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Looking for help for smaller than "Small Scale"?

 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
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Hello everyone,

I'm hoping the lovely folks here at Permies can point me in the right direction!

My husband and I are discussing getting a pair of goats come spring. Our property is small (2 acres), sloped to a small creek (which is actually our southern property line) and mostly covered in golden rod and other tall grasses/brush, sumac and some black locust. I'm not looking to make money, milk, butcher or breed just yet. I'm just interested in some plant control, playful critters to watch, their fertilizer and (of course) fiber! I'm interested in Angoras (or crosses) for a self-reliant homestead. I'm literally thinking 2-3 goats.

After searching "backyard", "homestead", "self-reliant", "small scale", etc., I've really come up on nothing for a VERY small operation that isn't petting zoo-esque. Should I be searching something else, maybe? Everything I've been finding is for way more goats than I feel our land can support. Does anyone out there have experience with staying on the very small side?

My grand scheme involves an Oehler Underground Greenhouse that is set up more like Sepp's Greenhouse/Coop illustration. Mainly for getting through our lovely Upstate NY Winters...bleck. I've pseudo-plotted rotational paddocks that I'm calling "lanes" that goats can help clear to make way for fruit tree guilds. The local college (SUNY Cobleskill) is an Ag College and has many resources in regards to every aspect of livestock and agriculture (but generally on a HUGE scale). They put me in touch with a local fiber group who are more than willing to help me learn to process my own yarn. Hopefully I'll be able to help shear a small flock of sheep this spring to get my feet wet in that aspect as well. As a newly minted knitter I'm extremely excited to learn this portion whether I get my own fiber or not!

There's also food, bedding, vet bills, etc. I know that, that is also in the pipeline. But am I missing something that I haven't thought of to look for?

Thank you all!
~Jess
 
Colin Nelson
Posts: 60
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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I'm not sure what you mean by "petting zoo-esque", but friendly and handle-able animals on small farms are incredibly important...you have to live with them and they have to live with each other, and you don't want to be a prisoner or unable to have guests visit, or a caretaker if you need to go out of town for some reason!

Having animals that do not produce, or that you do not make significantly productive (so they at least pay for themselves), on a small farm is...interesting, a costly and troublesome form of entertainment in my opinion. I don't know your financial capabilities, but I'm poor as dirt so I come from that perspective. If money is no object then it's not an issue, but expect the unexpected!

If you want some goats that you don't have to do anything with, why not get a threatened/endangered Heritage breed that will suit your needs and also fetch a good price for offspring while preserving typically hardier and more interesting lines than the run of the mill industrialized breeds?

http://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/conservation-priority-list

I think Indian Runner Ducks would be very entertaining on a small farm and they are easy to handle, dont need a pond, dont fly, and are heavy egg producers.

Believe it or not, in the scale of small scale...2 acres is plenty! A person with the right drive could create something unimaginably productive. Diversity is a key aspect of the small scale farm. You don't want all of your eggs in one basket if you're looking to do anything with it. I'm not really one to come from the mindset of pure entertainment farming, that's just not in me personally. I want to produce insects, vegetables, fruit, seeds, eggs, meat, fur, skin, fiber...everything that I can in the smallest space that I can do it effectively.

I'm not sure if I am any help in this, but hope so and hope you find the info you want and need!

There are always Alpaca, which make outstanding fertilizer and hair and have profitable offspring, or Llama which are more likely to protect themselves from predators and still produce good hair and fertilizer.
 
Colin Nelson
Posts: 60
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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For entertainment value, alpaca and llamas are also outrageously funny and cute! They are much more athletic and one may guess
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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It's not really clear from your post exactly what information you need. Is is husbandry information, processing?

With Angora goats you will need to shear twice a year and would probably need to learn to do it yourself as many sheep shearers won't do them and/or won't come out for just a couple of animals
 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
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I guess I'm looking for goat resources for someone on 2 acres (or less) to make it work. Basically a "I did it this way. You can too!" kind of thing. Something to help me figure out what the most efficient ways of doing things THIS small. I watch geoff lawton's videos and he's working on hundreds of acres...I'm working in hundreds of feet, and I have a hard time converting it down to my scale.


Right now, there is nothing here but fill dirt/gravel with our house and a garden shack that I'm hoping to fix into a chicken coop. February marks the first calendar year in the new home. We promised ourselves to not make any BIG changes (I'm really itching to knock a certain wall down lol) until we had lived in it "As Is" for one full year. We have a definite direction we want to go, and what the goal sorta looks like. Everything gets murky in between Idea A and Final Project Z. We have the drive, but feel like we're going in circles all the time.

