Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Goats grazing


Goats are not supposed to be grazers. They are browsers, which means they prefer to eat leaves. I've recently learned that this is why they have more trouble with parasite resistance than sheep. For eons, sheep have been eating off the ground, so their systems can handle worms in their stomach and intestines. Goats have been eating from the trees since the beginning of time, and only recently we humans have tried to turn them into grazers. So, what can you do if you don't have a forest to feed your goats? You can move them to fresh pasture at least every five days.


I'm hoping I'll have time to share all my intestinal worm research with you, but for now, I've discovered why we've had such a tough time getting control over the parasites, even though we've been practicing rotational grazing. Several years ago, a vet professor at U of I told me that parasite eggs hatch in three weeks, so the goats need to be moved to fresh pasture sooner than that. Now I've read that they hatch in five days! And that comes from the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, which has been doing all the latest research on internal parasites, so they're pretty reliable. Besides, it actually makes more sense that the little buggers would hatch in five days. Three weeks for something microscopic to hatch sounds crazy. Fly eggs hatch in 24 hours. Chicken eggs take three weeks!

So, now that the grass is growing again, we're moving the bucks around our yard to eat our grass. We use the ElectroNet from Premier in Iowa. When it abuts our permanent fence, we hook it up to that. Otherwise, we use a solar charger. Now that we know how often the goats need to be moved, maybe we'll get better control of the parasite problem.

7 comments:

Heather said...

What if you do have a forest to feed your goats? Is there a way to let them browse in the woods, and still have them come home for dinner?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

We do actually have some wooded areas with brush that they'd love. The problem is fencing. Most of our brushy areas are too dense to split up with the ElectroNet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! 5 days - wow! Although my goats move everyday, it's nice to know where not to let them go!

WG4

Michelle said...

That all makes sense. I hope this helps you in your parasite battle.

(I will have to go read this to my Shetlands, though. ALL of them will stand on their hind legs to eat leaves and needles from the trees!)

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

WG4, you still need to keep them off the infected pasture for 5-6 weeks! It's surprising that they can live that long.

Michelle, there is something strange about Shetlands, because mine like trees too. My Old English babydoll, however, is a completely different story. I totally understand why they were "orchard sheep." It would be way too much work to reach up into a tree to get a leaf.

Chef E said...

So cool Deborah!

I knew this from my wine and food education, since goats discovered coffee, and goats would eat olives and that is how they knew it was time to harvest the trees Italy (do not quote me on that!) lol

I just referred your site to a woman I follow in northern California, Farmlady @ Over Good Ground, told her about your delightful site!

My friendly 'human' goat Felicity in Missouri used to eat everything, because the horses grazed, and I do not think the owners knew this info, but she was always out front eating the tree leaves, and loved them!

Have I not red that goats are like dog species in a way (since Felicity was) they will not run away from home, so to speak, they would go eat and return? Or do you have to heard them around, and then bring them back?

I think I just created a job for myself, lol! I need the exercise, I can tell you that!

Take care...

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

I've heard about goats and coffee but not about the olives. Very cool!

Goats do seem to be territorial. They always want to come back to the barn at night. Not sure what would happen if I had a few hundred acres though.

Thanks for the referral!

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