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Letting goats graze in the woods

Goats grazing in the woods

Ever since we got goats, I've been building them a new "tractor" every day out of cattle panels. At first, that effort seemed very worthwhile, since I was moving the girls around to eat all of the honeysuckle off our fencelines and barn. But once I ran out of easy honeysuckle buffets, it seemed like twenty minutes of labor for half a belly of so-so food might not be as efficient a use of my time.

AbigailMonday afternoon, I decided to let the girls run out in the woods...and boy did they love it! If I don't have to ensure that the honeysuckle is all concentrated in one place, there's still quite a bit out there, maybe a few weeks' worth within a stone's throw of the coop. The question is --- will I regret letting our goats run wild outside our core homestead?

The worst-case scenario is that a trespassing hunter will think Abigail is a deer, or that the pack of wild dogs who roam through our woods will get past Lucy's defenses and try to eat Artemesia up. More likely (but only slightly less heart-wrenching) is the possibility that our girls will hop right over the chicken-wire fences that surround our core homestead and start chowing down on apple-tree twigs.

To be entirely honest, our goats have gotten out and ended up free in the yard a few times already. So far, they seem much more interested in oat leaves than in apple trees, so I'm willing to risk a few nibbles as long as I'm right here to catch them in the act. Chances are good that if Artemesia got loose in the garden, she'd just end up on the porch, as she has before, asking why we haven't come out to play, so I'll try letting them out into the woods for longer today. Here's hoping our goats aren't too capricious and that they behave!



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Here's hoping our goats aren't too capricious

Hee hee, nice one.

Comment by irilyth Tue Nov 18 13:01:43 2014

How well marked as far as property line and NO TRESSPASSING is your place? If someone is coming via other wooded/wild property they may not know they are on yours. Some folk I know (wife's anti-hunting vegetarian aunts in Lee county) complained of hunters coming on their land, but after I looked in my view their property line is not well defined and their no trespassing signs faded and few between.

But yes, I'd hate to think of your goats being mistaken for deer. They are about the size of deer down there in south GA!

Comment by Eric Tue Nov 18 18:47:26 2014

Don't worry about them munching the apple twigs. They will wait for either blossom set or fruit. They might even leave it alone long enough for you to dream of homegrown apples before they eat all the fruit, then girdle the tree sharpening their horns. I know mine do.

They got loose last weekend and ate 25 drying persimmons, all the amaranth seedheads drying, all the cabbage, broccoli, and most of the Chinese cabbage, trampled the carrots, and pulled most of the strawberry plants out of the sides of the rock wall. Gotta love goats.

Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Nov 18 19:16:57 2014

my neighbors have their property lines surrounded with 3 strand electric fence to keep their goats in, and stray dogs, coyotes, tresspassers out. be sure to get a good fence charger. the cheaper ones are not powerful enough to deter wildlife with a long span of fence currently they have over 100 acres surrounded and cross fenced with electric fenceing

Comment by ron Tue Nov 18 20:00:41 2014
Our local farm store has collars for hunting dogs in reflective Hunter Orange. That might be an option to reduce the goats from be mistaken for deer should they wander afar.
Comment by David Hicks Wed Nov 19 08:44:50 2014
Hubby and I purchased 50 60" tree tubes from forestry-suppliers.com to protect our newly planted trees from deer predidation. They weren't that expensive, and the baby trees seem to be thriving in the protected environment. Could that help with your goats in tree pastures?
Comment by Karen B Fri Nov 21 17:27:50 2014

Lots of interesting comments I never quite found time to answer! (But be assured I read them all. :-) )

Eric --- Our property's basically not marked at all. I felt impinged upon the few times our neighbors put up no trespassing signs pointing in my direction, and I'd hate to make someone else feel the same way. That said, I would hope that people wandering around with guns would take the time to ask the landowners about boundaries --- I know that the few times we've let people hunt here, I've been very clear about where our property ends and someone else's begins. Technically, you're supposed to have the landowner's written permission to hunt on private land in Virginia, which I know isn't likely to happen, but should put the burden of knowing where boundaries lie on the part of the hunter (since the law clearly states that private wooded land isn't a commons).

Karen B --- I doubt a tree tube would last long inside a goat pasture where grazing pressure was high! The one baby tree we have in their pasture currently is firmly enclosed in remesh wrapped in chicken wire, staked down with two t-posts. You can't be too careful.... :-)

Comment by anna Sun Nov 23 14:26:01 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime