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uses include:
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the permaculture of goats...  RSS feed

 
Aida Alene
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I can't call myself an expert in anything, but if there is one thing i probably know the most about it is goats. This got me thinking about what permaculture goat raising might look like, as i've always just managed the herd from the intense love and attachment i have for them. Here are my tips on how to make owning goats as simple as possible (in the long run).

I think a lot of people jump on the goat train without really realizing how complex the nutritional needs of a goat can be, and that is the main problem. Yes, goats do need strong fences, and yes they will ring young trees and all deciduous trees, but in my experience, happy goats are much less inclined to find escape routes or vandalize the place. I would have to say that the number one difference i notice between my herd and other herds i come across is nutrition. In nature goats would continuously travel, browsing upon all sorts of nutrient dense new growth in wide assortment of species, which in turn provides them with a good mix of nutrients. In a fenced area, they only have access to what we provide for them, so if that happens to be 'goat tex' from the local feed store and local first cut hay, they probably aren't going to thrive. Nutrition problems in goats are not always obvious, which is what makes them so problematic, often new owners don't even realize something is out of balance until it turns into a big problem. The goats digestive system demands high nutrient food, so unfortunately goats (i'm mostly talking milking goats) do require a fancier diet than the horse or the cows. Goats thrive on 3rd or 4th cuts of good quality dairy hay and alfalfa. The alfalfa really helps lactating does and growing kids because of the calcium and protein it is rich in. Lots of people ask me why their goats are skinny and my number one go to is nutrient devoid hay.

That brings me to grain. Grain is not really what the goat's digestive system is designed to eat, so while i do feed grain, i avoid the super processed 'goat tex' and opt to feed my milkers a nice blend of flatted oats, flatted barley and sunflower seed. Grain can never make up for bad hay, the goat should be getting most of her calories from her hay.

Last on my list of most important factors in maintaining a healthy goat would be free choice mineral designed for goats specifically (copper!). Since continuously offering a free choice blend of kelp, salt, nutritional yeast and dairy mineral, my goats have had zero health issues. No bald noses or patches over the winter, no colds or weight loss. They eat it when they get the inkling out of a PVC mineral feeder

Pretty simple, cuts down on my work because it self feeds.

Bottom line, providing goats with the nutrients they need = fewer calls to the vet, less stress for you and the goats, healthy babies, good milk production, less vandalism, the goats will love you more!

Thanks for listening, i'm always here to answer questions and make recommendations on holistic solutions for better goat care.



 
Regan Dixon
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Thanks for this.  What proportion of oats:barley do you offer?
 
Aida Alene
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Regan Dixon wrote:Thanks for this.  What proportion of oats:barley do you offer?


I just do a bag of each mixed so that's typically 25kg oats, 25kg barley and the bags of sunflower range from 15kg-20kg so I just use whatever the supplier has.

 
David Livingston
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Is it possible to feed the goats just on grass and other browsing opportunities . I know of a couple of areas where wild goats live and they don't seem to need any additives

David
 
Regan Dixon
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If you have mixed brush, twiggy stuff to last you all year round, you might pasture goats on that. 
 
Peter Ellis
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David Livingston wrote:Is it possible to feed the goats just on grass and other browsing opportunities . I know of a couple of areas where wild goats live and they don't seem to need any additives

David


Depends on what level of productivity you want from your goats.
 
Aida Alene
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Peter Ellis wrote:
David Livingston wrote:Is it possible to feed the goats just on grass and other browsing opportunities . I know of a couple of areas where wild goats live and they don't seem to need any additives

David


Depends on what level of productivity you want from your goats.


Exactly. Because most browse material and grass is low in calories and proteins your goats will not be able to produce much milk (or muscle, if are meat goats). Goats that are not used for breeding and milking have much lower nutrition needs. If you look at herds of roaming goats in places like South America you may notice the milkers often look a little skinny because they are just surviving on browse. The intervention of humans and acts like selective breeding have made possible goats who can give 4-6L per day but that is with high nutritious diets. The goats that exist today are very much a domesticated species that has become dependant on human beings in order to thrive fully.