Chickens were the first step, and Goats were the second.
We need help clearing the land - heavy machinery is out of the question, our property has no real safe access for even a small tractor. My husband works from home, I work at a grocery store, so man power is limited for it too. So we decided walking weed wackers would help.
We need help healing the soil - GOAT POOP and Chicken tractors and compost.
I am a knitter - the thought of creating an item from yarn that I had raised, processed, spun, and dyed myself is truely appealing.

Money is not limitless, which is why we ruled out Dairy Goats (too high of an initial investment of equipment/space) and Meat Goats (No processor nearby to make it worthwhile and NYS laws are against us doing it ourselves). Fiber Goats seemed like a "set it and forget it" kind of idea - get a pair of whethers, run our fencing, and go. Alpacas and llamas also crossed our minds but are out of our budget just yet. Heritage breeds appeal to me, but are uncommon in my area which makes breeding them interesting. I really do not want to keep a buck and some does just yet, as well. Down the road, I would love that, and maybe I can find someone to split the cost of a beautiful buck to be able to do just that.

(Colin - what I meant by petting zoo-esque was exactly what you described - I don't want to be a prisoner to a dozen goats...some of the pictures I saw of (what the authors were calling) "small scale farming" reminded me of puppy mills! It was just bad. Too many animals on not enough space...poor things.)
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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Jessica Hill wrote:
Money is not limitless, which is why we ruled out Dairy Goats (too high of an initial investment of equipment/space) and Meat Goats (No processor nearby to make it worthwhile and NYS laws are against us doing it ourselves). Fiber Goats seemed like a "set it and forget it" kind of idea - get a pair of whethers, run our fencing, and go.


All goats have the same basic requirements whether they are for milking, meat or fibre. They will all require access to shelter as goats need to be able to get out of the rain as they do not have waterproof coats so you would certainly need more than just fencing for fibre goats. The only additional cost involved in milk goats is a milking pail. For the fibre goats you will need shears and to learn to shear because as I mentioned before professional shearers won't come out for a couple of animals and the cost can be quite prohibitive . If your land is very overgrown fibre goats might not be a great idea as the fibre easily gets contaminated with seeds and burrs. This is a nightmare when it comes to processing and can literally take days to remove.

They are wonderful animals and I hope you find a solution that works for you and whichever goats you end up with.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My suggestion is DON'T BUY OTHER PEOPLE'S PETS!

Most goats are pampered and highly medicated, especially fiber goats, and do not do well transitioning to a Permaculture model. You need to find what are basically feral animals if you want low management stock.

Fiber goats (or sheep) and brambles are a bad combination, at least to start. My suggestion is cheap meat goats or dairy whethers to start and learn to process them yourself for your own consumption. They are thirty pounds of meat, easy to process and you can pressure can the whole thing if you don't have freezer space.
 
Chadwick Holmes
pollinator
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
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I have three angoras, for exactly the same reasons! If you want ask away or pm me with any specifics! Oliver Sofie and Alice
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Chadwick Holmes
pollinator
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
forest garden fungi goat trees wofati woodworking
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If you are in a colder area a mix with Pygmy adds a lot of heartiness mine are 7/8 angora and just a little Pygmy and they are super hearty, I only feed them in winter and just plant pasture mixes and let them out to browse berries and wild brush. About the only thing they get in summer is minerals and water. I don't vaccinate except for tetanus, and I don't worm unless there is a big issue blooming, I have not had to yet. Had a post arrival cocci bloom from the stress of weaning and moving....that is an expected thing with young goats....

I am on 1.63 acres, the Rangers dwelling of a Girl Scout camp, and I built the barn, got goats,and fenced for less than $1000.

Don't be stuck on wethers, my experience is that wethers try to get as much organic matter as possible in their fiber! Boys!!! Although he gives a pound more fiber than either of the girls, it is thicker/lower quality.

I have had animals my whole life and can tame down anything, so mine are puppies, but angoras are very friendly docile and nice animals, they are the only goat 4-h will allow children to show with the horns still on, they are that docile....mine have never butted me.

The horns are like cooling radiators with fiber goats so it is unwise to dehorn them, they have 6 inches of fiber in summer so they need them to cool efficiently.

I don't have to set me schedule to milking, I don't have to butcher, just enjoy and get perenial benefits of fiber, I like it and I think it's permie!

