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My goats destroyed my fruit trees

 
Liorah Bogle
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All except for 1 pear tree. I can't believe it's still alive though, there is only 1 strip of bark left connecting. What can I do to help it continue to survive?
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Tyler Ludens
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I feel for you. My sheep did the same to mine. It takes them merely minutes to fatally chew the bark off. The top of the tree will be weak if you keep it. If the damage is above the graft, you might be able to cut the trunk off below the damage and get the tree to throw out branches low down. I didn't try that with mine, but I would now if I had it to do over.

Actually, if I had it to do over I would put up even stronger fences. Darn sheep (and goats!).

It looks like you might have a sucker growing from below the graft (the little stem next to the big stem). If that one survives, it won't be the variety you purchased, but instead, the rootstock. You might want to cut that one right off, then cut the main stem just below the chewing.

But I hope some real tree expert will come on with expert advise - my advise is only from someone who has lost a lot of trees to sheep (and deer).


 
Stephen Layne
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Why not try bridge grafts? That is where strips of bark are cut from higher up on the tree and grafted in place to bridge the girdle. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/98-003.htm
 
Dillon Nichols
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Hi Liorah, welcome to permies; I'm sorry to hear about your trees, very unfortunate.

I am not an expert with this sort of damage... but think in the absence of prompt bridge grafting I would cut all off the girdled trees below the damage, whether or not that was above the graft, and hope for regrowth. Even if you end up with just the rootstock regrowing you have plenty of time to get a graft to take on that later.

As far as making sure it stays alive, my first advice would be bury the goats nearby to provide nutrients... Other than that, opinions vary on the efficacy of bandaging/sealing tree wounds; I'm in the 'doesn't help' camp.
 
Meg Gonzaltan
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Maybe use some grafting tape to seal it but allow it to breath? Im no tree expert but that came to mind. I hope it helps.
 
Todd Parr
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Tyler Ludens wrote:If the damage is above the graft, you might be able to cut the trunk off below the damage


I saved an apple tree that way that was girdled completely by rabbits. I cut it off above the graft but below the girdling and it sent up a branch that became the new trunk. It sent side branches out from there and looks like a regular tree. It also grew about 6 feet the first year after I cut it. I'm assuming that is because it had the root structure of a much bigger tree.
 
Lance Kleckner
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If the goat problem hasn't permanently been fixed, gonna need to cage those trees, otherwise whatever effort you do to help the trees will probably be destroyed again down the road.
 
R Ranson
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Dillon Nichols wrote:

As far as making sure it stays alive, my first advice would be bury the goats nearby to provide nutrients...


That's being a bit hard on the goats. They were only doing what's true to their nature.

Second person this week I've seen having trouble with goats eating fruit trees. Apparently this other person got goats without bothering to learn about their behaviour. Eating fruit trees is basically what goats love to do, especially if there is a mineral imbalance in their diet. One might as well teach them to lay eggs than ask a goat to stop eating trees.

Now... if the goats were uninvited, that's a different story.

Some things that might help save the tree:

  • take cuttings from the top of the tree.
  • bridge graft might help
  • or perhaps a stump graft?
  • coppicing the tree then grafting onto the shoots is another option
  • protecting the tree from future damage


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    Dillon Nichols
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    That's being a bit hard on the goats. They were only doing what's true to their nature.


    My tongue was in my cheek when I typed that, but it doesn't always come through; hazard of the medium...

    especially if there is a mineral imbalance in their diet.


    I completely agree that munching fruit trees is quintessential goat, as goaty as you could ask for short of eating someone shoes... but I wasn't aware of this part; is this specific to certain minerals, do you know?
     
    Bernard Welm
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    R Ranson wrote:

    Some things that might help save the tree:

  • take cuttings from the top of the tree.
  • bridge graft might help
  • or perhaps a stump graft?
  • coppicing the tree then grafting onto the shoots is another option
  • protecting the tree from future damage




  • You might be able to take a cutting from one of the top branches and graft it on the shoot that is growing next to the tree. That could be a good place to start.

