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

Weeds for the goats

Grazing goat

"Do you think you'll run out of weeds for the goats to eat?" Joey asked when he was over this weekend. The answer will depend on whether or not tethering our little herd in the woods works out.

Dry weather has finally slowed the growth of grass within our core homestead, so I've started taking the goats beyond our fences to graze. The trouble is that the goats don't feel quite so safe outside the boundaries...and I'm not sure whether it's really safe for them to be that far away, tied down so our local pack of wild dogs could make short work of them. Of course, I'm always home, Lucy is always on patrol, Abigail has big horns, and the goats are always well within ear shot, so I think Abigail and I are probably both overreacting.

Goat eating tree leaves

My tethering method currently involves putting Artemesia on a long line, leaving Lamb Chop untethered (if we're safely away from the garden), and then putting Abigail on the shortest leash with the deepest anchor. It sounds counterintuitive, but Abigail is such a browser that if she has a long leash, she spends most of her time wandering around picking out which morsel looks the tastiest. On the other hand, if you put her on a short line, then she hunkers down and eats for nearly two which point I go out and move her to the other side of Artemesia's spot. If the weather permits, Abigail seems to fill her belly within about four or five hours, even in the slimmer pickings of the woods, which works well with my daily routine.

Playing goat kid

Lamb Chop is generally done eating within the first half an hour...especially if he's broken out of his stall and stolen the morning milk again. (Bad Lamb Chop! And here Abigail had upgraded to three cups a day too!) Luckily, Artemesia doesn't need much more grazing time than that and is quite willing to butt heads or nap with her charge while Abigail continues stuffing her rumen.

Goat moat

I keep hoping to see signs of heat from our doeling since both Nubians and Nigerians (her two lineages) can sometimes go into heat out of season, but Artemesia always likes spending time with the buckling, is always a loud mouth, and always wags her tail a lot. She even lets Lamb Chop mount her, but it seems to be in more of a "whatever, he's a kid, let him play" sort of way. I'm hopeful that when they're both really serious about mating I'll be able to tell the difference, but I'm not so sure. From an animal-management perspective, it sure would be nice if Artemesia got pregnant now for a fall kidding and Lamb Chop went in the freezer, but there's not really much I can do about goat sex....

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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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