We have divided the herd recently. While this did not go exactly according to plan – more on that in another post – it’s actually working out quite well in many ways. Mark recently built a ½ acre semi-permanent pen. The original plan was for this to be the bachelor pad for our two bucks, but they both had their own ideas and we ended up keeping them in the net fences that we use for rotational grazing. We had to get the youngest doelings away from the boys, so we moved them to this new pen along with one doe – the mother of the twins.
With all the goats in a holding pattern within the new pen, the forage was getting a little thin. So Mark thought we should try taking them out for a walk around the property to graze the grass along the front fence. Not only would it feed the goats it would get Mark out of weed whacking duty along that section of the perimeter electric fence. Since all the goats follow us around the pen looking for hand-outs, we figured a little sweet feed would be just to ticket to lure them along and to a lesser extent control them. What did we have to lose? Well, 6 goats on 10 acres and a bunch of plants that are just getting a good start--that’s what!
This better work!
After taking a deep breath we shoved the holding pen gate open and off we went. I was in the lead position and Mark, along with the previous bottle baby, brought up the rear. Foraging our way down the driveway the goats didn't miss many yummy, tender shoots. All us shepherds had to do was stand in the shade and enjoy the show. Not too bad. There was a small hang up once we got to the front of the property where the truck was parked. One goat caught sight of her reflection. For a brief moment we thought a fight might break out, but all went well.
We made our way along the front property line to the tall grass in southeast corner. We grazed the goats alongside the road and had fun watching both the herd react to the locals driving by and the locals reacting to the herd. Several drivers did a double-take as the kids grazed the fresh shoots along the fence. One driver, a lady, yelled “They really are goats!!!”
Recently we planted some clumping bamboo and when the herd passed by it they didn't pass up the opportunity to swarm the meager planting's fresh leaves. No worries, sweet feed to the rescue as Mark lured them up the path and away from the bamboo. I still have to master my herding skills a little bit and get a better handle on reading the goats, but pretty much all went well. We foraged back up the line, and it was amazing to watch their rumens fill with each bit they chewed.
Through mastering herding and close shepherding, we have started incorporating a new angle into our overall herd management plan--flash grazing. With the ability to walk our goats almost anywhere we want, we can eventually make a permanent containment paddock or barn area to secure the herd overnight, then herd them to the net fences surrounding the foraging paddocks in the morning. Let them graze all day and then return them to safety in the evening. This will make moving the net fences a little easier and if need be, one person can do the job. Not that we've been having problems, but by doing this we can add a layer of security that is essential during kidding – the coyotes are abundant in our area. Also, when our pasture grows as desired, we can then put the goats onto it for shorter lengths of time (as little as a few hours) and get them off the plants exactly when needed, allowing proper regrowth--not destruction. This system will also help with managing parasite load and should reduce the frequency of wormer use.
This flash grazing has become a daily ritual for the goats being kept in the half acre pen (the buck pen that has yet to have a buck in it, LOL), one that I look forward to on the weekends when I am there. The goats also look forward to it and are practically banging on the gate when they feel it’s time to go for their walk.
Now we just have to see if our remedial group of goats will eventually catch on. There are a few wildcards in this bunch. But, best of all, the perimeter weed whacking duties will be a lot less. //tr & mr
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.