Anything else just ask!
 
Chadwick Holmes
pollinator
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
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Then you can do tricks too!

I will say three is a herd, two is trouble, the one on bottom is always beat up with two, where if there are three the low man on the totem has more chance as the dominant will be distracted by the other one sometimes too.
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Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 565
Location: Longbranch, WA
26
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I think you have a good plan. Having the heat of the goats in the greenhouse during the winter wold be a big boost. and the winter fertilizer would be right there to be used.
Greenhouses tend to get to hot for growing things in the summer but that makes them great for drying forage for winter. Observe what the goats like to eat that grows abundantly and can be cut and come again. Before you let them into a new paddock cut some and put it in to dry.

My experience is with dairy goats but I think this is even more important with fiber animals. A key hole manger is easy to make. Build a wooden platform, which thy also will usually chose to sleep on, and locate the manger so that when their head is in the manger the goat berries wil drop into a gutter along the edge of the platform. Most of the droppings and urine will wind up in this gutter and can be pushed into your compost/worm bin with minimal pen cleaning labor. Goats are fastidious and will paw the surface with their hoofs to clean off the surface before thy lay down. To build the Key Hole start with a 2x4 plate on the bottom and a 2x4 rail at the top. put on about three boards then put across them at the height of the head but one board longer[2 if the boards are narrow]. Fasten a board from the plate to that board; this will form the space for the head and horns to enter the manger. Cut a board the height of the bottom of the neck and fasten that to the plate and a cross piece overlapping the boards on each side. Come up to the head height and make the other side of the key hole and repeat for the next key hole. If boards are not readily available You can just cu three key holes in a 4x8' sheet of plywood.


I hope this gives you some idea of what worked for our family in the past. My farm has 2.5 acres in a configuration like yours then another 2.5 acres with only a field to the south and a concrete barn built into the hillside. My sister used it for 2 or three dairy goats. The barn loft roof collapsed shortly after I inherited the farm. The hay storage roof came off its posts in the same storm so I moved it to cover the barn. It could be restored to something like you want to have but I have the chicken barn to restore first it has a 100 year old batch box mass heater in it. Then there is the 5 acres to the west hopefully I can get some ants to take that project.
 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
1
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Thank you everyone for the replies! My apologies for not replying sooner, work is evil...necessary, but still evil!

Chadwick - you are exactly the kind of person I was hoping to meet! Your trio is adorable and thank you for great advice! It hadn't even crossed my mind to think about 4-H but I know my daughter would love it, and there are quite a few 4-Hers and FFA associations around my area. Also the tip about three goats being a herd! As soon as I read that the lightbulb went on and I had that moment of realization. You're zone in PA is about the same as mine here in NY so it's nice to know that it can be done! What are you using for your fences? From your pictures it looks like you're using natural posts with 4 foot welded wire? How well does that keep predators out and keep your goats in for you? Do you have temporary fencing (like electro-net?) for pasture rotation or did you just divide it and put up permanent fencing?

Hans - I started Googling "key hole manger" and that looks really fantastic! We are also now trying to integrate a poo gutter into the underground barn design. Which means I need to really decide how I want the interior to be arranged.

Katy - I wish it was just as simple as getting a milk pail, and if I lived anywhere else it probably would be. Here in NY raw milk production/sale/consumption (especially in my county) is regarded very poorly by those in power positions. There are specific regulations and requirements for me to even drink milk from my own goats. It's also disheartening because it doesn't matter that I do not want to sell the milk, I just want it for me and my family. The people "in charge" say I must be selling it and must be held to those rules and labels. Which involves either being a part of a larger co-op of dairy goats where I'd need to bring my milk to one of their facilities to be processed/tested or buying my own equipment. There is no option to do it on the stove top. I could just sneak and do it anyway, but my house is 20 feet from the road and in full view of anyone going by and my three neighbors. And sneaking goes against my nature...I shouldn't have to sneak to provide for my family.


I know I keep mentioning Angoras, but if anyone has any other fiber breed they want to gush about - please jump in! I'm happy to hear it!
 
Chadwick Holmes
pollinator
Posts: 618
Location: Volant, PA
27
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Hello,

I looked up keyhole mangers too, that is neat, something to think on if I move!

