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Goat Frustrations

 
steward
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So this keeps happening. I have 3 goats and they mostly live in their pen. Every now and than I let them out to free range. We have some desirable areas for them to forage. However the areas are inside our large fence and are not currently set up to contain goats. They also require us to lead the goats to them which I find challenging.

Every once in a while I decide to lead them to the desirable areas and it is great for the first 15 minutes or so. After the first 15 minutes they want to get out and come back to where ever i am. Today I did this and lead them to the area. Got them in and closed the gate.  It was great and they were eating up a storm. All of the plants they like are in there.

I went to do some other things and now they are hollering for me!!! I do not know what to do about this. I was watching the main/lead goat from the house and could see her pacing around in the area and hollering. Than she ends up leaning on the gate and the gate fell over. To be fair the gate is very wimpy and i am not surprised the gate fell over.

My main frustration is why do they need to get out? They get out and than run over to where i am. The area they were in was about 200 feet from the house/yard.

The goats get out of the lush forage area and than come over to where i am which is dry and very sparse and start to nibble on all the small overgrazed forage. WTF!!
They are making it so hard for me to want to take care of them. Especially when hay is 44 bucks for a 60 pound bale! ( most of the cost is in freight/transportation) I know i am going to walk outside my house and the goats will holler at me for food!


The lead goat is pure breed nubian. The other two are a mix of Nubian and Alpine.


Are sheep like this? I am really dreading all of the inputs required to keep this herd going. I am trying to minimize my need for hay. Currently our freezer is full or this would be another story....

 
master steward
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I have never had sheep so I can't say if they will not try to get out though I have not heard that about them

It seems that getting out is just in a goats nature.  Also, it sounds like you have made pets out of the goats since they call for you.

Maybe when you take them to the forage area you could find some chore to do there so you can keep them company.

You might try a treat system to help you get the goats to that forage area.  Do you have one goat that is the leader?  That would be the one to give the treats to.

I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about your situation.
 
pollinator
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The goats may be tamed just a bit too much, and with sloppy gates any attempt by them to get out is obviously successful.
Goats need good quality fencing - end of story.
I have seen cows standing in high green lush grass, pushing their necks through fences to grab a weedy morsel from next door!!
 
rocket scientist
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Hi Jordan;
Ever consider piggy's?
20220629_114919.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20220629_114919.jpg]
 
master gardener
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There's an old saying about goats: 'If you build a fence that will contain water, you will succeed in building a fence to contain goats.'

That said, there are some breeds, including Nubians, that are usually far more vocal than others. My first tidbit of advice would be to retrain them. When you go outside, at least until they get the idea, I'd ignore them, unless I'm doing something directly with them. It will take a bit - how long is one of those "it depends" type questions, but eventually, they will give up and hush up. They'll most likely still hope for attention, when you initially go out, but will settle down more quickly, as they get accustomed to not being the center of your attention.

The good news is that they'll most likely not wander far, and will stay close by, even if they get out. The bad news is they'll eat pretty much anything edible that you've planted, not just the things you want them to eat. I've resorted to tethering - but, it *can* be a dangerous practice. They're not inherently rope-savvy, and will tangle themselves, so we go out, often, to check their tethers, and frequently must untangle them. It's NOT ideal. But, if you've a safe pen for them, at night, it can work. Another thing about tethering them is that you can put them exactly where you want them, but of course, they'll need to be far enough apart so as to not tangle up with each other.  

Being someplace where they are not seems to be one of their life goals, and, if that place where they're not happens to also be A- where you are or B - someplace you don't want them to be, that just makes it forbidden fruit, and they'll want it even more.
 
