Natasha Lovell

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since Aug 01, 2012
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I've raised goats since 1997, and registered dairy goats since 1999. I'm a caprinaholic. I also added hair sheep recently and occasionally have other baby livestock. End goal is a "naturally raised" farm offering at, minimum, raw goat milk and meat from humanely raised lambs and kids.
~1 hr South of Seattle
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Recent posts by Natasha Lovell

As a future homesteader/dairywoman, the most interesting Pyrenees type dog will be a dog with a family and/or personal record for success with small livestock. I have a couple thousand dollars wrapped up in genetics I've been carefully shaping the last 10 years, and one hour of a visiting domestic dog could wipe most if not all of that out. Let alone a cougar (if you don't think they don't hunt for sport in addition to food, let me introduce you to Kenagy Katahdins...), bear, coyote and the increasing threat of wolves. Bobcats and eagles can also take kids and lambs. I anticipate being in the market for between 2 and 5 depending on my predator load. My first one, I will be interested in ability with stock, staying home, and repelling threats. The subsequent ones I will become more selective on breed and health (hips, etc). Likely an adult if possible for the first one and then pups after that (a good adult can be $1000 or so).
I will be looking for purebred LGD breeds or crosses between nothing but LGD. For a general farm dog, a non-LGD cross can be fine, but I don't play Russian roulette with a couple thousand dollars of hard work! Should I be able to add another goat breed I have my eyes on, and dairy cows, then the stakes raise yet higher.

Pyrs seem to have a reputation, at least in my area, for being wanderers and hard to contain. Some of them simply not showing back up because they wandered so far. I've heard varying reports of great and awful on Anatolians, Kangals and Akbash, generally good reports of Maremma, and then you get into the less common and downright rare breeds (which ethically should be bred pure - at least the females - in order to preserve the breed...I breed rare breed goats...crossbreeding pure rare breed females makes me cry inside). Some of the less common Turkish and Eastern European breeds have also been bred as fighting dogs, and if you aren't careful, you wind up with an unstable, useless dog. You also see the LGD/nonLGD crosses from time to time...again, they are great for general farm and family dogs...but you are better off with a full LGD for your stock.
4 years ago
You must have had barn bums then. Foraging is a learned habit and goats raised in a drylot situation will be much lazier about getting out than ones raised on pasture. My blueblooded fancy dairy goats would sell their firstborn in exchange for being out on browse or pasture all day. Maybe their mother also. Preferably with me there with them while they are out. Most I handraised and they think I am their mother - the eldest doe is the one who is wisest and is supposed to know where the good places are, so the herd (often comprised of her offspring) naturally follows her. But I've been training mine for several generations. Adding new goats who have never been out like that takes some time for them to adjust, even older, weaned kids, if their dams had been drylotted (maybe it gets written into their genetics??). I had one doeling I obtained as a spoiled barn bum 8 month old, who would stand right beside me and cry the entire time we were out. She never adjusted. She didn't stay.
Goats hate rain, and in the winter, mine will now gladly go against that instinct to wander for an hour or more in anything but a downpour (and then they still want a quick 15 minute run down the first hill) if it means I will take them out of their small shed for a walk out in the neighborhood to browse on blackberries and fallen Douglas fir branches. About mid-winter my old matriarch would get so she'd pace back and forth at the gate until I'd let them out for their walk. She liked to go every day. She is gone now, so I'm watching how the "positions" in the herd settle out.

You have a Herd queen who rules the roost and you have a Trail Boss. The trail boss is the control point in the herd (works the best if they know their name) and she is also the "GPS" that remembers the routes...the old doe could remember a new route the first time we walked it and she'd take you back the exact same way for the return trip. If you hike with the goats as a herd you will see pretty quickly who that is by who leads the herd on your way back. I used to think the herd queen was the Trail Boss (the Old One was both), but I'm seeing a different goat take that position than the one holding the herd queen ranking. The new Queen is the Old One's daughter and the Queen's daughter is the new trail boss so far. Apparently the ability is passed down genetically somehow. We tackle two long, steep hills on our walk, so it's a good workout for all of us. It has also retrained their innate migratory instincts, and if I put them in a large pasture even without my presence, you can see them make large circles around the pasture as they graze and then at dusk they congregate at the gate and yell until I put them to bed (most of them are Nubians and have no difficulty telling me of their displeasure at my tardiness).

If you start them as 1-2 week olds, you can bring out the instinct very well by taking them out on short walks where they follow you around as you clip some short branches off the plants you want eaten (this mimics the mother's eating, which will get a lot of interest from the babies as that is how they learn what to eat - try not to clip their noses!) and then you can take the branches back to their shelter and leave them there (where the kids can't step all over them) for the babies to nibble. This will also start them on solid food faster. I did this with my current Queen as a baby and she is now one of my most aggressive foragers. I don't have time to do that will all of my kids, unfortunately, so I put them in with their moms in the shelter to learn at the feeder and out on pasture once they are a month old when they can comprehend electric fences. I separate the kids and moms for a week and then reunite them, the moms remember them but won't feed them - I like bottlefeeding as it makes VERY tame goats.