There is also the question of giving back what you take. If you are taking litres of milk from your doe every day, then you should be giving back in full to make up for what you have taken.
 
Maureen Atsali
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I keep meat goats, and I live in the tropics, so my browse is different.  I have never fed any commercial feed, or hay.  They have a mineral block that they mostly ignore.  Goats aren't grazers, they are browsers, so grass and hay aren't the ideal feed. They are more closely related to deer than to sheep.  Their ideal feed is browse- leaves and twigs from bushy growth.  My goats are healthy and go through birthing and lactation with little or no loss of condition.  But I realize north american winters make it impossible to provide browse year round.
 
Susan Pruitt
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I've been thinking about obtaining two dwarf goats in a year or two.  I was a permaculture-ist before Trump but now I'm a prepper!   My chickens are doing beautifully on my free range urban half-acre that I've let go wild.  Now I'm researching what to plant for goats.   I already have loads of clover, privet, mulberry, autumn olive, wiegelia  and honeysuckle, .   I have a small pasture area where I can plant a variety of other things including alfalfa.     I'm embarrassed to ask but what is meant by 3rd and 4th cut?   Does that reflect the age of the plant or frequency of harvest in one season?   I've also read that their hooves should be trimmed every couple of months - really?   Is that just for city goats that don't get enough roaming? I've read that Nigerian dwarf goats don't require a LOT of feed so I'm hoping my fenced half acre will offer enough variety that they won't denude it in a season?   What types of grasses usually constitute "dairy hay"?
Thanks for any input.
 
Aida Alene
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hi Susan,
Nigerian dwarfs are a good choice for a 1/2 acre. They probably will denude the field though, Goats have an incredible ability to chow down on everything and faster that you would expect. The goat has high nutrient needs so they eat all day long and even at night. Goats maybe sleep 3-4 hours in a 24 he period. At night they should have access to browse or hay because that's how their gut works, it always wants to have something in the system to work on digesting. I'm not an expert on what to plant for browse, I have never kept my herd somewhere where I could control what was planted and I typically don't browse them beyond what they have in their field. Goats are susceptible to parasitic infestations because historically they would browse massive areas and not graze over the same area day after day. They don't like to graze with their noses to the ground because they didn't evolve to do this and when they poop the parasites hatch and climb up the blades of grass in wait to be re eaten. Because goats didn't typically graze as they evolved, they don't have as much parasite resistance as sheep or cows. When confined to a field day after day they will graze though and they will pick up parasites. Therefor, the more you can keep them from grazing the better! Entertain them with browse you have collected, they will eat anything that hasn't been sitting on the ground getting 'dirty' such as tree branches and bark, veggies that are fresh and clean like broccoli and kale greens. Be careful with legumes, they are rich and goats can get bloat from eating too much. Same goes for alfalfa, you must introduce it slowly and never feed too much. If you plant alfalfa in their field I bet they will just demolish it, I think grasses are more hardy and can handle the constant grazing down. 1st cut is the first cut off the hay field by the farmer in a season, so typically anywhere from May-June. 2nd cut is the next cut that comes off, maybe 4-8 weeks later, and so on. The hay gets finer and less stemmy the more cuts you do and goats do better on finer hay with high nutrients.

As for hooves, a couple months is probably a stretch. Depends entirely on the breed and animal themselves but I must trim every 4 weeks! I live in a wet mild climate. The back hooves tend to grow faster in my experience. I have a theory that high nutrient diets that western goats experience may cause their hooves to grow faster than in dry African climates where they survive on not much at all. It's really a matter of checking periodically, but definitely never neglect them for too long because hooves will grow into funny shapes and be hard to correct. Join a goat Facebook page in your country, best resource you would have access to! Lots of experienced breeders who have a solution to everything. Treat your goats like dairy animals, not pet goats and ignore the crazy advice the feed store guy gives you. Milking goats have specific needs and your experienced goat owner will know what mineral or supplements are available to be ordered in your area.

