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Thinning forest for browse

 
Posts: 11
Location: Woodstock, NY
goat forest garden trees
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I just bought 50 acres and plan to have a fruit orchard, homestead, garden and goats to start (chickens, guinee fowl too and probably pigs and sheep later). I have about two acres of overgrown pasture and the rest is a pretty unhealthy forest that needs a lot of love. My plan is to thin the trees to let in light and increase browse in the forest and create a few large paddocks for browse so i can rotate the animals.
As i start prepping the site i have a few questions:
Any suggestions of what to plant under the trees for browse/silvopasture?
I might just burn the open field pasture and start fresh... any suggestions of what goats might enjoy pasture grazing wise? (i know they don’t love grazing but want some variety for them).
The forest has some red oak and i have read this is poisonous to goats... is this a problem or if i give them enough room will they avoid it?
Thank you in advance!
 
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Victoria, welcome to permies! And congratulations on the 50 acres.

Here is a thread that might be of interest:

https://permies.com/t/71942/Clearing-forest-desired-trees

The goats may be able to help you thin the areas you want to browse.
 
Posts: 108
Location: The Ocala National Forest. Florida, USA
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goat forest garden chicken
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Mine like whats in most deer plot mix's. I'm checking local big box stores now... Plant in sunnier areas and I keep mine off it till it gets established. Usually has something like radish, brassicas, peas, clovers, wheat, etc... Cool season stuff in it.
 
Victoria Balentine
Posts: 11
Location: Woodstock, NY
goat forest garden trees
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thanks guys.  anyone know if the red oak leaves on the forest floor will be any danger to the goats?
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Red oak leaves are just fine for goats, if you happen to have any poison ivy or oak, they will eat that too especially if they feel they need to get rid of intestinal worms.
 
Posts: 10
Location: Southern Oregon
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Hi Victoria, congrats on your land. Before you burn the pasture, you may want to give the goats the run of it—they'll eat up whatever they're interested in, and you'll get some food value out of what's already there.

Are you planning on doing rotational grazing with them? I'd recommend reading up on management intensive rotational grazing (Voisin method) if it's not something you're already planning on doing. Goats are very picky eaters, and if you give them free run of a large pasture, they'll decimate it. They'll walk around the entire area eating whatever is most palatable to them first, and they'll eat all of it. Then they'll start going for their second choice, and so on. In the meantime, their first choice will begin regrowing its foliage, and they'll eat that regrowth as soon as it appears. Within a few months, they'll have worn out the energy reserves of the plants they prefer, while whatever they aren't fond of will proliferate. In a very short amount of time, you'll end up with a pasture full of things they don't care for, regardless of what you planted to begin with. It seems like you already know that grass isn't their preferred diet, which is what makes managing them different than cows or even sheep. Grass, and to a lesser extent legumes, are adapted for grazing. Goats prefer plants that are generally not adapted for grazing (forbs and browse), so the more recovery time you can give an area between grazings the better.

We're currently setting up a few areas of goat pasture, and here's what we're planning on doing. The pastures will be planted with the goat pasture mix from NaturesSeed. It's 40% grass, 45% legume, and 15% chicory. We are also adding dandelion, narrow leaf plantain, and Queen Anne's Lace (our goats LOVE the QAL the grows rampant on our property, so we harvested the seed to mix in). The pasture will have permanent perimeter fencing, and will be subdivided with 6' wide alleys run long ways, also with permanent fencing. Instead of using the alleys as a walkway though, we are planting them with trees and other browse and forbs that the goats enjoy. The goats will be in the long strips of pasture, and they'll get a new paddock each day sectioned off with polywire. So in addition to what they get from the pasture mix, they'll also have two edges of their paddock where they can access browse. But since it's fenced off, they won't be able to kill the plants—they'll just eat as far back as they can reach through the fencing, and those plants won't be completely defoliated.

If you set up silvopasture and give the goats free run of it though, they'll kill off whatever nice things you plant for them much quicker than you'd think.

Hope this helps!
 
Victoria Balentine
Posts: 11
Location: Woodstock, NY
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dan thank you so much this is very helpful.  I am definitely aware of the browse until it's gone habit of goats and am planning to silvopasture on rotation.  I have not decided about fencing yet but your system sounds great.  I will probably do something similar... just deciding how much of the forest I want to use for them... I have a lot of space so maybe all or maybe not... (I will also be fencing in an area for fruit and nut trees/veg garden that will not be available for goats!).  I also did not know about the goat grazing seed.  thanks!
I will probably still burn the stilt grass areas of the pasture as it really takes over...
then again... does anyone know if goats/sheep eat stilt grass?
 
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