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Are goats compatible with a permaculture food forest?

 
pollinator
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Between the size and some of the slopes of our 14 acres, there's no way it can support cattle but I do want a red meat source and lamb/sheep is kind of strong for my wife and we do like goats, including the meat. Thing is, they eat everything and will kill anything if they have too much access. I've seen exactly two Geoff Lawton videos with goats. There is one where they use goats for clearing and also feed them coppice shoots as part of that clearing but I've never seen goats in the background of any other video on his farm. I did see one other video with but I don't think it was his farm and he likens them to locust while looking on them with disdain. I think it was a Jordan video.

I have a triangular property but it has a ravine running down the middle that I wouldn't want the goats on unless things were really dry because I worry about erosion via disturbance. Te ravine makes the usable property a "U" shape so already, that adds a lot of fencing. Add to that cross fencing for scheduled grazing and adding the fact that goats will eat everything until a piece of land is grass or savanna; fencing and grazing schedule will be insane.

I was coming up with some $$ numbers for raising meat goats for the sale barn and came up with this;

10 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $2856.00
15 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $4284.00
20 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $5712.00
30 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $8568.00
40 does × 1.7 kids per doe × 60 lbs market weight ×  $2.80/lb = $11424.00

The above doesn't include many things like worming, winter feed etc so the final numbers would likely be half of what's above but I worry that the quantity of goats we can support will go down rapidly if I put too many one, plus, can I even have a food forest and also have goats. Of course I can have a small food forest and keep them out but with this "U" shaped usable land, I'm going to have a lot of edge that would be great for food forest type plants. We'll have edge facing every direction on a compass. All around the "U", plus three sides of the perimeter. 5-6000 foot of edge aka a mile or so.

Here's a contour map of the property. We're the upper triangle on the top right or Northeast side of the road. The goats will be excluded from the black rectangle area with the exception of a kidding pen within the black rectangle. Other things in that rectangle will be the house, shop and garden. I'd like to put a cabin in the Northeast corner someday. The contours aren't perfect but there is a knoll up there. The ravine also runs in a curve more than shown and at the top end of it, it starts out as two ravines more than shown. Aside from my 3250 foot perimeter fence, I'll need permanent fence around the ravine which will add close to another 2000 feet.



To help with the 2D graphic to 2D visualization, the road from that black rectangle, down the road in a Southeasterly direction runs downhill at a 30% grade, or a couple hundred feet in elevation in a few hundred feet.  

That black rectangle is really the only place with good soil. The rest is very gravelly which is why I think goats would be ideal. I wouldn't even have to trim hooves much. When I say very gravelly, I'm talking - anyplace where there's been enough disturbance, like when clearing the fence line, with the leaves and humus gone, looking at the ground, 50% dirt to 50% rocks is what you see. The corner post holes dug within the black rectangle were mostly soil and anywhere from 15-30 inches of it was top soil. All other post holes were 50/50 gravel/soil all the way down. Half a day to dig one hole by hand with most of it being breaking stuff loose with the shale/digging bar. Fun stuff. So maybe my 5-6000 foot of "edge" isn't going to be worth squat. Trees do manage to grow but a lot of them die trying.

As you can see, I'm confused as to what to make of this place. As far as stocking rates for goats, we'll be starting off with a breeding pair or a buck and 2-3 does so I've got time for observation. If I'm going to go through all the work of setting up for goats, I would like it to be self supporting at least and a little profit would be nice. I realize now that I'm not going to be able to hit the high number while still practicing any sort of permaculture.

So the original question; Are goats compatible with a permaculture food forest?

I've kind of strayed or broadened from that so maybe; What would you do with this property if wanting permaculture and goats? would be better.
 
gardener & author
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They can be compatible with a food forest, you would want any fruit trees to be mature, to observe frequently to make sure there isn't huge amounts of bark-eating happening, and it's good to be able to rotate the goats to different areas to give the plants time to recover.

It's a good idea to plant lots of fast growing trees and plants that goats love to eat that you don't mind if they get eaten up.