Carla Burke
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P.S. As far as their hay, you might look into other options - like 'tree hay'. If you're in a sunny area that's also somewhat - to - very wet (hmmm..., like BC, maybe), you may be interested in planting and copicing or pollarding, to dry and store in bundles. A few dozen goat willows (yup - they're a thing) planted can, within a year or three, provide winter fodder for several goats.
 
master gardener
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I'm no goat expert, although my neighbor had some that used our field happily when we first moved here. However, the behavior you're describing does sound a lot like they are human imprinted or at the very least, see you as "mom" and feel more secure when you're around them.
First:
1. How old are these goats? By "goat" standard, are they teenagers or younger?
2. Are they just looking for you, or will any human do?
Second:
1. What can you substitute for "you"?  If they'll calm just to a human voice, can you leave a portable radio playing in the area you leave them in? If it's specifically *your* voice, can you record it reading some story or other, including words like "good goats, stay and browse here" or any other positive directives you give them that would be appropriate.
2. Are they missing adult goat noises - in which case try to do the same, but find someone who will record a loop of normal goat noises.
3. If they want to be within visible view of you, try building a portable scarecrow version of yourself??? https://permies.com/t/139611/permaculture-upcycling/ungarbage/Scarecrow-case-Scareeagle
4. Think children - which is sort of what Carla suggesting, but take it a step further. If you know they'll stay put for 15 min reliably, Day 1 go out and bring them back in 15 min, Day 2 go out in 16 min, etc.  Carla may suggest that's just reinforcing bad behavior, so I'm inclined to follow her lead! That said, I've got lots of baby feathered things in my field, and when they're young and mom disappears from sight, they can be incredibly noisy. As they get older, they do go longer before panicking, but boy are they excited when mommy shows back up!
 
master pollinator
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Or I believe mulberry makes good tree hay. It's coppiced extensively in Bulgaria for winter animal feed.
 
John C Daley
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With regard to tethering goats, I have seen steel rings attached to the rope and popped over the stake, it reduces the tangling somewhat.
 
gardener
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I like that idea.  Use a carbiner/d-clip and when they are tangled you could detach that end for quicker detangling also.  I have to remember that if we ever camp with my brother's dogs again.  
 
jordan barton
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thank you everyone for the replies! I don't have the time right now to reply to everyone.

I took the goats out again last night at around 5 pm.We were there for about 2 hours. I stayed and watched them. Here is what I observed

-Each goat had about 4 deer flies on them. This seemed to annoy the goats the most.
-The main goat(around 4 years old) kept looking at me every minute. The two mixed younger goats(about 14 months old) looked at me way less. The younger goats seemed more interested in eating and less annoyed by the deer flies

more to come!



IMG_1564.JPG
Watching the goats
Watching the goats
 
Carla Burke
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Jordan, looking at that lush patch you have them in, I'd say if you can harvest some of that, and dry it, that would go a good ways to getting them through the winter, too - especially if there's more than just what's in the frame. We don't pay anywhere near what you're paying, for hay ($8/bale, plus a $25 delivery fee for the whole load - and they stack it wherever I point!), and I'm still constantly on the lookout for more sustainable ways to feed ALL our critters.

The reason I recommended the willow as a starting point, is for its rapid growth rate. But, for an immediate harvest, you can trim your own trees, and check with anyone you know that doesn't use toxic gick, to see if they'll let you trim theirs. The primary trees to avoid are those producing stone fruits. Mine don't like the sharp points of cedar, but will flat wipe out a patch of wild blackberries or even roses, though.

But, shrubs, bushes, trees... pretty much anything they'll eat fresh can be harvested, hung to dry, and fed to them all winter. Some things, like oak, black walnut, & lespedeza are also very helpful in controlling parasite overload.



P.s. I'm really not advocating for tethering. Goats tethered are at higher risk to predators, and tangling can easily keep them from accessing their water supply. We've had many close calls with their tether getting twisted so badly(even with swivels at both ends) that the goats were bordering on choking themselves to death, as well as coming close to injuring their legs. I'd advise only using a tether during times when you can be present.
 
Jay Angler
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I got parachuted into a class this morning being taught by Gord Baird of EcoSense (https://eco-sense.ca/  in the Highlands north/west of Victoria, BC). Apparently they now have two goats and he said they were wonderful for consuming all the prunings from Gord's Food Forest. He said there are some trees he prunes 3x/year to keep them at a manageable height, and is pleased that the goats are helping with processing that and turning it into milk and cheese.
This doesn't help your immediate issue, but it backs up what Carla's suggesting! While the sun shines, make tree hay. Mind you, do you have any place to store tree hay? Even just temporarily so you can serve tree hay when you can't take them out for supervised foraging?
 
