We are moving back to our 53 acre family farm in 3 weeks; a little over half of it is hardwood forest white oak, black and red oak, walnut, cherry, hickory in that order, lots of browse including autumn olive, honeysuckle, blackberry, poison ivy, etc. We're in central illinois. I'm thinking about getting a herd of goats next year to mob browse the brushy edge of the forest. I would set up electric fence and put water tanks on a trailer. I'd appreciate any advice and stories that could help me visualize how it would be, including info on minimizing or eliminating use of chemical de-wormers/parasite prevention, etc. also how to deal with predators, lots of coyotes here.
Depending on the available forage you are probably going to want to have another species in with them, cow or sheep. Cow would probably be easier to deal with if it is a fairly tame one as sheep can be very wiled and get into all sorts of trouble that cows tend to avoid by nature. I wouldn't put too much stock in a sheep that wasn't wiled. Pigs would work plenty too and in my experience even big pigs hate horns from even little goats (dwarfs) and avoid the goats.
The problem with goats is they prefer to eat the tops of most things and waste the rest and they are very picky and fussy and if you try to make them eat down the forage they will likely try to break out and likely rightly so because they are probably not getting optimal nutrition. You will need to help satisfy this craving with minerals, the more variety the better and ideally in addition to kelp.
I think in order to make this work in most places you would need to move the fence several times a day. Getting goats that are less fussy (non dairy goats like kikos, angora, pygmy, even boar crosses, spanish or fainting) may likely help. Unless I was living in an arid climate or in a place rampant with goats favorite foods (totally overtaken with kudzu, honey suckle, autumn olive, willow) I wouldn't try to do the goats on a grand scale but rather have them as a small element in a herd of cows, sheep and/or pigs.
thank you for both of your posts, very relevant and informative. I'm thinking of a small herd/group of, say, 6 to 10 meat goats, browsing up to 10 acres from Spring through fall, then butchering them in late fall. At that point I hope I would want to continue raising and caring for goats. My neighbor is a cattle man and I could probably include 2 or 3 cows in the same paddocks. I had been thinking about using machinery to clear the brush to open the areas up for grass and cattle but am trying to go with biological actions over mechanical/fossil fuel intensive ones. Since I have no experience with animals other than dogs and cats it would be a challenge for sure: food, water, parasites, predators, etc. and learning how to manage moveable paddocks. My neighbor knows lots about cattle and is very helpful but I would be pretty much on my own with goats. I think they would like the brush on our land though.