Yes, cost is a factor for me as I am a camp caretaker with a stay at home homeschool teacher wife, so I cut trees for posts, mostly maple, some oak, nothing that is traditional "post wood" knowing that instead of 15 yrs I will get 7 or so, but free is a good incentive! Then I used woven horse no climb fence, it is the type with 2x4 inch openings, I did that fence for two reasons. One I was fearful of them getting their heads stuck when they were babies, two when heavy goats stand on welded fence they will pop the welds and eventually open up a spot in the fence. Mine love to stand on the fence and while they weigh much less than a boer or kiko, I feel like the extra investment was worth it.

I live in the third largest old order Amish community in pa and the strictest, with 550 families everything gets a lot of hunting pressure.....a lot! So, while I have coyotes and fox, I have not had an issue. I do put them away in the barn at dusk and feed for the evening, so by protecting them before the predators hunting time I reduce the risk as well.

Angora goats have been kept as prized family pets for centuries, even mentioned in the bible, and in turkey ( Ankara, where they are from) they were an in the house well treated pet, that clothed the family. Because of this they are not "fence testers" like some breeds, in fact mine got some stress when we first started letting them out to browse because they were not contained. They were only brought here to the US in 1900 or so, and the first attempts failed with pure bred animals, so they were bred into another larger heartier breed to come here, so there is no pure angora here, and it's hard to find in turkey as well. But it still helps to have a small amount of mix in cold climates like we are in.

The book "Angora Goats the northern way" by Susan Black Drummond is the most respected on the subject and I got it, it was very helpful for feeding and everything. They grow 1 to 1.25 inches of fiber a month so they need good nutrition, so you may have to plant a pasture that is poly culture to best meet their high nutrition plane, but I did and it is working great to save me buying hay, and I just did another acre of it to scythe and dry for winter.

My three are in an 8x8 barn and I wish I had built 8x16 to give them more room, and I will be building it again soon. Here is my mini-barn that is sawmilled hemlock.

I do agree with R Scott, don't buy grown animals, they have habits and personalities that you don't know, and are being sold "culled" for a reason, most fiber goats don't get sold unless they are having issues. Find a breeder and buy them after weaning, spend lots of time with them and help form their personalities schedule and behavior to suit your family lifestyle. Plus you ain't seen cute till you see baby fiber animals!

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Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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Jessica Hill wrote:
Katy - I wish it was just as simple as getting a milk pail, and if I lived anywhere else it probably would be. Here in NY raw milk production/sale/consumption (especially in my county) is regarded very poorly by those in power positions. There are specific regulations and requirements for me to even drink milk from my own goats. It's also disheartening because it doesn't matter that I do not want to sell the milk, I just want it for me and my family. The people "in charge" say I must be selling it and must be held to those rules and labels. Which involves either being a part of a larger co-op of dairy goats where I'd need to bring my milk to one of their facilities to be processed/tested or buying my own equipment. There is no option to do it on the stove top. I could just sneak and do it anyway, but my house is 20 feet from the road and in full view of anyone going by and my three neighbors. And sneaking goes against my nature...I shouldn't have to sneak to provide for my family.


Gosh what a nightmare! I can see why you want to stick to fibre goats. What about cashmere goats?
 
Raine Hogan
Posts: 28
Location: Salt Lake City
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Have you looked at Cornell University small farm info - webinars and articles? Most of the university extensions across the country are adding urban and small farm info all of the time. The U.S. governmet. is giving tons of grants for urban and small farm training through extension services, and I've watched some of the info that Cornell has put out. Also chech Univesity of North Carolina. and hobby farming info, not to say that you're starting a hobby, but the old thought was anything below a certain acreage size was classified as a hobby, since old farming techniques made it impossible to make a living on small acreage.

I googled "urban goat farming" and there are several good sites with info that you might like, including backyard goat info. I always find it easier to scale up than down on farm info. Have you looked at pygoras and nigoras, smaller fiber goats that allow you to have more herd in the same amount of space?
I know that 3 goats is a herd and 4 makes a happy community for them; 7 chickens or 5 ducks makes a happier flock; rabbit does can be raised to live in a community, but 2 bucks can cause lots of problems there.

To add to your fiber interests, have you thought about raising rabbits in cages off the ground in the same building as your chickens? That's what I have. Hen house is 3'x6' witha solid floor 3' off the ground (chickens like to free range during the day), 2'Dx3L'x2'H rabbit cages on north wall (each with a 2'x1.5' shelf/bed roof), and 2 6'x8' open floor spaces for bunny play time. I don't have pure angoras yet, but my french angora mixes are great woolers that were free (bad attitudes before we got them).

Good luck on your farm.
 
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