Take care
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Susan Pruitt
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Thanks so much for starting this thread Aida!   Loads of good info here.   Being a city girl I depend on research to get started on everything.  Even after a year of studying chickens before acquiring them,  it's taken a year of going through the seasons, actually living with them, that I feel like I know anything yet - haha!    The complexity of goat nutrition is serious business and I don't take animal husbandry lightly so I'm grateful for your thoughtful input.    I laughed at your comment about the local feed guys.   I have one local source like that and I already figured out they're pretty cavalier with their methods and answers!   I have heard about a local rescue group that gets a lot of city goats that come from people not prepared to care for them properly and they tend to have rather short life spans so I'll see what I can learn from them too.  There is a 3-acre nature preserve across the street from me where the thicket around the perimeter is mowed once a month - maybe I can help them by walking my goats around that daily with my dog  :)
 
Liz Hoxie
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Thank you Aida. We never stop learning. I've been working with goats for about 8 years, my family raised goats when I was a teen, and now I have goats. I'm still learning. I will be cutting tree hay this summer, but there are few trees. I am also looking into fermenting, as it frees up nutrients. It seems like the more prevention we practice, the easier it is and the healthier the goat.

Have you noticed any difference in hoof hardness and ease of trimming hooves since adding BOSS?

I would like to suggest Totally Natural Goats and More on Facebook. The same person started the Yahoo group by the same name. These ppl treat their goats with herbs only. I like Holistic Goats on FB, there's a lot of knowledgeable ppl there too. The yahoo groups are pretty quiet right now thanks to Facebook.
 
Aida Alene
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Susan, taking your goats grazing is a great activity for them and also a fantastic way to get a reputation as the goat lady in your neighbourhood. Goats that get to go exploring are much braver and friendlier!

As for rescue goats, definitely seek knowledge from people who have experience but I would be very careful of adopting a rescue. Unlike cats and dogs, goats can carry a few rather scary diseases/virus' such as CAE, CL and Johnes. If you aren't just keeping them as pets but actually want to breed I would advise to buy from a reputable breeder who has tested for all three of those things within the last 12 months. Looking healthy does not mean an animal isn't infected, many of these issues are silent for years. CAE for example is a lentivirus like HIV and can hang out in the goats blood without anyone knowing, it may pop up as they age or when they get stressed. When symptomatic it turns into hard udders and painful arthritis. All these diseases are contagious to other goats so if they have babies they would pass it on, CAE especially gets instantly passed on through the milk from the mom. It's very sad, most people don't test so it's a real problem and places like petting farms where many city dwellers get those goats they then have to hand over to rescues are often infected.

Great suggestion on the facebook group, I use holistic methods whenever it's something I'm correcting or preventing, like red raspberry leaf tea when they are nearing birth time and goldenseal powder on the babies umbelical cords.

I would like to caution against the trend of using natural dewormers only. While it is a really nice idea, no research to date has found them to be entirely effective which can lead to a build up if parasites over time and suck the goats health from her without it being totally noticeable at first. I deworm with chemical dewormer once a year and supplement with a natural blend of fresh garlic, ginger, sunflower oil, turmeric pwdr, clove pwdr, mulein leaf, goldenseal pdwr, cayenne pdwr, fennel seed and molasses all blended in the food processor. They eat it right off the spoon, but more nervous goats or baby goats tend to turn their noses up at it.

In response to BOSS and hooves, I have not noticed a difference but I think I've always fed it? Their hooves certainly don't seem soft, but they do grow fast!

Hope this helps
 
Aida Alene
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Maureen Atsali wrote:I keep meat goats, and I live in the tropics, so my browse is different.  I have never fed any commercial feed, or hay.  They have a mineral block that they mostly ignore.  Goats aren't grazers, they are browsers, so grass and hay aren't the ideal feed. They are more closely related to deer than to sheep.  Their ideal feed is browse- leaves and twigs from bushy growth.  My goats are healthy and go through birthing and lactation with little or no loss of condition.  But I realize north american winters make it impossible to provide browse year round.


Maureen I wonder too the effect of our cold climate of calorie needs, my other question would be, typically meat goats don't produce much milk, and milking large quantities is probably the most energy consuming activity for a goat.

The deer are abundant where I live and they sure do look unhealthy, very skinny with patchy fur, many die off in the cold of winter.

