Happy Healthy Goats
We have been running goats at the Kendall Permaculture Farm since 2006. We have learnt a lot about them since then, and through trial and error we now have a system in place which works for both the goats and for us!
Goats are foragers, which means they like a variety of plants. In the wild they would roam and eat whatever they could reach. Things are a little different for them in captivity. We started by giving the goats a large variety of cut trees and plants every day. However, we found that they would eat a lot the first one or two days, then they would lose interest. Sometimes they would lose interest in a couple of forage plants, sometimes they would not eat any. They were not thriving, even with their varied forage diet as well as going into the paddocks to eat grass. Some forage plants were not suited to goats at all, and we learned to stay away from certain plants in certain times of the year, as they would cause disease and sometimes even death!
Through my studies into human nutrition I was aware of a program humans can do if you have food sensitivities, by ensuring that you have 72 hours in between eating a specific food. Based on this information I decided to trial this system with the goats. We would give them one type of forage in their food bowls with their copra and minerals in the morning, and another type of (larger) forage would go into the manger a bit later. These would change every day so we would end up having 7 different types of forage in their food bowls and 7 different types of forage in the manger over the week. For us this had two other benefits: we were able to maintain plant growth in the garden (small forage in their food bowls) and maintain excess tree and plant growth on the rest of the property (larger forage given in the manger). The larger forage also gets chipped, and the chip gets used in the Bio Digester system. So for example, in their food bowls this morning they had surinam spinach. In their manger today they had ice cream bean. Yesterday they had Arrowroot leaves and Bamboo. And so on and so forth. The forage changes seasonally of course, and we have a blackboard in our “feed shed” where we keep track of what we are feeding them.
This way we get the goats to maintain our property without thrashing it and keep the goats healthy. Our goats have their forage in the morning and in the afternoon they graze on grass. We only let them out for 3 hours per day, which is enough for them to fill up and does not give them any time to damage and erode where they are grazing. They are looking fit and healthy and are happy. They know where to stand to get tied up for their early morning food bowls, which allows us to touch and pat them, and keep them familiar with us. When they are called to come back in from the paddock, they happily come. They are familiar with the routine, and the routines and our forage methods has made them happy healthy goats!