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!
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 ......