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

Mowing the lawn with goats

Goats mowing the lawn

The great thing about only having 2.5 goats is that it's possible to use our tiny herd to mow the lawn in areas where more goats would cause more trouble. As you can see, our grass is starting to green up in the sunniest part of the yard, even though the pastures around our starplate coop are still nearly entirely winter brown. Usually, Mark pulls out the power mower around this time of year to cut back the newly growing grass, but I decided to take another stab at tethering our goats to see how much mowing they would do for us.

The answer? Our goats at least cut back some of the tallest weeds, although they definitely don't leave the result looking like a mown lawn. Good thing we don't care what our grass looks like!

Goat nanny

When I last tried tethered, Artemesia didn't really need to be tied since she was more interested in clinging to Abigail's side than getting into trouble. Now, both does require tethering, and I plan their lines so they can barely meet in the middle. This way Abigail doesn't get terrified of having her herd-mate out of sight, but the two animals also can't get tangled in each others' tether ropes. I still don't leave our herd unsupervised since there's just too muchGoat kid grazing that could go wrong with tethering goats, but the ropes do mean that I can walk over to the wringer washer and do a load of laundry while our goats chow down.

As a side note, you can see in the picture above that Artemesia is a true nanny goat in both senses of the term. Our doeling is nearly always willing to let our buckling graze right beside her, training the kid to eat the good stuff and eschew the bad stuff. When Lamb Chop follows me to the house (100 feet away) then starts crying because I closed the door in his face, it's Artemesia rather than the kid's mother who bawls her upset at having the buckling so far away. Abigail is content to chew and chew and chew and chew --- she knows someone else will mind her kid.

Goat udder

Of course, Abigail has other things on her mind --- like making milk! We're still only getting about 1.25 cups of milk per day, despite shutting Lamb Chop away from his mother overnight. I'm pretty sure our doe holds back quite a bit of milk for her kid in the morning because she's got to be feeding him a whole lot more than a cup of milk per day. After all, Lamb Chop is still only nibbling at solid food, but he's managing to put on nearly a pound a day in weight gain. I'll be very curious to see what milk production is like once our kid is weaned to entirely eating dry food.

White buckling

The downside of Lamb Chop growing so fast is that I can tell tethering is going to become problematic in the near future. I tried to tie our buckling along with his herdmates, but he bounces and runs so fast that I was afraid he would break his little neck. Oh well --- even though it seems like there's a huge amount of grass and rye to mow down at the edges of the garden, at the rate Abigail is going, we'll have to move the herd out beyond our core perimeter by the end of the week.

Goats grazing near garden

One thing I've noticed is how very malleable our goats are, making them the easiest animals I've ever had the pleasure of training. Abigail and Artemesia both know they're not allowed to eat kale, strawberries, and other garden goodies. Of course, knowing that only means that when I walk our goats on a leash beside garden plants, the does don't reach out and nab a snack. Turn my back, and there wouldn't be any kale left, so I'm careful to tether where anything I love is well out of reach. Abigail is right at the end of her rope in the photo above.


Finally, I wanted to mention Artemesia's newly scruffy fur, which I suspect is due to some combination of shedding her winter underfur, having a huge buckling crawl all over her back on a regular basis, and me running low on kelp. Since the supplier I ordered from took a few weeks to ship, I had to take away our free-choice kelp to ensure that our lactating doe could continue to get enough of the mineral supplement on her daily ration. Of course, there are minerals of a non-biological nature available to our goats all the time, but neither doe will touch the stuff. In fact, when I made the mistake of trying to trick Abigail into eating some extra minerals by pouring the powder on top of her morning ration, she tipped the whole bowl over to get those minerals out! Good thing more kelp arrived in the mail Monday so that Artemesia can get back to her usual shiny self.

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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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Last year when I first got my goats I tried to get them to mow the lawn as well. Unfortunately they were not very happy doing so. Once I put them on a pasture with weeds they were MUCH happier.

With the grass they would not really crop it closer then a couple inches.

Comment by BW Wed Apr 1 12:42:15 2015
I saw chickens! I thought they all died there for a while.
Comment by Alice Wed Apr 1 17:11:10 2015

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