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

Goat check

Grown up pasture

The decision has been made!  I mailed in our down-payment, and we'll pick up our nanny goat in October.  In the meantime, we've got lots to do and to decide.  For example, we're still not 100% sure whether we want to start with the lowest-work option (one doe and one Milk goatwether) or whether, since we're going to have two goats anyway, we might as well bite the bullet and find another girl.  On the plus side, two girls would make us more likely to have enough milk to experiment with cheese; on the minus side, two girls would mean double the kids to manage in the spring and double the milking chores.  At the moment, we've resolved to let serendipity decide --- if another milk goat turns up on craigslist in the next month that seems like a good fit for our homestead, we'll go for it; otherwise, we'll find a cheap wether somewhere to keep our first find company.

Future goat barn

Since we won't be milking at first, we can save half of our prep chores for later, but there's still lots to do.   It's time to finally add gates to our starplate pastures, time to protect the one tree I care about that's still growing there, and time to convert the starplate coop into the starplate goat barn.  The last task involves splitting the building into stalls so the kids can be kept separate from the mother(s) in the spring, adding food and water stations, and perhaps making a food-storage room (to replace the metal garbage can we used with chickens).  My to-buy list currently includes hoof-trimming supplies, loose minerals and maybe boluses for copper and kelp for additional nutrition, leashes and breakaway collars, and a bit of feed (although we're hoping to raise the goats on brush and weeds as much as possible).  And that doesn't even count the milking, kidding, and disbudding supplies we'll need to think about before spring --- I guess my goat endeavor is going to cost just as much as Mark's high-end mower.

Corn shock

Then there are the less essential preparations that just make me happy.  I decided to dry some sweet-corn stalks in a shock to see if the goats will enjoy them as a midwinter snack, and I also draped the sweet potato vines across the porch for a similar reason.  Too bad we've passed the time to plant carrots and mangels --- next year!

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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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Having raised goats for 30 years, I can tell you your main issue will be fencing. It needs to be Fort Knox tight. I've had goats (the Boers, in particular) that spent the entire day walking our 2 acre fence line looking for a way they could get over or under. I now raise pygmies. They never challenge the fence, but if I leave the gate unlocked for a nano second, they seem to know it and out they go. :)
Comment by Julie Wed Sep 10 08:12:26 2014
I, for one, am very excited to read about your experiences with goats. I feel like a lot of the large scale permaculture people (so far, I've heard, Greg Judy, Mark Shepard, Darren Doherty, and Grant Schultz) all get very uncomfortable when people mention goats because of bad experiences. It seems like when you can give them a bit more attention they will behave a little better? or maybe that they won't be able to misbehave as often? Anyway, I find goats very interesting, but would rather you learn how to work with them first :)
Comment by Stephen Wed Sep 10 08:22:22 2014
what special equipment do you need for hoof trimming? We always just used a pocket knife (also did that with sheep and goats when I was in Peace Corps.) horn debudding? Not sure what you are thinking of for castration. Obviously you can use a very sharp pocket knife, but if you are going to get an elastrator for making wethers, then you might just want to do elastrator dehorning as well. Save on equipment. We always had lots of goats around.
Comment by Charity Wed Sep 10 11:50:48 2014


If your goat\s have free access to green brush and weeds you won’t need to supplement with much additional feed. The biggest reason I fed a little grain once a day was to count heads to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. The second reason was so they would come to the bucket if I needed to move them or put them back in if they got out.

We let our goats horns grow but we decided to dehorn our calf this spring for safety reasons. I tried the disbudding paste for the first time this year with good results. It was easy and I didn’t have to worry about cooking the animal’s brain with an iron.

Make sure you keep your animal feed locked up because a goat will eat itself to death. We almost lost a kid once that found a container of bird seed. A trip to the vet saved him. Lesson learned. Lock up all grain so they can’t get to it.

Good luck with your new addition.

Comment by Ned Wed Sep 10 12:07:50 2014

Congratulations!! I hope you will love your goats. I second your first commenter on your main challenge: fencing. That, and deworming. All the other stuff will come. If you get in a pinch re: fencing, you can tie them. There may be a chorus of disapproval about that. But sometimes you just have to make due until your fence is secure. In some cases, you may want to fence the goats OUT of what you want to protect, if that is easier. You have a lot to protect. We used to have a big garden and fruit trees, before we got goats.. BUT we got them before we were really ready for them. In our case, we would have never been ready if we didn't just go for it.

Anyway, congrats again!! -Suz in VT

Comment by Suzanne Wed Sep 10 14:56:47 2014
Having raised 100's of goats..a few should be able to get all the milk you need from one doe, assuming a smallish family. Better to get a wether as company for doe and less expensive to feed than doe. (No grain).also would suggest leaving horns intact...much healthier. Good luck and have fun!
Comment by Gina Brooke Marcell Wed Sep 10 22:05:20 2014

Sweet! I know I'm gonna love reading your post about the goats. I know a few have mentioned it, but " Fence Fence Fence fencing!!" They will climb, crawl, jump to make sure the garden is safe for you to eat out of. Don't let things people say cloud the fact that goats are just Amazing animals to keep though. They'll save you from those poison apples, if you have witch problems. Fencing is the only thing that needs to really be looked at. I don't like dehorning either. If you're just to keep girls, and you work with them so as they're not unruly things, it's something not to do imo. They set up their herd order and thats that. The reasons given for dehorning don't hold well with just a few goats. And that Tithonia you'll be getting in spring is Great to feed the goats. It's a large part of my herds diet. I don't feed any commercial feed to mine, and that plant helps a lot because it can grow so fast. But I think you will be surprised how fast they can clear out everything green. Just imagine an entire tree, but then see it as chewed and moisture removed. Thers not much mass left. I started with 2 goats and the food situation hit fast. That's also why if you're going to do the work of having 2, they both might as well be worth it. A wether is just a mouth to feed that's not giving much. Good luck getting everything done the way you want. I'm really curious for your post and updates about this.

Comment by T Thu Sep 11 00:04:36 2014
You won't regret having dairy goats. We started a year ago with 2 Nigerian Dwarfs and added 4 more several month later. Right after that we bought 3 American Lamanchas, one already in milk when we got her. She gives a solid 3 quarts of milk daily, it's almost identical to cows milk and has no goaty taste at all. It's the only milk we drink and is very popular at our local farmers market. Cheese you say? Raw milk cheese from your own goats is amazing! We rotate them around the pasture/woods using standard 48" high electric poultry netting, a 1 joule energizer, and a car battery. They do not challenge the fence one bit and it keeps the occasional hunting dog that wanders onto our land at bay. The only containment issue we've had was when our 2 Nigerian bucklings reached maturity and we had to put them in their own pasture. They'd repeatedly beat down the netting (ignoring the shocks of course) in order to be with the girls on the other side of the property. Had to build a permanent area for them using wood posts and wire goat mesh, and that seems to be working just fine.
Comment by Doug in Savannah Fri Sep 12 12:01:04 2014

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