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Silvopasture browse plants for goats.  RSS feed

 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Hey ya'll. First post here at Permies. I've been "doing" permaculture the past few years, have a PDC cert and I have had an almost 3 acre piece of land in Kansas City with 90% woods. I am currently clearing the woods of all this invasive honeysuckle growing everywhere with electric netting and 4 Nigerian dwarf goats. They are doing a fantastic job. I am wanting to do silvopasture. I have cleared a lot of understory trees but the land has a lot of broad leaf tree species on it which creates quite a bit of shade. I am wanting to have my goats browse and not forage since that is what they do best. I have researched a ton of silvopasture forums and what grasses to grow but what I am looking for are shade tolerant shrubs, ground cover, herbacious and small tree species to grow in place of the honeysuckle. What I have so far is durana clover, fescue grass and maybe white clover in the more sunny areas. Then there are the shade tolerant fruiting species. Elderberry, juneberry, gooseberry, alpine strawberries, honeyberries, etc. To have a permanent browsing system with shade tolerant, non invasive plants would be ideal. Any and all suggestions would be much appreciated!  Maybe what I am asking for is impossible but hey. Why not try. Thanks so much!

Ben
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 96
Location: Colton Or
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dog duck goat
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Bamboo, the clumping varieties are a little easier to maintain although I would think your goats would do a good job keeping a runner in check. I would also look at holly, not sure how shaded it can grow, but is a good winter browse because it doesn't loose its leaves.
 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Seems that goats don't like holly all that much and some people say it's not good for them or they won't really eat it. I'll check out the bamboo. Thanks! Looking for some shaded leafy plants that aren't invasive. I was thinking about buying a shaded deer forage seed mix too.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 96
Location: Colton Or
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Well my goats keep eating the holly in their paddocks.
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 205
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
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A number of posters talk about sheep eating holly hay, maybe goats too? I am persecuting the cedars (nasty gymnosporium infestation) and allowing the holly to fill in, so hopefully that will fill the shrub/evergreen/bird hangout niche. I would suggest honeyberry would get destroyed by goats, it is a shrub honeysuckle! If you have spaced your silvopasture to allow cool weather grass optimum summer growth with a deciduous overstory, then shrub options would be caragana and bicolor lespedeza for n-fixers. Also you could start some black locust and protect it, then coppace it and stimulate suckering. Almost everywhere in the midwest has autumn olive as well and maybe redbud and mimosa which all tolerate a little more shade. I find the n-fixer shrubs are pretty easy here which is a pretty similar climate.

Biomass shrubs/small tree could be privet, coppace mulberry, whatever you see around that is looking happy. We had goats that ate catalpa like candy.

You are going to have a vine layer, so just assume the honeysuckle will be back and either the goats will eat it or you can introduce another species. I have some wisteria (in sequestered areas for now until I see how it behaves) which is also an n-fixer. Goats eat the heck out of it. 

I'm kind of a Lawton fan, I overplant n-fixers and the other stuff will enjoy the goodies and fill in. 
 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Wow! A ton of great info! I'll look those up. I'm the same way. I'll plant like crazy and see what happens. I only have one area totally cleared for silvopasture. I had to take a bushhog to it last year and non of the honeysuckle came back! Whaaaaa? I still have to let the goats do their thing before I cut understory. I am a tad afraid of autumn olive since it is super invasive via bird poop. Again, the goal would be for them to only live off the land which I have done before when they free ranged. Now they are in a fence.
 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Nicholas Mason - It's hard to find reliable info on goats it seems. All the stuff the "goat experts" say they shouldn't eat...well, they eat it. :p Who knows really?
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 205
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Ben, I would say I am personally against planting autumn olive and mimosa in this type of biome. I still have those and black locust present whether I want them or not; like you said the birds have made them present here, likely because they were a good niche fit. I bet if you have a semi-gladed forest you will have them soon anyhow!

I will machete the autumn olive and mimosa down at least 50% when they are leafed out, they are unlikely to seed much if you are using their energy to chop and drop. Lemons->lemonade.

It took me about three hours with a machete to do a couple acres at about half the density that the forest will support now that it is thinned. Upgraded my blister collection too, so that's nice. I don't have goats but I think they will do some of it for you, if they don't you may need to bush hog every year. I went to see a friend's little hobby farm and they have goats and zero autumn olive, and it is all over here so I think they will eat it readily.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 96
Location: Colton Or
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It i hard to find good info, according to the internet everything is poisonous and going to kill everything. The truth is very few plants are really poisonous, and all animals should eat a variety of things instead of eating just one thing. I would guess that if goats eat only holly for a extended period of time it would not be healthy. But that doesn't sound like your plan. I also would not be very worried about autumn olive or other "invasive" nitrogen fixers, It sounds like you are pretty shaded so they are unlikely to to extremely well, and you have goats. I haven't tried autumn olive in my goat pastures, because I don't think it would get established. But no scotch broom has made it out alive after spending a little time with the goats.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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If there are any small to medium size trees in the area that you want to clear, you can do it in such a way that the goats can browse both the tops and any sprouts.  Cut the tree about half way to two thirds through and at an angle, and then push or pull it over so the top lies flat at goat-reach.  Most species, if they are not too big, will retain a bent part of the uncut wood and bark and so the top will stay alive until the goats get a chance to eat all that green.  If you cut it at a height low enough for the goats to get all the sprouts you will wear it out within a year or two and then you can go on to something else.  Or you can cut it high enough, perhaps with a stepladder, such that some sprouts will come out above goat reach and then you can start the cycle again in a few years.
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 25
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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I have MANY holly-type trees (no berries but the leaf is just like a holly). I need to get them positively identified still. My goats (Nubian/Togg mix and a Nigerian Dwarf) LOVE this tree/shrub and eat it whenever they find it and will literally try to knock you down to use you as a ladder to reach more if it. Ours grow in everywhere from full sun to very shaded underneath conifers. From the quick search I just did it does grow in shade but it may not produce berries - thus probably the reason we haven't had berries. Then again, you also need male and female of the species and I'm guessing we may have mostly one or the other because I've only seen berries on one small bush near the house while the ones throughout the woods are without.

