Friday, December 16, 2011

My Goats - Confinement to Free Range Grazers

In all the years I've had goats ... I've had to keep them living in confinement ... until recently.


They had access to the barn or sheds and nice sized goat yards that were securely fenced to keep them in and predators out.  This was because I just didn't have enough pasture nor fencing to graze them effectively.  And, because the dangers presented by the free ranging neighbor dogs and the coyote packs in the area.


Since I made sure they had fresh water and fed them their hay and grain everyday, I knew exactly what they were eating.  This made their milk have a consistently sweet flavor which was great for drinking and making cheese.



Of course I have to admit this living arrangement for the goats made it somewhat easier for me to take care of them.  Somewhat easier.

I had them divided up into pens of 16.  This was exactly the right number for each pen full to fit into the milking parlor at one time.  Milking was easy.  All I had to do was open a pen to let them run into the milking parlor .....


.... milk them ...... and let them go back to their own pen ...


 ..... close their gate and let the next group come into the milking parlor.  Yes, this was an easy arrangement.

However, I had to buy and haul A LOT of hay to feed them and this caused the end result of having to haul A LOT of compost material out.  Yes, poop, pee, and hay makes great compost.  But, it builds up pretty quickly when the goats are living in confinement.


Here's my friend Jim scooping the built up muck out of one of the goat yards.  For most of the day, he loaded it into pickups and trailers of friends who took it to their gardens and green houses.   Yep ... that's gardener's gold!



This had to be done every few months.  In the rainy seasons, it was a real mess to walk in ... for me and the goats!  The smell wasn't very pleasant either.


Over this past summer (2011), an incredible opportunity was given to me and changes have taken place. I've moved the entire farm and goat dairy to a wonderful ranch (The Rockin H Ranch) where my goats have access to hundreds of acres of fresh green grasses and forages. (Yes, I'll share the details of the move and photos in the next few days.)

Here are my goat girls enjoying their first free range grazing experience.  My dear friend, Tonia, and her daughters came to help me be goat herders that day in early October.  We didn't know how the goats would react or behave when we took them out, so I was glad for all the help I could get that day! (I'll share more of that special day in a later post.)


People told me that I'd probably have to teach my goats how to be grazers and browsers since all but the oldest ones had lived their entire lives in confinement with their meals catered to them each day.


Well, I gotta tell ya ... I didn't have to teach them anything about eating the wonderful green stuff they found out on the hill sides around our new home.  They ate blackberry leaves and grasses till their sides were bulging!


Happy goats!  

But, they were completely untrained about electric fencing and coming and going from their new goat yard.  There was lots to do before they could become full time free range grazers.  I'll be sharing the rest of the story in the next few days ......

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11 comments:

MilkMaid09 said...

Yay! You're back in Blogland! And with free-range goats! Hehe. Good to see you and "the girls" back in action. Looking forward to some kidding posts (hint, hint. . .) ;}

Brenda said...

Thanks, Ashley! Actually I have 2 does in kidding pens and due now! I have 14 that should kid before Christmas. I'm looking forward to posting lots of kidding this season. I have 62 does having babies this season.

Melodie said...

Wow! You have been busy! Sounds like you have a wonderful arrangement,I can't wait to hear the rest of the stories!

edenhills said...

Happy goats! There's nothing like lots of good pasture and brambles to make the goats happy. Of course, it does tend to make the taste of the milk a bit uncertain depending on what they ate that day.

Brenda said...

Yes, the flavor of the milk is certainly affected by what the goats eat that day. The day they consumed lots of ragweed was the worst milk I had ever tasted. But, for the most part it just has a fuller flavor with a bit of a grass after taste. I think it's going to make some really good cheese this season!

OurCrazyFarm said...

So good to see you posting again Brenda! The photos are great~ your girls all look so fat and happy:)) Can't wait to hear about the farm move!

Texan said...

Congratulation's to you and to your girls! Sounds like a lot of work has been going on but lots of benefits from it!

*~*~*~*~Tonia said...

It helps to train the goats to the fence if you actually have Power to said fence.. (Nice one Tonia!lol) Ragweed and alfalfa is the only thing I have ever had the goats eat that flavored the milk to much. Ragweed milk was horrible!

Mimi Foxmorton said...

You could do what I did and bring them home to your townhouse. Just make sure you put the breakables on a high shelf. ;)

Marg said...

The girls are looking lovely as usual. Can't wait to see the different cute colors of all your kids, always exciting to see what colors you get each year.
Love, Mother

robyn said...

hi brenda, would love to buy some more doelings from you, we bought 3 doelings in jan 2011 and we just love them ,i also need a buckling i have a friend that just lost her buck about 2 months ago.so if you have a buck that has spots i would love to get them from you, our girls aspen, nicki and juliette,they are a great jou to me and lacey..please call me 870-895-2054 or 870-405-5250 i would love to come this saturday or sunday and get 3-4 does and a buck, how much are they this yr? does? bucks?
thanks, Robyn Rodriguez