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

Goat manure

Dwarf doeling

Guess what? It's time to talk about poop! I'm sure you're excited...and if not, you can just look at the cute snapshot of Artemesia and then move along.

Goat manure

When you start reading goat books and websites, you'll soon run across mention of "goat berries." I guess the cute euphemism is meant to make up for the fact that goat keepers spend a lot of time thinking about manure...and not just about how well that manure will incorporate into their gardens.

Clumpy goat manureOver a decade ago, a naturalist once told me that clumps of deer manure like the photo shown to to the left were a sign that the deer in question was a buck. Wrong! If deer are anything like goats (and the two species do seem to be remarkably similar), manure that clumps instead of separating into individual berries is an early warning sign. I notice a few clumps every time I get lazy and let our girls dine solely on hay for a few days, then allow them to gorge on oat leaves when their guts have lost some of their acclimation to the greenery. The clumpy manure tells me to be a bit more careful, to feed oat leaves every day in moderation rather than expecting the caprine gut to change on a dime. (Still, as long as I just see one clump and a lot of berries, I don't worry much.)

Clumpy manure can also be a sign of worms, but that doesn't seem to be the case in our situation since I only see a clump occasionally, and only after their feeding regimen has abruptly changed. Still, the worm potential is worth noting since intestinal parasites are such a big deal with goats.

Goat nose

Speaking of the health issues associated with goat manure, I should mention that I've been letting our girls spend most of their time in the same pasture for the last couple of weeks. While lack of pasture rotation is generally a very bad idea with goats, this pen is more a spot for our girls to run around in between dipping into the hay trough and talking a walk with me to honeysuckle patches rather than a spot to dine.

Still, manure is beginning to build up on the ground, which could be a health hazard if the goats got hungry and nibbled at the low grass. (Unlikely given their as-much-hay-as-they-can-eat diet combined with a very finicky nature.) On the other hand, I like to think of goat manure feeding this poor soil, so rather than moving the goats to a new spot, I'll probably spread some straw over the current manure load and turn this patch into a bit of an exterior deep-bedding zone. The goats get to keep running around right outside their coop door, while the soil gets to slurp up the high-quality manure --- a win-win.

That should work until we get our electric fence finished. At which point our girls will be spending more time rustling up their own grub...rather than watching me carry their hay in from the parking area half a bale at a time. Good thing two small goats eat less than a bale between them every week....

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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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Not sure if this applies to all herbivores, vs wild carnivores: Domestic dogs eat dried poop (I hope other dogs' and not their own!) and I sometimes think they need that bacteria as well as possibly a different nutrient from other dog food. Maybe goats, like deer, and other hooved herbivores crave salt, that might be in the poop?
Comment by adrianne Tue Dec 2 08:25:04 2014

Hi Anna and Mark,

That was going to be my question:

How much hay?  1 bale/week for 2 small goats.

And the next question: What else do they need? Salt lick, minerals, etc.

Comment by John Tue Dec 2 09:45:37 2014

Mom --- Goats seem to have much weaker stomachs than dogs, so they're very, very careful not to eat anything that could ever have touched poop. If they drop a piece of apple on the ground, they won't even pick it up!

John --- You can read about the goat minerals we offer our girls here. That said, they haven't seemed very interested in any of the offerings yet, even though I run my fingers through the dishes every few days so they'll feel more fresh.

Pregnant and milking does will also need some concentrates, which we're being a bit hit-or-miss about at the moment. For the last couple of weeks, I've been giving the girls two or three apple cores, one carrot, and about a quarter of a cup of sunflower seeds between them as a morning ration. Abigail gets about two thirds of it since she butts Artemesia away as soon as she finishes her own dish full. That said, on warm days, they don't even want that much, so I have to learn to cut back based on the weather.

Comment by anna Tue Dec 2 20:47:43 2014

Hi Anna,

The recent Acres has a "doc" Holliday piece: "Let Your Animals Teach You Nutrition". The article talks about 4 choices and their website talks about 12.

I would guess your girls are getting what they need if they are leaving your minerals alone.

That article while short was a worthwhile read.

Merry Christmas to you both,
Comment by John Wed Dec 3 10:03:47 2014
Your goats are so cute! We plan to get two girls this spring and I'm doing some more research and refreshing the things that I have read in the past and forgot. I have been dreaming of having goats for 8 years or so. Also love your blog! We are newbee's compared to you but living a simple back to the basics life is what Glenn and I are doing as well. Just moved to the woods this year, and are off the gird! Excited to read more of your posts. Thanks for all the useful information and cute pictures. :)
Comment by Johanna Sat Dec 6 10:09:43 2014

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