The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Running out of goat pasture

Fattening a goat

When we went to pick up Artemesia, her previous owner warned me: "You'll want to get in some good hay now." I looked at the lady's dozen-plus full-sized goats and mentally rolled my eyes. Of course I wouldn't need hay with just two little goats to feed on our ultra-weedy farm.

Five weeks later, pickings are starting to get more slim. Part of the trouble is that I've spoiled our goats to want only oat leaves and honeysuckle, on which diet Abigail is actually putting on a bit of fat despite getting basically no concentrated feed. (I do give our girls an overmature summer squash or a bit of dried sweet corn or some butternut seeds every other day or so --- whenever I think about it.) Artemesia still looks a bit skinny, probably because she's going through a growth spurt, but it appears that high-quality pasture is quite sufficient for a dried-off, full-grown goat, even if she's (hopefully) pregnant.

Goats in brush

But my snooty goats are far less excited by low-quality pasture. Last week, I penned them into a brushy area, hoping that after they ate the honeysuckle covering the young trees, they might eat up the twigs of the trees underneath. No such luck. Instead, my usually-quiet Abigail yelled at me all morning until I relented and tethered her in the oat patch for the afternoon. And while my oat supply also seemed pretty unlimited a few weeks ago, our girls are starting to eat the lush greenery down to the ground, which means their afternoon fill-up sessions are going to be harder to come by in the near future.

Resting goat

Which is all a long way of saying --- once the ATV gets fixed, we're going to have to get in some hay. Drat! Oh well --- it's still inspiring to think that, if we planned far enough in advance, we might be able to feed our goats on farm-only feed pretty easily. After all, they gorged for over a month without me spending a penny, so twelve months wouldn't be all that much harder, right?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I could tell you that it might get easier to feed them as winter comes in, but that's not how it's worked for me. Winter has been one of the hardest times with my goats. I've had to figure out how to keep my whole herd fed with no bought feed. It's been a challange at times. I did eventually work out what plants were evergreen and goat edible. And went from there adding in whole beds of hardy greens. I'm not sure of the greenery you have up there through the winter, but I think you will have to plant forage crops very heavily. If you think you have enough, you need way more. If you have kids on the way, it's even more. If you give them good stuff all the time they'll get choosey on you. Be careful with that. Lush green stuff doesn't last forever. And if you want my penny worth. I do not think your girl is pregnant. She would be over a month, and to me she doesn't look it. Good luck on your food situation.

Comment by T Tue Nov 11 08:25:57 2014
It's a bit too late for it this winter, but look into making bunches of herbs, nettles, birch leaves etc and drying them and look into pollarding. These methods were used here in Finland as a substitute for/addition to hay up until 50 years ago(even my mother remembers picking herbs for the cows) and was a good nutritious fodder for the animals during the winter.
Comment by Erica Tue Nov 11 11:36:46 2014

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