    After that I would go with the suggestions of cut the tree below the damage - allowing for a new (quick growing) tree (as it will have the same root base causing a "water sucker" to start growing and it will likely get a few (3-5) feet on it the first year. All the life you see in the tree right now is actually just from stored energy in the branches (I had goats do something similar to a maple tree/bush, the top started growing and then quickly died).


     
    Erica Wisner
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    Our local grafting expert, Ton Rietveld, told a story of his father and uncle saving hundreds of trees that had been girdled by hares (above some snow, so there was live bark below the naked part). I believe it was pears. It was just a really hard winter; they don't usually get that much hare damage, but this particular winter they were HUNGRY and ate about a foot or two of bark off of every baby tree.

    They cut twigs (scion wood) from higher up in the tree, cut a T-slit in the bark below the damage, trimmed the bottom of the scion in a flat wedge like you'd do for crown grafts or anything else, and inserted in the slit. Make sure the scion is long enough to reach the intact bark above; slit up there, trim off any excess length of the scion, gently bend and insert into the upper slit.

    They did about 4 bridge grafts per trunk.
    Ton said by the time things bloomed the grafts were FAT, they swelled up like fire hoses. After a few years, the grafts merged; the trunk looked more or less normal, maybe a little rough/grafted, but very happily joined up. Not every graft succeeded, but enough to keep the majority of the trees alive, and save their big investment.

    He always wraps grafts to seal them so they don't dry out, and daubs the same sealer on any exposed wood from pruning. We are in a semi-arid region here, but he learned in the Netherlands which is much more humid, and always did it there too.
    He uses Dr-something-or-other, made in Wenatchee, yellow stuff, probably wood glue and latex or something like that. Organic-approved. You can probably also do it with beeswax, pitch, or any waterproof sealer.
    He uses tree-tape (the flexible plastic stuff that stretches as the tree grows) for most of the seal/wrap, and just paints over the exposed ends, graft itself, and edges of the tape.


    If the cambium is still alive and it's just the outer bark that was damaged (unlikely, as the cambium is tasty), then sealing over it could be useful.

    I put up a YouTube video of his modified crown graft a while back. ( a different method, but you can see how he does the wedge-cuts on the scion wood, and how he handles the slit bark so it doesn't bruise the cambium). I have not uploaded the edited version yet - this is the start, and there are 2 other short ones showing the wrap and seal.




     
    Rob Alexander
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    I'm really sorry to hear about this Liorah.
    I'm not a grafting expert, but I do happen to be a goat expert, so I can help on that front.
    The reason why the goats felt the need to eat that bark is because they are deficient in dietary copper.
    Copper is a mineral necessary for animal health (including us), and if the soil in your area is low in copper, your goats can't get enough just from their normal diet, so they try to get it by eating tree bark.
    When I took over my herd they were deficient and they would eat tree bark, so I started to supplement them with copper and they've never done it since.

    I just provide my goats with Copper Sulphate free choice.
    I don't mix it into their feed, because I can't guess how much or little each individual goat needs.

    It tastes terrible, but if they need it, they'll eat just as much as they need on the own accord.
    It might seem scary providing your animals with pure minerals, especially copper sulphate because its bright blue, but it allows the animals to self medicate just like they would naturally in the wild by finding high concentrations of minerals and licking/gnawing on rocks or soil.
    I found this little video of other people doing it too, so you can be sure I'm not just a lone nutbar.


    Best of luck with the trees.
     
    Bernard Welm
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    Rob,

    What is the best way to feed multiple free choice minerals. This is something I have been wanting to get into but I just have not been able to take the time to find something that would work (and that the chickens would not get into to foul up).
     
    R Ranson
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    Bernard Welm wrote:Rob,

    What is the best way to feed multiple free choice minerals. This is something I have been wanting to get into but I just have not been able to take the time to find something that would work (and that the chickens would not get into to foul up).


