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Do I have enough land to support goats?  RSS feed

 
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I live in Georgia about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. I have 5 acres of wooded property. Of that, I can devote about 2 acres to goats. My plan is to clear most of the trees leaving only a few for shade, section it off into 7 1/4 acre paddocks and 1 slightly smaller maybe 1/8 acre which will be home for the goats at night, and densely plant paddocks with a wide variety of goat browse/forage. Would have 3-5 momma goats, with two, give or take one, in milk production at all times, meaning in spring there'll also be a few kids running around too. Thinking each paddock will be grazed for one week at a time and given about 6 weeks rest, meaning, if there rotated all year long, then each paddock would get hit 7-8 times a year, or, since nothing really grows in Dec, Jan and Feb, I could keep them off the paddocks for those three months meaning each paddock would only see the goats 5-6 times a year for a week each time. Does this seem feasible to you? Other than in winter, do you think it would be enough to provide for say 80% of their diet, and not over-exhaust the land? The soil is plenty fertile, so it just needs to be cleared of trees and planted with goat food.
 
nick bramlett
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Oh yeah and one more question, would it probably be okay to have 1-2 dozen broilers running one week behind the goats? Would they likely help or hurt the health of the paddocks.
 
pollinator
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Depending on the kind of tree, you might be able to coppice some of them for goat food.  Goats love trees and brush.  Our neighbors' goats are diligently deforesting their place.

 
pollinator
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It does not work that way because grass does not grow that way. It grows in cycles, really cranking out in the spring months and then slows after that. Our grazing season is shorter than yours, but in Maine, in May you can practically watch the grass grow, so in that month you move animals often. But in the dog days of summer, the grass slows down, so a farmer needs more area in which to graze since the livestock eat the same amount per day, but what is available may not be. Naturally you can bring in supplemental feed, but this brings on two issues. The first is added cost, and the second is manure build up.

A lot of people do not consider this, but when you have so many animals that the land cannot feed them, and added feed has to be bought, the land is being over-saturated with manure. A sheep or goat poos 85% of what it eats back out. This goes back into the soil and replenishes the forage, but when there is too many animals for the given land they are on, its starts building up. Then when the next rain comes, it gets carried off down the watershed instead of into the soil. Now as long as that manure is carted off periodically, all is okay, but when it sits in a big pile for years on top of soil, its not good. Neither is having animals grazing a micro-pasture and supplementing feed all the time. They might be dispersing their manure, but its not over enough acreage.

Your stocking rate is low enough, at least for Maine. Here we can graze 7-10 sheep per acre per year. That is based on set-stocking . Now I don't know of anyone who set-stocks or even advocates it, but it is an average derived from how many sheep or goats you can put on a given acre for the duration of the grazing season. When rotational grazing, you actually don't go by the amount of time they are in a paddock, but rather what the height of the grass is after grazing. That is what determines when they move. In the fall this might happen slowly because the growth just is not as fast as spring, so in your case you would open up two paddocks instead of one and let them graze more land for a longer period of time.

But no animal can stand being in lactation (milk) constantly. I honestly don't have goats, I have their close cousins sheep, and I wean mine at 60 days just because lactation is so hard on them. My sheep need rest so they can get their nutrition levels back up as they prepare to get bred and have a high demand for feed while going thought gestation again. You can stretch it out longer, but it negatively affects the life span of the animal. The way around that is to have different animals bred at different times so you can have one goat giving milk at any one time.
 
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Trees and bushes ARE good food. Google "goat landscaping," and you'll see that people are making money with goats clearing overgrown areas. You don't need to plant goat food. You already have the ideal goat buffet. The only thing I've actually heard of anyone planting for goats was willow trees because they grow so fast, but I can tell you from experience that goats will kill willow trees that are less than a few years old, so I'm not sure how that ultimately worked out.

You didn't ask about lactation but since someone else brought it up -- I will say that lactation is only draining on a sheep or goat's body for the first two months, which is when their production is at its peak because they're feeding babies that are growing so fast. Even if babies continue to nurse -- or if you're milking them -- they will start to regain body condition and should be in great shape by four months. I've personally milked goats for as long as 18 months and one doe for three years, and they all became overweight after a year in milk. Lactation is actually far less demanding on their body than growing babies and giving birth. This does not negatively affect their life spans either. I continue breeding them until age 10, and milk them for as long as they'll produce milk after that, which is usually for more than a year. My does live to 13-14 years old, which is about average.

Rotational grazing is very popular. We move our layers behind our sheep in a rotational grazing pattern. You just don't want to leave the chickens in a space for so long that they kill all of the grass, which I've seen some people do. Then they say it doesn't work because it kills the grass. Indeed, that is NOT the way it works. Humans need to move the chickens more frequently. I'm assuming you'll be using Salatin-style chicken tractors, so they will be moved daily within a space where the goats stayed for a week.
 
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I always see people talking about chickens following the goats in order to limit parasites and such, but couldn't he put the chicken AND the goats in the same pasture and rotate less often? I understand the manure buildup; I'm talking from a parasite point of view.
 
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First, goats don't like open areas and even if you clear your land and put them on lush grass they will linger in the shade and under trees and buildings overhangs, etc. They absolutely hate wind and rain and snow and water getting on them in any way. In other words, the woods are the best habitat you could have for a goat.

Second, my goats won't eat grass unless I cut it for them. Boer goats are better at grass eating than others. Mine prefer trees and brush and weeds. So pasturing them in the way your are thinking would just be a LOT of work for no return.

Third, goats are creatures of habit. In other words, you can lead them to lush green grass but they will climb the fence to get back to their favorite nap spot. Multiple paddocks mean multiple fences and multiple gates all of which mean work, work and more work ... all the time ... every single day ... without fail ... and more work ... I'm not even kidding ... if water can get through it, so can a goat.

Here's what we've done with 5 1/2 acres - the goats have 1 1/2 acres of woods divided in half. When they finish munching the vegetation on one half, we move them to the other half (and spend a few weeks keeping them on the right side of the fence). We didn't have to cut down any trees or plant anything or worry about moving them very often. We have a barn in one section and a goat house in the other section. Our milking stand is in another location so they are used to walking to it from wherever now. Chickens are free range and often go in to the paddocks and clean up the goat poop.

Basically, what I'm saying is, YES you have plenty of space for raising goats ... but don't overthink it. Go as simple as you can. The goats will give you enough to keep up with without making more work.
 
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