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People are often shocked at how small my goats really are. They are not the size of the big dairy goats like nubians, sannans, or lamanchas. They are not huge like full blood boers. They are however not tiny like pygmys or nigerian dwarfs.
I have been breeding the goats I use for over 20 years to be hardy, tough under extreme circumstances. They have to be able to maintain their body condition on the plants that are available, and they must be able to keep their legs under them in different types of terrain. Large goats can’t offten get enough nourishment, and they tend to harm themselves when they are large. Their legs can not support them as well.
My adult does are between 70 and 100 lbs. I don’t push my kids on grain or any ration different than what they are getting with the does, or just hay.
I do put out protien blocks on occassion when the protien content of their feed is very low or the tannin content is very high.
The most important thing to consider is hardiness, the goats must get plenty of roughage so that their eating capacity stays high, however I constantly watch to make sure they are not getting too fat, or they are too thin. They need to be strong, but if over fat they are lazy and can get sick from so much switching of their diets. This is important as well to change their diet regularly, even if they are just eating hay, change the kind, often so they stay healthy when doing projects and you are constantly changing their diet.
Size does matter you want a hardy, healthy goat that has adequate leg to hold thier body, and can sustain on what feed source is available. Dairy goats are notorious for needing extra supplement. That is why we don’t have many dairy cross goats in our herd. The few I have help me to make sure that the rest are getting adequate nutrition. If the dairys are getting thiner looking then I need to bump up the feed.
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This week we had a minor disaster…which because we were aware of the possible problems related with this type of a control situation, was reduced in severity. We were able to mitigate the amount of damage and also to learn a good lesson.
We had been working the goats on an alfalfa field. The goal of this field to the preserve is to put nutrients and matter into the soil. It is not to harvest the alfalfa for hay which would not benefit the soil condition since the matter would all be removed from the area and not put back into the soil.
We were on our last set on this 30+ acres and had decided to move them into a mature stand of planted cottonwoods and willows. These trees are between 4 and 12 inches in diamater. We have used the goats quite successfully in areas with no tree damage in cottonwoods that are above 2 inches in diamater. For this reason we were very confident that we could successfully clean the debris of old weeds, grasses etc under the trees with minimal damage..(this being only to branches under 5 feet and not to the base tree).
There were 2 main goals here one was a ladder fuel, concern the other was to reduce the amount of mass the irrigation water was having to travel through. The goats would have also tromped in some of the mulch and helped with that aspect.
Well we fenced this very hard area. We had to pack all the panels into the trees, and then set them up in 115 degree heat. This done we were pretty excited that the goats would have great shade, green feed, and be just totally in goat heaven with the leaves and broadleaf weeds in the area.
After an hour we noticed severe barking of trees, huge limbs were being barked, and even some of the bases of the trees were being affected. I was totally dumbfounded but knew that we had to get the goats out now. It was 8:00 pm by this time, and we would have to build a new pen for them so that they had a safe place for the night. Thank goodness our goats are easily handled, and we can control them by the dogs and voice commands as well.
We turned them loose on the alfalfa. There had been really great regrowth so they were happy with all the tops of the newly grown alfalfa. Then we went to an open area that had not been planted and drove in and started setting panels. We took maybe 5 off the trailer of the 60 needed and hit an area of sand and burried the truck up to the frame in sand….now our hard job just got more difficult.
Time was of the essence to get the goats fenced before we could not see, and so they were safe from preditors. There are coyotes, bobcat, in the area not to mention the dogs that roam throughout the area.
So we packed all the panels out set them up, called the goats and put them in the area, and then walked to the house. We got in about 10:00 pm but our day was not over. We had to get the other truck and put out water. We only built a kind of holding pen so we would have to fence at 5:00am the next morning and move them to an area that would hold them.
I will tell you more about where we moved them and what happened there later.
The lesson and I told you earlier there was a lesson… Irrigated trees that are in a plantation are not as hard barked as trees that are natural and growing along a bank or stream. The bark is much softer, and is full of water. This makes it peel easier when the goats are eating. It was not that they tried to bark them but as they are nibbling and a piece of bark comes loose they just start peeling it and the rest of it off. So it is in your best interest, and certainly ours from now on to know if the trees where we are putting the goats have been unusually wet or irrigated during the season. Winter would be better because the trees are dormant, and irrigation has stopped, thus hardening the bark.
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We have all been hearing about the fires in California. They are rampant this year and very destructive. Why are they so bad?
Years and years of change. The land was primarily used for agriculture, and wildlife in the past. And many areas have changed from the native state they were in and heavily populated with non native noxious varieties of plant life. When we see a beautiful lush country side we all ahhh and ooohhh and think how beautiful….but if the plants are not somehow reduced it becomes our worst fire nightmare.
We have to remember that along with growth and changing from an agricultural based setting to an urban setting we have taken away the wildlife and the livestock which kept many of these plants at bay and reduced the chance of wildland fires.
So what can we do about it?
We can all become aware of the situation in our own areas. If you live in the West or Southwest fire season starts much earlier than it does in the Rockies or the East. This is due to the climate and the amount of dry fuels.
If you live in a rural setting you must….I am going to repeat again …YOU MUST create defensible space around your house and buildings. If you own more than a few acres you should seriously think about contracting someone to mow or browse the grass and brush. This is called reducing the ladder fuels.
When you reduce the ladder fuels you slow the fire down. If the grasses and brush are not touching each other they have to cross the space and only wind can move it through. This will slow it down.
Goats are very effective at reducing the fire fuels as they eat the brush as well as the grasses down to a safe level without killing them or hurting them. Goats are browsers like deer and elk, which if put into perspective it is like having a migrating herd of these animals moving through and doing what nature intended to happen.
We have seen many instances where land that had been browsed with goats was safe while land that was untouched …mainly because people believe that it was natural has been destroyed and will be years before it can be of any type of beauty or habitat again.
If a fire burns to hot ….as it will do in untreated areas the ground can actually become sterilized. However if the ladder fuels are under control and a fire passes through there can be many beneficial things happen.
Weeds are also a terrible fire hazzard and should be controlled.
For more information on fire fuels and ladder fuels and how to protect, not only your property but the areas that are open to the public and are habitat to many species you should contact your fire department, US Forest Service, BLM , and Parks department.
To help us keep working in these areas that need to be browsed and have fire reduction…please be sure to visit our adopt a goat auction here and bid on a goat. You can also buy now. Keep watching we will have over 400 chances for you to get the goat you want. If you don’t see one that you like let us know at email@example.com . We would love to hear from you.