    Pat Coleby's book, Natural Goat Care is the one for you. It covers dietary goat minerals in all their glory and she advocates having separate minerals free choice on the basis that the goats know which minerals they need and when they need it. Her work is amazing!
     
    Mary-Ellen Zands
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    I farm sit for people when they need a holiday or just a break. I looked after a goat farm in March about 12 years ago now and the farmer assured me that none of his goats were due till the end of April. We had some real bad weather, awfully cold. Their barn was badly in need of repairs, it was open to the north. I double checked around midnight to make sure the goats were okay in this miserable weather, and to my surprise and horror there were 2 does who had given birth. One doe to one kid that was solid frozen and another doe 3 kids that were also frozen. I ran with 4 frozen kids to the house, filled the sink with warm water and started thawing those babies. The solid frozen one was gone and of the other 3 (thanks to the James Herriot series) I was able to save one. Not only thawing her out, but also having to swing her over my head in a big arc, to expel all her mucous. After that I guess she was shocked back to life. It took her a long while to get her body temperature back to normal, needless to say she stayed by my side for the first week of her life. There was another birth, very similar situation a few days later and I brought that one home too. If you have one, you might as well have another. Those two goats were the beginning of my goat experience. The farmer was not getting those babies back (he didn't mind at all). These goats for the first year went with me everywhere. Which was a good learning experience for us all. When I went foraging for my food they came along and browsed for theirs. I always took note of what they were eating, tasting and nibbling on. When I caught them going nuts on my fruit trees stripping the bark I realized we needed fencing and a shelter. For the first 3 months of their life they lived in the house. Our neighbour donated a little log cabin and we put up a higgeldy piggeldy fence. Which of course they escaped from numerous times. Good fences make good neighbours, very true! My orchard is very precious to me and I have very special trees, that are not common to this area. So I spent a lot of time making bridge grafts in repairing my trees. I didn't lose any! I learned a valuable lesson that goats need a variety of everything to stay healthy.
     
    Mary-Ellen Zands
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    So I just wanted to add that all winter I am sawing brush, windfall trees from winter storms and dragging them to the goats and donkeys. Our barnyard is littered with branches and whole trees which are all white, since they've been stripped of all bark and buds. Our goats also get minerals free choice as in Rob's video above. They especially crave the kelp! It also helps to walk your goats in the wild, away from your special trees. I have a gate on the far side so I can open to the woods and always keep a coffee tin with grain handy on top of a tall post, incase they head out in the direction of your garden and favorite trees. They will never forget the spot of their favorite treats, so you always need to keep ahead of their minds. In other words think like a goat!
    image.jpeg
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    One of their favorite trees, Manitoba maple.
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    Rob Alexander
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    Bernard Welm wrote:Rob,

    What is the best way to feed multiple free choice minerals. This is something I have been wanting to get into but I just have not been able to take the time to find something that would work (and that the chickens would not get into to foul up).


    If you have a look at the video around 1:30 or so you'll see that these folks have attached some containers to the wall.
    What I did was get some cheap, squarish (I believe they call that rectangular in the classics) tupperware containers (5 to be exact) and make a simple wooden frame to hold them all in, which I then attached to the wall slightly above goat bum level to avoid, well, you know..
    The goats will tend to hop up and put their front feet into their minerals if you leave it this way, so I attached a 2x4 which is wider than the mineral feeder, horizontally to the wall below the mineral feeder as something for the goats to put their front feet on.
    if you happen to have a low wall or something that the goats can put their heads through, you could attach it on the other side of the wall to avoid feet and goat berries.
    If chickens are part of your equation a "roof" above the minerals might be a good idea in either case.

    We're getting kind of off topic here, but I absolutely agree that Pat Coleby's book is worth its weight in gold if you're someone who is serious about goats. Great information about goat nutrition and goats in general.
    (that being said, copper isn't a cure-all and warts are not caused by dietary imbalances)
     
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