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

Cover crops, fences, and goats

Miniature goat

I promise to write about something other than goats within the next week....or so.  Would you believe me if I said this post is about cover crops and fences?

Goats on fence

Way back when we started making chicken pastures, we built our fences out of chicken wire.  The theory was simple --- chicken wire's cheap, and that's all we could afford.  Now, many of those fences are nearly lost beneath impenetrable hedges of Japanese honeysuckle...which happens to be a plant that goats adore.  The question became --- although a chicken-wire fence obviously isn't going to keep in a determined goat long term, would it be sufficient for goat retention until the honeysuckle was gone?

Within half an hour, I learned that the answer was no.  Perhaps if the only goats involved were little shrimps like Artemisia, my experiment would have worked, but the fence bowed down under Abigail's hooves, and soon our doe decided that the honeysuckle was greener on the other side of the fence.  Luckily, I was sitting on the porch watching at the time because the result was a scary race around the yard, Lucy having decided that anything running should be chased and Abigail having decided that if she was being chased she would have to keep running.  Once Mark came out and collared Lucy, though, peace descended immediately --- Abigail came right to me and so did Artemisia, and soon they were both safely behind cattle panels (although on less exciting browse).  At least now I know that worry number two isn't a concern --- a loose goat isn't going to disappear into the woods, not if she knows I dole out dried sweet corn every day or two.

Goat eating oat leaves

The other thing I've been learning this weekend is goat dietary preferences.  In addition to honeysuckle, Abigail adores oat leaves, red clover, plantain, and broccoli leaves.  She's also quite fond of the tops of oilseed radishes, but is totally uninterested in the roots, suggesting that I can put this cover crop to dual duty, feeding our herd and the soil with the same planting.  In fact, I suspect, I can do something similar with oats since Abigail tends to browse the plants high enough that they should regrow as well.

What about Artemisia?  She eats whatever's close to Abigail, since our little doeling is much more interested in being sociable than in being fed.  Luckily, her pint-sized rumen fills up fast, and she always seems fat and happy when I run my hands over her little round body.  It's extremely satisfying to watch our goats grow on weeds alone.

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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'm LOVING all the goat postings so keep them coming! I look forward to getting goats in the future and it is really helpful to hear your experiences from the start. Thanks for all of your great posts!
Comment by future homesteader Mon Oct 13 12:10:48 2014
Cheap and chearfull electric fence ,they don't like them at all
Comment by diogenese Mon Oct 13 18:09:16 2014
Love the goat posts!! Getting my two girls very soon.
Comment by Karla Wed Oct 15 06:50:24 2014

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