Even with this in mind, goats will sometimes just pick on a particular tree while there's plenty of other food around.

Another idea is to have some trees on the other side of the fence, so goats can nibble overhanging branches but not damage the trunk.

Goats will start to eat lots of bark and kill trees when they need copper - supplementing a goat with the right minerals to correct the soil nutrient deficiencies in your area will help them to avoid causing too much damage, but they do still like to eat some bark from time to time.

I think it's a good idea to start small, observe, and only increase the herd if your land can handle it. Having a strawyard where you can keep them if all your land needs a rest is a good idea too.
 
Kate Downham
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Also, it's possible to avoid chemical wormers completely by making sure the goats receive the right minerals and good food that's off the ground, rotating them around, and choosing your goats with natural reilience as a desired trait.

Plants with tannins in them such as oak, mulberry, and others, will help to naturally deworm goats. Diatomacious earth can help too.
 
master pollinator
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I think you are going to want some forage trees. Nitrogen producers that will give them protein.

It would be great if they could be trained to tether , so that you don't have to fence everywhere. Fence the easiest spots and then tie them in strategic spots that allows them to graze what you want them to graze, without allowing them to go after things that they might eat to death.
 
master pollinator
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Having experienced our "goat-like" Jacob sheep eating our trees, I would personally not choose to have goats in my food forest.  I would fence them out of that area and let them in only if it became overgrown, to thin out undergrowth a little.  But I would really want to keep an eye on them.

 
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you could fence off area for goats till your trees are big enough that they would not kill or damage the, goats need fencing from what I've seen of my neighbors goats.Also in your on paper calculations/figuring don't count your chickens before they hatch. The reality of a rural area, critters/predators come out of the woods and want to eat your domesticated critters. My neighbor lost half his goats before he was able to snare 3 bobcats and 2 coyote.
 
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I think it was Ben Falk that said a goat is the opposite of a tree!  I've planted trees all over my goat/sheep pasture.  Each tree is protected by 2-3 stands of hotwire. It is very effective as long as the trees do not get too top heavy and lean outside of their protection.   If they do, the goats and sheep break them when they pull on the leaves.  Without protection, I would have no trees. T posts are not economical.  I tried wood stakes with home made plastic insulators cut from plastic barrels.  The homemade insulators work well if made from a black plastic barrel, but the stakes, made from treated wood, started rotting outing out in 5 years or so.  Ripping them out of ground contact rated lumber might have lasted longer, but I wanted to get away from treated wood and have recently switched to using UV resistant PVC electrical conduit.  I am able to pound the conduit into my soft rock free soil fairly easily.  If I had rocks, I might pound in a short piece of rebar then slide the conduit over it or pound in a bar, remove it, then pound in the PVC.  I have not looked into fiberglass posts, but they may be an option as well.  
 
John Pollard
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Gray Henon wrote:I think it was Ben Falk that said a goat is the opposite of a tree!  I've planted trees all over my goat/sheep pasture.  Each tree is protected by 2-3 stands of hotwire. It is very effective as long as the trees do not get too top heavy and lean outside of their protection.   If they do, the goats and sheep break them when they pull on the leaves.  Without protection, I would have no trees. T posts are not economical.  I tried wood stakes with home made plastic insulators cut from plastic barrels.  The homemade insulators work well if made from a black plastic barrel, but the stakes, made from treated wood, started rotting outing out in 5 years or so.  Ripping them out of ground contact rated lumber might have lasted longer, but I wanted to get away from treated wood and have recently switched to using UV resistant PVC electrical conduit.  I am able to pound the conduit into my soft rock free soil fairly easily.  If I had rocks, I might pound in a short piece of rebar then slide the conduit over it or pound in a bar, remove it, then pound in the PVC.  I have not looked into fiberglass posts, but they may be an option as well.  