That was longer winded than I originally intended...but I love observing the nuances of goat behavior, and you learn a lot when you work with them as one of them, in scenarios where they are unleashed and unfenced, and have the opportunity to develop the instincts they inherited from the ibex.
Ditto on the fence charger. You want a charger with a good punch to it. I think my two units are 4? joules. They can make a grown man cry and pigs (and small boys...don't ask) scream...LOL! With goats, you also want to train them to electric first or they will strangle themselves on the portable mesh and go straight through traditional electric fence. I can keep my dairy goats behind 3 strand polyrope without fearing their escape. I could probably get away with two strands if I wanted. But! I have a pen fenced with wire mesh with a strand of polyrope at goat-nose height. All new goats go in there and don't "graduate" to the traditional 3-strand electric pen until they consistently react appropriately to the polyrope. Goat instinct is to slam straight forward as fast as caprinely possible when they are hurt, and you must "reprogram" that so they veer away from the electric fence. Cows do that naturally, so they have a better reputation with electric. I much prefer polyrope to wire when putting up electric. More visible for everyone and easier to train the goats to since it looks different than the wire mesh that they know they can touch.

If you go with hair sheep, find calm Katahdins (maybe dorpers, but their legs are shorter). The smaller breeds are extremely high strung so if they ever get out of your fence, you may never see them again. I've had a few sheep...I like my bottle babies in both species. Sheep are generally very easy to move with grain if they aren't high strung and freaky. You will pay at least $100 a head for a sheep though, if they are any good. Unless you get bum lambs (bottle babies - mom died, mom rejected the lambs) and bottle raise them yourself. If you do all bums - goat and sheep, they will bond and think they are the same is funny to see a sheep attempt to be a goat...
I have goats and have done some land clearing with goats and general herding.
They LOVE blackberries and alder. I agree with the predator control though or you will not have them very long. Goats and sheep without proper protection are like chickens - everything eats them. Goats' only defense is inaccessibility - whether by living high in the mountains where nothing in its right mind will go...or using humans and their fences/buildings and Livestock Guard dogs. Even a horned goat really can't fight off a predator. Especially a bear. I would also read up on poisonous plants. Stupid babies and goats who are not familiar with the local plants will eat poisonous plants...and then you must deal with sick and dying goats, and then decide whether to replace the dead ones or continue the year with the number you have left.

For 3 acres...I think you need 15 goats to an acre to clear land. That's adult goats, not kids. I think that's what I read... If you are skilled at butchering, bucks would work, but you need to keep the hair off the meat. Baby wethers may not get very far at clearing and will not be very adventuresome without having an adult goat leading them. I speak from experience with this one. If I were going to do your project, I'd pick up a couple of adult wethers or does (who didn't make the cut as milkers) and keep those longterm to be your lead/trail boss goats to get the annual acquisitions to browse efficiently.

Goats, especially tame ones, adapt very well to being brought in at night and going out to browse during the day. It plays into their ancestral Ibex instincts. Ibexes (and domestic pastured goats) have their "safe place" where they are safe from predators (high rocks or barn/shed) and then go out every day to migrate around their environment to eat. At dusk they return to their "safe place" to sleep. Some also like to come to the "safe place" to take a midday siesta. My bottleraised goats particularly like it if I go with them as I've imprinted them on people so they see me as the "senior/lead doe". You could conceivably fence the entire area and just lock them in at night. Maybe fence your house away from them or they may take to sleeping on your porch for their siesta...or your house if you left the door open.

Fences - 4 ft fence is generally adequate. Swiss breeds are the most athletic and occasionally require higher. Nubians and Boers are generally quite lazy and placid and I've gotten away with 3 ft, but I wouldn't in a predator-heavy area. I personally prefer 4 ft wire mesh with a strand of electric at goat-nose height. If you want to eventually divide up the areas, I highly recommend Premier1's portable electric mesh. I just bought some this year and it's a game changer. Quick and easy to put up by yourself.

Polled goats are extremely rare. I own two polled bucks and leasing a third in hopes of changing that. I believe you mean disbudded (born horned, horns removed as kids). Breed matters less than how the source herd is raised. Although for meat and land clearing, I would avoid miniature goats...they just can't eat that much and they only get so big. Look for herds that don't heavily grain their herd. If they have their goats out on pasture, even better. Boers are good for meat, as are Nubians. Nubians are easier to find as disbudded vs horned. Lamanchas often have decent muscling also. They are naturally "earless" and look a little strange to a non-goat person. Saanens get big, but they are mostly bone.

