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

Feeding oilseed radishes to goats

Protecting strawberry plants

Oilseed radishes for goatsI've written a lot already about how much our goats love oat leaves. Always a softy, I've taken to tethering our girls in the garden for half an hour or an hour every afternoon to fill them to bursting, during which time I mostly monitor them (but also cover any strawberry plants with a bit of plastic trellis material for an added layer of protection). But as our oat stores dwindle, I decided to try our goats on another winter cover crop --- oilseed radishes.

Actually, I'd experimented with this offering before, including some oilseed beds into various enclosures while letting the goats eat the honeysuckle off the side of the barn. Interestingly, our girls seemed totally uninterested in what were then beautiful green leaves...until we had a killing frost. I suspect the oilseed radishes changed at that point, perhaps the way carrots and kale both get sweeter after a frost. Guesswork aside, the only thing I know definitively is that our girls ate the oilseed radish plants to the ground from that point on.

Milking stand

Since determining that our goats do enjoy frost-bitten oilseed radishes, I've pulled up a few plants for them now and then when no radishes are within their enclosures. But my offerings were often abandoned, presumably because it's a lot harder for a goat to break off bite-size pieces when a plant isn't anchored firmly in the ground.

So, Friday, I decided to chop up the roots and see if that made the radishes more palatable.
Did it ever! Artemesia got sick of radishes before too long, but Abigail ate about three big plants' worth.

The photo above shows me starting to train Abigail to her milking stand, the tray of which was full of radish roots plus a little bit of corn. Our doe still doesn't always get on the stand immediately, but she
did jump up one day without me even asking because she wanted to look in the trough for food. As with most things, I think training Abigail to the milking stand will come easy --- goats are definitely the smartest livestock we've so far had on our farm. (Which means we have to be ultra-careful not to let them learn bad habits!)

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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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