down a road. A horse on one acre of dirt/ weeds. Two goats on half an acre, etc. I did the same and thought I could manage it but it was futile. Here are the issues I had.

Could not grow grass fast enough for their consumption. Literally thinking if I'd water enough the grass would keep up. It took thousands of gallons of wasted water before I gave up.

Then the weed proliferation. The one grass they don't eat takes over the whole acreage.

A good rain with The animals stomping around doesn't help.

summer grass doesn't feed in winter. Something has to be growing or the paddock gets destroyed from erosion after rains, etc.

In the end, it can probably be done but you'd have to limit the number of animals. If three is what it supports ( I have no basis for that number) then keep it at three. What's the plan for the babies? Eat them? Sell them?

One interesting tidbit I picked up is keep the water in the middle of the paddock. This keeps manure distributed and keeps foot traffic distributed. Put it in the easy spot in a corner or fence line and they will all come to it from one direction.

Good luck.
 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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Thank you, Wayne, unfortunately that's what I'm afraid of. I'm happy to keep a fairly small herd but we like to show and while I am all for culling hard I'm sure the numbers will grow quickly. I appreciate the advice on keeping the water in the middle! That makes sense
 
wayne fajkus
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Don't let me discourage you. I'm interested in hearing from people who made it work. I'm just from the side that failed and can only give that point of view.
 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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I'm definitely interested to hear from others as well!
 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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Does anyone else have any feedback on this situation?
 
Kris schulenburg
Posts: 112
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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Read "Feeding my cows trees" in the Cattle Forum, CJ has a lot of awesome information that could help you maximize your small spaces. Good luck!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Goats prefer trees (especially expensive fruit trees, but that is another story). Trees can help, both from their fodder trimmings and from shading the soil to allow more cool season plants to grow.

You need to manage for both hot and cool season growth. Most people one manage for one or the other (I am guilty of this, and still haven't found the full answer for me).

You will probably need to have a dry lot sacrificial paddock. You don't want them to re-visit a paddock for at least a month for parasite control, but it may take MUCH longer for the plants to recover to the point they can provide forage again--that all depends on soil health and weather.

Plant for soil health--in my area and pasture that meant adding clover, chicory, turnips/daikon, and some warm season grasses. YMMV.

You do need to manage for milk flavor as well--Turnip or radish greens don't make for the best tasting milk. But they work awesome for meat animals.
 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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Many thanks! Kris, I will check out that thread right now.

R Scott, thanks! I really like the suggestion of a "sacrificial" dry lot paddock and I know just the place to incorporate that. I think it's a great idea for this situation that might make this doable for me.


Does anyone have information on how to know what will be best to plant for soil health? I am very new to this kind of thing and there is SO much information out there. Is this something I should ask the extension office about, or is there something in particular I could search for on the web to gain insight?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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NOT the extension agent!! Well, maybe if you ask the right question. If any answer includes spray or chemical fertilizer-smile, nod, and walk away.

Google Elaine Ingham. She has a ton of information out there on soil biology.



You can read the weeds to figure out what your land needs--dandelions and thistles indicate compaction, most others are lack of fertility of some type, etc.

You can always add life--compost and compost tea--and the rest will usually work itself out. Joel Salatin said he never seeded his pastures and once he got the life back in the soil all the good plants just showed up.

This one is a couple smart guys talking about recovering pasture in Florida:

 
Kris schulenburg
Posts: 112
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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speaking of sacrifice areas, last winter i let the sheep (can't speak to goats specifically but it should apply) spend the winter with access to my annual garden. Sheep waist a lot of hay and i like the Routh Stout method of gardening, so i figured why not spread hay out over the winter for the sheep to eat what they want and add their nitrogen? i took them out in mid March and was surprised how nicely it had broken down. planted oats, barley radishes lentils. either pulling back the mulch and planting the seeds or broadcasting and "fluffing up" the beds with a fork (a broad fork would be great) worked well. With only four goats, you might be able to grow them some annuals and/or perennials to stretch out your pasture. Sereica lespadeza is nitrogen fixing and helps discourage parasites. here are some pictures of the soil under the hay and 3 months of growth
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Doug Mac
Posts: 79
Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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I have mostly forest in a moderate climate - rarely over 85F rarely under 30F with 40 to60 inches of rain (usually, this is a drought year $%@&#$^%@*!) It's important to rotate but realize that the brush and trees may take a year to rebound completely whereas the grasses and forbs will rebound much faster. Here I plant a perennial rye and sub clover mix. If I lived in a warmer area I would plant AU Grazer, a grazing-tolerant sericea lespedeza in a mix.
 