I've found a source for cheap posts for electric. It's called sucker rod. Solid fiberglass rod that comes from old oil wells. 1 - 1 1/4 inch in diameter and if you can find them in full lengths, they're less than $10 per length. The ones I found are 37 foot for $7.50. Works out to about $1.50 per post and they're durable and should last for decades. You can buy extra long galvanized cotter pins from electric fence suppliers. Drill some holes in the rods, slide the cotter pin over the wire, slide it through the hole and bend the ends.

I've seen what a goat will do to saplings. They jump up and put their hoofs on them to bend them over, sling one leg around it and start eating leaves from bottom to top. When they're done, the sapling has no leaves and is left bent over. After 2-3 times the sapling dies. I guess my food forest is going to have to be within my black rectangular area which they will be excluded from.

Planting anything would be tough here. I took some pics of the rockiness yesterday. Frost seeding is my only option really. I think I've been kind of mentally blocking this reality out. We originally had 7 acres and I was thrilled when the adjoining 7 became available. I had walked it but didn't realize just how rocky it was due to leaf litter. I meant to get a pick where there's no leaf litter where you can see nothing but soil/rock. I'll get that today.


The ravine after


Stuff will pop up when the canopy opens up so the sun can get in. Just going to have to take it slow, thin things out so whatever seeds are in the ground, sprout. I can buy bulk compost pretty cheap nearby so mixing seeds with some compost or broadcasting seeds and covering with a thin layer of compost might be an option. Hancock has a no till deer plot mix that might be an option. Would cost about $60/acre but I don't think any of it is perennial so that would have to be done every year.



Hancock has a no till deer plot mix that might be an option. Would cost about $60/acre but I don't think any of it is perennial so that would have to be done every year.

Hancock's No Till Food Plot Seed Mix Contains:

   10% Aeschynomene
   15% Rape
   25% Alyce Clover
   20% Sunn Hemp
   20% Brown Top Millet  
   10% Hairy Indigo

Of course tree leaves are part of goat forage but that would make for a grazing rotation of a few years to allow small saplings to come up. Yet most meat goat farms rely on smaller forbs, legumes and grasses.

Just going to have to go small, go slow and observe. Maybe we should build and have a terraced garden on the rocky hills and let the animals have the flat land where there's soil.
 
gardener
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there is an experiment station near my house here with a silvopasture system that runs sheep in a persimmon orchard with some kind of planted pasture grass. The whole thing is divided into smaller paddocks so they don`t start chewing on the trees when they get hungry, they get moved before they reach that point. they eat the fallen leaves and any fruit that doesn`t get harvested. But I get the feeling sheep are a bit less aggressive than goats.
 
John Pollard
pollinator
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I got to thinking while I was out there working today. We had four dairy goats when we first got here and we had no fence. They spent most of their time across the road on the neighbor's pasture. I read somewhere a long time ago to build on the worst part of your land so that the best part can be kept for growing things. We're in a temporary cabin on poles that is on decent land and I built a shop on piers(boulders) that was to become an animal barn and it also sits on decent land. I think I'm going to have to rethink my usage of the decent flat land with good soil. Even our driveway takes up a few thousand square foot of decent land. We're planning on an earth bermed house. I started out with earth sheltered aka dug into the hillside but drainage here is bad and I'm worried about that so I changed to building on flat ground and berming earth up around it. There is one spot though that's not great for growing but fairly flat.

Next year, we'll really be able to start on all this stuff which is why I'm rethinking things.
 
pollinator
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In Australia’s arid areas where cattle and sheep can’t survive because the vegetation’s too sparse, some farmers grow goats as they seem to eat anything.

And don’t give up on sheep because of their flavour. I don’t like the smell or taste of sheep in western cooking, but cooked with Asian methods with their heavy spices and sauces it loses its overpowering ‘lambiness’ and tastes delicious. The most popular street food in all of China is Muslim lamb shish kebabs; beef is cheaper so people often choose the beef option, but anyone willing to pay more will choose the lamb kebab because it’s superior in taste (beef is blander). YouTube ‘xinjiang yang rou chuan’ to see what I’m talking about.
 
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