Do NOT source them from a salebarn. That is where culls go (cull = unwanted, unthrifty, diseased). You risk bringing home sickly and diseased stock, and some of those diseases infect your soil to infect later goats (or sheep, sometimes cattle if you ever want other livestock). Even if they didn't arrive at the salebarn sick, they can pick stuff up while they are there. Wethers are probably the cheapest (dairy wethers anyway...Boer wethers can be expensive) and can be bought from any dairy breeder for very little money in the spring. I sell mine for $50/head. If you bottleraise, you can often get them at a couple days old for not much more than a song if you find a dairy or a serious dairy breeder. You may avoid telling the seller that you intend to eat them...just say you want brush clearing goats. Some people don't like to think of their "babies" getting eaten.
Caspian will meet his Maker Monday, which means I get dinner, and a skin from a yearling Nubian buck (goat). He's been annoying one too many times, and I've spent plenty of time feeding him, so now he can feed me. And be useful for once in his sorry life. Does anyone have a good moccasin/shoe pattern/directions that aren't too complicated and preferably low cost? Won't be able to tan it properly until summer, but I can start planning. I'm in the Pacific NW, if that gives you any ideas.

Would like to do a hair-on leather vest eventually, too, but first I want a spotted goat...I like the idea of a natural-camo vest...
I've had goats for 10+ years. The way I describe goat fencing to people at the fairs I exhibit at, is "horse-high, bull-strong and child-proof". If a small child can go over, under or through the fence, then so can the goat. The best fencing I've used is a combination of a wire mesh (4-5ft high) with a couple strands of electric inside. The electric will keep them off the fence, and the mesh provides protection from dogs and other predators and provides a visual barrier.

Speaking of predators, if you don't want to lose animals...locking them into a shelter at night is a good idea, and the purchase of a good Livestock Guard Dog is advised. The most common breeds are Anatolian and Great Pyrenees, there are also Maremma, Kuvasz, Komondor and if rare breeds catch your fancy: Karakachan, Spanish Mastiff, and Pyrenean Mastiff. All bred to be safe with livestock, and dangerous to predators. Anatolians have a reputation for taking a long time to mature, and Pyrenees have a reputation of requiring good fences themselves to keep them from roaming or running away. You would want to buy a pup from a breeder who uses their dogs as livestock guardians. As soon as I'm out of school, I will be looking for one. Goat horns are inadequate for self-protection and are dangerous to people, especially children.

You have a good chance of the breeder refusing to sell you a goat if you are going to tether them. There is a high rate of strangulation in tethered goats. So either find a breeder who doesn't care, or a salebarn goat. A problem with a sale barn goat is that they frequently have health problems. Sale barns are generally where culls, incurably-ill and unsaleable animals end up.

Actually, if you want some good, healthy and friendly goats, a local 4-H'er is a great source, and then you can support a child's project.
In the wet NW, I'd put two walls on that portable shed, or you'd have very unhappy goats. And my 130 - 200 lb goats would destroy the plastic one. Starting with my stud buck, the kids or the stupid yearling (think teenager).

If you are doing meat, pack or brush goats, forage-only is actually the best, but ask around about mineral content of the soil. Oregon seems to be very copper deficient, and WA is selenium deficient. So they need a mineral supplement (loose is best). I've lost babies to selenium deficiency.
If you have milking goats of any quality, they need clean water and may need good quality hay and/or a little grain, depending on the bloodlines and milk production, to keep up their body condition. Mine each give about 2000 lbs of milk a year at 3.5-7% butterfat and 3-5% protein, so more than just forage is needed to keep them going. They do better with less grain and more hay/forage. Eventually I want to transition them to hay and forage only, but we'll see. I need more land first, and will probably have to let their metabolisms adapt.
Granted I'm young (22), strong and limber, but I've never had a splashing problem unless I aim at a bad spot on the ground. No wiping needed, but an occasional shake off helps. But, maybe it's also because I've had lots of practice...been doing it since I was very small, don't remember what age I started. I suspect my dad was more supportive of said activity than my mom when I was a kid, she gets a little testy if she knows I'm "going" outside. And we live on 6 wooded acres...plenty of cover. So yeah, I'm a group B'er, and comfortable doing so (well, in private at least).
8 years ago
I've only eaten a couple. Usually have only had time to skin them out. But I've had them in stew and fried. Both ways were good, but you do have to get rid of the scent glands on the critter's legs. It's a quite mild flavored meat if the scent glands don't contaminate it. I still need to figure out the best way to do that. I really liked the fried one. Next time I do stew I'll debone everything.
8 years ago
Hey, I listened to the podcast 197. I'm in the Pacific NW as well, and my family had a huge grey squirrel problem. And yes, they are buggers to shoot with pellet rifles. But....if you get a live trap (local feedstore would have them) and bait it or put it under a sunflower seed bird feeder that they can't climb in/onto during the winter when nothing grows. Especially when it's really cold or snowy. Then when you catch them, you shoot them. And eat them. Winter pelts are fun too. We brought our local population to it's knees, and we now have the tiny red squirrels and chipmunks back. Who don't eat apples like the big greys or make as big a mess.
8 years ago