Eric Hammond
Posts: 112
Location: SW Missouri
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chicken hugelkultur solar
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For that it's worth. I currently have 2 goats fenced in a 165 foot fence so roughly 40 foot by 40. They are one the third move since march and the original area is completely over grown again. 1 acre should be completely possible. They prefer weeds to any grass but will eat grass if thats all that is available
 
Cali McAffrey
Posts: 7
Location: Central Texas
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Thank you all for the information! I'm very excited to get everything going. The barren area is starting to grow some stuff thanks to the extra rain we've had this year, but I'm still going to at least throw down some clover I think. Should be setting up the cross fencing within the next couple of weeks, including fencing off a dry lot (really a fantastic idea for this situation I think).
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1524
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Cali and all,

There is a guy in Missouri named Greg Judy. He does rotational grazing, mostly of cattle, but is familiar with multi species grazing, and the rate of recovery of forage. Plenty of things cmoe up when you google his name, but here is a good starting place: http://www.permaculturevoices.com/tag/greg-judy/


Looking at your plan, I think your paddocks are too large for that numbe of animals, once the forage is developed. I think you could keep them at that size, but use electric fence to keep them off part of it, then move them across the paddock in a couple of stages. But, as I said that would be after the forage is established. Until then, it would be really important to limit their access to the pasture.

I think having a snug shelter of some kind with a small dry lot with hay feeder would be helpful. Maybe one between one-two and another between three-four. You could rotate them between the two dry lots while the pastures are developing, and have the means to give them limited access to the paddocks.

One thing I learnd from Greg Judy is that if you have a contained paddock and you put electric fence across to keep them in one end of it, then when you're ready to move them, you just move the fence down and give them access to the next section, no need to "back fence. They will go to the fresh feed. If you had the water available at the shelter / at the dry lot, they could go back to the water, which would save you some time and effort. Also, he says move them when there is still feed left. Don't keep looking in there thinking they have enough for at least another day. Move them! As a beginner, this is hard for me, but I am learning.

One thing I notice with my one 5 year old la mancha I am milking and the 4 nubian doelings: if I put them in too big a place, with plenty of nice tall feed, they ruin as much as they eat, and the paddock doesn't last as long as the feed available could have fed them.

As for establishing pasture, do you have adequate rainfall or the means to water it? I agree with the guy who said that water isn't all it takes, but you can't get replenishing forage without it....

What to plant: make sure it is adapted to your climate. I live in western colorado, high desert, sandy soil. One of the most prolific "weeds" is also one of the goat's favorite in the summer time. Kochia scoparia. It is an annual and when it is hot, it is one of the ones that seems to grow faster than fast. It is a C4 plant, meaning it fixes CO2 faster than the "normal" C3 plants. I don't want to get it wrong, or go look it up, so the general idea is that for every 3 CO2 that a C3 plant takes up, a C4 takes up 4. 25% faster growth, or is that 33%? Anyway, these are hot season adapted "weeds". There are hot and cool season grasses and other "weeds". My goats eat different things as the season progresses. Right now, late July, they are eating the C4 weeds and grasses. When the weather cools off, the cool season grasses and forbes will begin to grow faster. Then the goats prefer those.

There is probably plenty elsewhere in the forums about what to plant, but you will probably want a few legumes, for nitrogen fixing, grasses, broad leafs... what I've planted for my goats: amaranth, chicory, alfalfa, sweet clover, red clover, salsify, mountain lettuce, dandelion, blackberry, raspberry, sorgum.... They also eat holly hocks, day lilies, elderberry, hops, evening primrose, rhubarb, mulberry....

There are lists of poisonous plants online, but some of these I've watched my goat eat, and it frightened me at first to see her chewing up rhubarb leaves, but they've all been OK. I think the toxicity problems arise out of giving the goats limited options. I can't remember who it was I heard say that a goat will not willingly poison herself. Maybe that was Greg Judy. It is good to be careful about what they have access to, but they are not as fragile as the lists would have us believe.

How I learned what the goats like. My first goat was an "only". Plenty of people were willing to tell me how cruel that was, and I tried to give her the companionship she lacked until her kids came to keep her company. She was not a tame goat, would not followme around or stick with me, so I had to keep a leash on her, and I followed her around and observed what she ate, and I made her follow me around while I did chores and such.

Once I realized what she wanted to eat, if I saw a favorite by the road in seed, I would stop and gather the seed.

If you stay attuned to the process, and respond to what you observe, you should be able to get forage on all 4 of you paddocks and feed your goats from them. If you can't devote the time, don't have the resources to keep them off the pasture when necessary, it's going to be a long frustrating nightmare. Fewer goats would only help a little bit, prolong the agony.

Welcome to permies!
Thekla
 
wayne fajkus
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My next post will be a pic of a new paddock I just built for 5 sheep. It's 75' × 150'. I'll post a pic every week to show the progression. I have large Johnson grass growth from disturbing the soil when I planted two pecan trees.

This may help you "see" what happens on a weekly basis.
 
wayne fajkus
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day one
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wayne fajkus
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After one week
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Did you see how Paul cut 87% off of his electric heat bill with 82 watts of micro heaters?
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