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You are their leader, therefore, they want you to hang out with them. I am listening to my Nubian crosses hollering for me right now. The best way to contain them is with electricity. Premier One sells goat netting that is very effective. If you need a solar fencer, they sell those too. I have a very small property, less than 2 acres is pasture and this summer, I have been moving the herd around the front "lawn" that I let overgrow inside either a cattle panel pen (4 cattle panels linked together with carabiners) or inside a section of electric netting. They are both relatively simple to move (the cattle panels can be a bugger if the grass is tall) and as long as your goats respect electricity, they are quite safe. They will eventually shut up and eat  ;-)
 
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John C Daley wrote:With regard to tethering goats, I have seen steel rings attached to the rope and popped over the stake, it reduces the tangling somewhat.



And a swivel at both ends and preferably also in the middle.

A lot of tangles start where the rope twisted on itself due to a single swivel not being enough.
 
pollinator
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Our goats (boer) don't test the fencing, and it is pretty weak.  I am sure they could get out if they wanted to.  
They have access to a brushy area but choose to lounge or pick through the well browsed area most of the time.  Whenever I cut brush, they get it.  They will strip the leaves, bark, and small branches, then I pull the rest back out, cut it up - brush gets burned in the garden in the fall, bigger pieces are firewood.  
We don't make "tree hay" as well grow "real hay" to sell, and the "bad" bales go to the beef cattle and the goats.  There is always plenty. Last winter I was feeding hay that is like 2 decades old from a barn that is about to collapse.  When the barn comes down, the hay would be a lose, so I wanted to use up everything useable.  I did.  
But I do plan my tree trimming times in such a way that the goats benefit most - a little cutting at a time so I can feed the brush out before they all dry up and fall off.  Apple, Maple and elm are favorites.  Sumac, ash, evergreens are not preferred, but will be eaten.  Not much oak on the property.  I feed a small amount of stone fruit leaves - aware of the risk of cyanide issues.  
 
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Notes from my situation, which won't work for everyone:

Yep, my prima donna goats (all bottle raised by me, two of them in the house before I learned better) will only go out accompanied on a goat walk. Which I prefer, because I can walk softly and carry a squirt gun if they nibble a tree I don't want them to eat. I use the time to gaze fondly at my landscape, take notes on next projects, scroll through my phone and post new goat videos (stack those functions!), prune, chat with visiting friends, or just sit in the grass and mope/daydream.

If I hide well enough in the house, they will go out with someone they trust, one of whom is fortunately my teenage apprentice who is a whiz with animals and knows what behavior to reinforce with a peanut-in-the-shell treat. The goats get walked only a few times a week to round out their diets. Of course they would prefer a twice-daily stroll followed by a refreshing cocktail and a massage.

Mostly our goats are fed with cut browse we bring to them. I have downsized to only 3 Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, who form a key part of our homestead scene. Baby goats are basically adjunct faculty for our farm kids programs, so the goats carry their weight pretty well. We do make hay, including tree and nettle hay, but the goats do get supplemental alfalfa. Electric fence can work, but it takes some babysitting to train the goats to it. Because I have dairy goats I am reluctant to stress them out much. So basically we cater to their every need. I've mentioned it before, but providing free choice kelp meal made my goats WAY happier and less likely to test fences.

Good luck! I've put a Nubian or two in my freezer for being too loud and needy. I will say that my goats get easier to manage every year, as they get older and wiser and know the landscape better and better.
 
pollinator
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Nice farm yard! so lush.

We rotate our goats weekly. They are used to being rotated. It might be just getting them used to being moved around. We also leash training a couple of the goats. Because it's fun to walk a goat most of the time. lol

Maybe try rotate twice a week?

Too much can happen to tethered goats, we only tether supervised. Goats only understand go forward...soooo that doesn't go well with tethering.

For flies and such we fill an old sock with DE, then sprinkle little tea tree oil on it. Then dust the goats weekly in the summer. We have lots of gnats and no see-um biting things.
 
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