We also have many cedar saplings with the occasional fir or pine. The goats do eat a lot of cedar but prefer the fir and pine as far as conifers. We've got honeysuckle as our main understory growth (goats love it and I'm not trying to get rid of it mainly because they love it). That and a little burr sticker that is the devil in the summer...and the goats won't touch it! Right now I'm only able to have our goats out on leads as we have no fencing yet. As they eat the leaves off the saplings, I cut them down to thin out the woods. Gradually clearing out the rest of the unwanteds in the understory and canopy. Priority is the dead, dying, deformed (aka leaning since we're on a hillside) and diseased. They love trimmings from the alder, oak, maple and another tree that I haven't identified yet but the leaves are similar to walnut or sumac. All those would be good options for browse if you can keep a constant supply of seedlings and incorporate rotational grazing. They love eating the wild irises growing all over and getting into the patch of wild roses I try to keep them away from as well. I want to get some rose hip harvests from those! Hope this gives you some ideas.
 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Awesome! Thanks! My whole understory is honeysuckle as well. I am wanting to get rid of the smaller bushes, keep the bigger ones and incorporate more of a variety of browse plants into their diet since that is all they will be eating year round minus free choice hay. I'll check some of those out and probably order some seeds to grow this year.
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 25
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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I'm working on the same thing myself. I need to fence in the pasture around the goat shed as priority (after building the new chicken coop). This pasture will be for daily use and will soon be fairly bare except for what grows through the fence. Then we'll gradually be populating the areas for pastures 2-6 with browse plants. Right now I'm researching fedges and woven hedges/fences as a means to fence in these areas in the woods. We've been quoted between $3500 - 6000 to fence in ONE approximately 2000 square foot pasture. This means doing it ourselves with preferably less expensive but still effective methods. We've got 8 acres of woods but will eventually have about 4 of it in pasture for one type of livestock or another...starting with goats/chickens with maybe sheep, a donkey, a cow or two and horses. I was even offered 5 good horses for free the other day...all healthy and ride-able because the woman is ill and can no longer care for them. I was sad I couldn't take them because of no fencing! The idea is silvopasture mainly for home use but we're starting in reverse. Most resources I've found of rit, people are starting with fairly bare and mostly level land, or at most rolling hills. Not us! Fairly dense woods with some undergrowth and about a 45 degree slope!
 
Ben Bash
Posts: 7
Location: Kansas City
chicken goat urban
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Yep. My 2 acres of woods are the same. Full canopy with lots of honeysuckle undergrowth. I have thinned out almost an acre. Half is for a forest orchard and the other half for silvopasture. I planted Timothy grass and white clover last spring and once I thinned out all the dead trees the stuff went crazy! I just sewed durana clover and tall fescue grass in my 3rd paddock. Planting hazelnuts and pawpaws in the paddocks too for the animals and possible future pigs. It's a little more tricky when you're starting off with full woods. Let me know if you figure anything out. I'm in the same situation. I keep my goats in an electric poultry netting that's 48" high. Way cheaper than permanent fencing but might not keep in full size goats. Cost me about $1,000 for 620ft of fence and a solar energizer. I can get almost 2 9,000 sqft paddocks with that length of fence. I tee them into each other so I can make paddocks with less fence. You would have to get 60" netting for that.
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 25
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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Alas, I cannot get electric fencing though it would be nice for the couple of open areas we do actually have! Our neighbors have been very friendly and very nice but electric fences would mess with his HAM radio and then he wouldn't like us so much!

The "pasture" we do have turns into sticker a patch as soon as the weather warms up fully which should be in about a month. Right now we have a large meadow with foot+ high grasses. It's a steep climb to take the goats there so I don't take them as often as I should. Plus, it's a bit farther away from the house than I like to keep them unsupervised...and there's still enough trees for them to tangle easily. So I take them up a few times a week along with a good book or my loppers and pruning saw. The dead wood is slowly going into a couple berms. I think when all the woods have been straightened up and all the dead fall, etc has been moved into berms that we'll have the equivalent of about 3 miles of them slowing down the water, collecting stuff that's going downhill and housing bugs and fungus galore. The berms are also roughly outlining where we eventually want permanent fencing of some sort.
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Our one "pasture" area.
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An example of what we're working with over 90% of property
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