I wish I had the land to browse, I can imagine I would need a lot of land. Do you have problems with dogs coming after you herd? That is a worry for me, it's hard to super fence large areas but if I don't there is a huge risk of neighbours dogs sneaking in and going on a killing spree
 
Hester Winterbourne
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[quote=Susan Pruitt]I already have loads of clover, privet, mulberry, autumn olive, wiegelia  and honeysuckle[/quote]

Privet rings alarm bells as it is poisonous.  Now it may be that sensible goats offered a range of browse will just avoid it, or even eat it in small quantities with no ill effect.  But a goat that doesn't know any better might do herself some harm.

When a herd of goats is free ranging and the lead doe finds something unpalatable, she will taste a bit and then make disgusted snorting noises, and then everyone else does it so the whole herd learns.  You could try teaching your goats the same way!
 
Liz Hoxie
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Susan, research the plants that you have to be sure of the toxicity to goats. Most of them are not toxic, but don't take my word for it. I found out by accident that trumpet vine IS NOT poison to them since they ate it to the ground. That's the way I found out about soapwort, too. One ate it down to the ground. She got bloat, and after giving her tummy rubs for over an hour, she finally went poop. She also got into the beans. Repeat.

Since then,  I only plant things that are not toxic to them.
 
Susan Pruitt
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Hey Liz,   I thought I remembered Geoff Lawton using goats to clear massive amounts of privet from one of his properties so I went looking.   Can't find the first one I saw but here's another.  Apparently goats will eat lots of stuff that are considered toxic to most animals.   I just don't understand why goats have such finicky systems and I'm not sure I can keep track of it all.  I'm sure the goats of yore got along just fine without all these precautions and medications etc etc.   I guess they are just another example of all god's creatures living the modern lifestyle of eating processed foods, breathing toxic air, not getting enough exercise......and voila' all of us are chronically ill.

http://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/08/reforesting-goats/

Aida I like the idea of being "The Goat Lady"!    Better than some other reputations I could have :)
 
Maureen Atsali
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Aida- I haven't had any problems with dogs, or any other predators. But there is a constant threat of the two legged variety - people will steal them. So they have to be sheltered at night. It really adds a huge amount of work to goat keeping here, having to bring them in every night and take them out every morning.  (Its the same with any animal, cows, sheep poultry. People will steal anything they can get their hands on after dark. Except pigs, because they make so much noise.)

There aren't any real veterinarians here, and villagers are too poor and too ignorant to give their animals much medical support.  That sounds horrible, but in the long run, after countless generations of neglect and "survival of the fittest", the result is an extremely well adapted and resilient goat that needs almost nothing from human hands.  I think generations of coddling, breeding for show and for pets have been very detrimental to the USA (and other well developed countries) goat breeds.  Goats survive that shouldn't, and pass on poor genetics to future generations.

Meat goats are quite different than dairy goats of course. They do not produce large amounts of milk. (I tried milking my meat goats, I did well if I even got a full cup.) The goats that I keep do not often produce multiples.  Singles are the norm, probably 70% of my births. Then twins. In 5 years I have never had triplets.  On the other hand I have never had a complicated birth or kid fatality, knock on wood. Not once in 5 years have I had to assist a delivery, or bottle feed a kid, and I have lost no kids.  I have lost a couple adolescents to enterotoxemia from overeating on lush forage during the rains.  I don't trim hooves, ever.  I do give a dewormer and a jab of b complex every 3 months. Its not that I am doing anything special, its just that these little goats are tough as hell. And I cull heavily. If a goat doesn't thrive under these management conditions, they get sold. But most of them do fantastic, and my little herd is pretty stable. I just change the buck every year.
 
Aida Alene
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Maureen Atsali wrote:I haven't had any problems with dogs, or any other predators. But there is a constant threat of the two legged variety - people will steal them.

yikes, this is one of my paranoias! Luckily it's uncommon here, but i've still heard stories of breeders finding a family has loaded their goats into the minivan thinking they could just buy them from the market farm like the veggies.

I think goats are extremely well adapted to live in climates like yours, the wet weather and freezing temps in north america can be hard on them for sure, especially nubian type breeds.

I suppose advice comes with the grain of awareness of what someone is intending for the goats and what their farm attitude is. My female goats are pretty much family, and i think for many back yard owners who just have a couple its the same story, they become half pets half farm animals. I would love to maintain them more sustainably through forage, but land prices in my region are the highest they have ever been at about half a million for an acre or so. Such a bummer.

At the same time, the stress of having my goats stolen would probably drive me right into insanity, i couldn't do it! Such a different world!
 
Liz Hoxie
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Maureen, it sounds like going the herbal route is best for you. A lot can be done with cayenne, garlic, and fresh ginger. These can be grown in tropical areas, although I don't know about garlic. A good all-purpose salve for first aid would help. Sounds like you have it made! If you do FB, join Totally Natural Goats and More. Raid their files.
 
Tracy West
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Thanks so much for the valuable information,especially about the herbs.
My 3 goats run free on 23 acres of deciduous woods with some pine trees,lots of wild grapes and bamboo. They are beyond obese. They prefer wild grapes first,then bamboo,and nibble on everything they can reach. They love bamboo if I chop it down so they can reach it.
I haven't really needed to do they're feet since shortly after I got them 2 years ago which surprises me since we live on mostly soft sand and it's a wetter climate much of the year.
I do have some questions. do you know of a good brand minerals carried by Tractor Supply or Southern states? Can I use cattle minerals?
I'd like to get my female bred sometime,maybe to a Pygmy goat. She's a nicely bred Alpine from a show breeder although I don't have the contact information on the breeder,since she was given to me by a family moving out of town. Is it possible to breed her with shipped semen? Can I bring her in to heat like they do cows or horses so that I can tell when she's in? I haven't been able to find a vet that does goats near me.
Does anybody grow moringa  annually as a protein supplement? I was thinking it could be chopped and dried to provide extra protein.
 
Liz Hoxie
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Alpines are seasonal breeders. I think it's September through February. Some breeds are year-round breeders. They are usually of African descent.

I don't think goats can be brought into heat. I do know that they "flag", and some call. They can be quite vocal. Some have even bred them to get some sleep. They also have a clear drainage from the vulva, and the vulva will be inflamed. There may be other signs, so I'd google them.
 
Maureen Atsali
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My understanding is that AI doesn't work for goats. I can't remember exactly why- is it that the semen isn't viable once frozen?

 
Aida Alene
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Maureen Atsali wrote:My understanding is that AI doesn't work for goats. I can't remember exactly why- is it that the semen isn't viable once frozen?



Maureen, not at all true! I know many big time show breeders who use it on does every breeding season (see Blissberry Nubians in the USA as a good example). It is true that goat semen does not freeze AS well, so conception success is a little lower, thats all.
 
Aida Alene
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Tracy West wrote:Thanks so much for the valuable information,especially about the herbs.
My 3 goats run free on 23 acres of deciduous woods with some pine trees,lots of wild grapes and bamboo. They are beyond obese. They prefer wild grapes first,then bamboo,and nibble on everything they can reach. They love bamboo if I chop it down so they can reach it.
I haven't really needed to do they're feet since shortly after I got them 2 years ago which surprises me since we live on mostly soft sand and it's a wetter climate much of the year.
I do have some questions. do you know of a good brand minerals carried by Tractor Supply or Southern states? Can I use cattle minerals?
I'd like to get my female bred sometime,maybe to a Pygmy goat. She's a nicely bred Alpine from a show breeder although I don't have the contact information on the breeder,since she was given to me by a family moving out of town. Is it possible to breed her with shipped semen? Can I bring her in to heat like they do cows or horses so that I can tell when she's in? I haven't been able to find a vet that does goats near me.
Does anybody grow moringa  annually as a protein supplement? I was thinking it could be chopped and dried to provide extra protein.


Tracy, yes you can force them into heat using hormones, but most people don't do that unless they really want their does all to kid at the exact same time or are having fertility troubles with a doe. My does are not super obvious when they are in heat, they wag their tails and have some discharge but they don't yell, so if i didn't have bucks right on the property i might miss it! Sometimes they even start fighting and playing with or mounting the other girls in the herd if no buck is around.
 
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