Episode-1600- Owning Goats without Ruining Your Life
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For most of the TSP audience Nick Ferguson needs no introduction, but he is an internationally traveled permaculture designer and consultant. He is also one of the owners of PermaEthos along with being a long term member of the TSP community.
Nick states his best job is being “the husband of the sweetest and most patient woman alive, father of 3 crazy boys.” After all of this, in his spare time he is working hard to develop a sustainable homestead in the piney hills of Louisiana.
Nick is also a member of the TSPC Expert council and a long time personal friend and beer drinking buddy of mine, though he still doesn’t know what a Saison is!
He is likely best known here as a plant propagation expert who developed the PermaEthos plant propagation course which has been successfully complete by several hundred people, however Nick is also an expert in many aspects of permaculture.
One of his real fortes is stretching dollars and doing a great deal with small livestock. He has been keeping goat for most of his life and is well aware of the rewards and challenges of doing so. He joins us today to discuss making a decision about goats and if you are going to do it, to do it with out hating yourself for doing so.
Join Nick and I Today to Discuss…
- Why even keep an animal that has such a reputation for being a pain in the ass
- How much land should I have before considering Goats
- What kind of fence will keep them in
- Lots of people say goats are impossible to train, how do you train a goat
- What are the main health issues people run into
- I heard goats taste awful, is there a trick to making the meat taste good
- What should they eat and what should they not eat
- What do I need to do to make sure the milk is safe and tastes good
- Why is it necessary to keep goats in groups
Resources for today’s show…
- Join the Members Brigade
- The Year 1600
- Join Our Forum
- Walking To Freedom
- TSP Gear
- The Duck Chronicles – Video Series
- Fortress Defense Consultants – (sponsor of the day)
- The Berkey Guy – (sponsor of the day)
- Permaculture Classroom
Bob Wells Plant of the Week –
Arbequina Olive – Cold hardy variety that has one of the highest olive production and oil yields. The soil should be well drained.
This tree has an upright habit. It is recommended that you cover the tree the first winter if the temperature drops below freezing. Once the tree has been in the ground for a year and is well rooted, it then will begin to withstand the colder temperatures.
The older the tree gets the more, cold hardy it becomes. The oil is of this olive is sweet, delicate and fragrant with intense fruitiness but low levels of bitterness and spiciness. It is grown commercially for oil production is parts of California and Texas. If you live above zone 7, you can grow it in a container and bring it inside during the winter months
Bob Wells Nursery specializes in edible landscape plants and trees including: Fruit Trees, Berry Plants, Vine Fruit, Nut Trees, as well as the hard to find Specialty Trees. Find this plant and more at BobWellsNursery.com
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Congratulations on number 1600 Jack .! What a ride so far.
Jack, I think you forgot one of Nick’s most important credentials:
“unintentional Dana Carvey impersonator” 🙂
Nick, thanks a ton for the excellent class on Plant Propagation. So much amazing information. The Dana thing did cross my mind about a dozen times as I was watching the videos, though…
“become another person”
Perfect response, Nick. 🙂
I really enjoyed this show. I am trying to demonstrate sustainability without relying on outside sources, such as feed stores, refrigeration, or vets. One additional benefit of goats are that when you harvest, you can consume immediately without worrying too much about meat preservation techniques (your protein sources stay fresh on the hoof). Another benefit is their hardiness relative to other animals when they are properly rotationally grazed. One thing I am still puzzling out is how to get a maximum herd through winter in North Texas. Another thing is how much effort to go through on disbudding the horns, and how much effort to go through on separating bucks from ewes.
The winter shouldn’t be a problem, depending on herd size, a 4 sided shelter with a hallway going into the room they can bed down in at night will be optimal. You will need to supplement with hay of course.
I don’t disbud, they use horns for defense and heat regulation. I leave my bucks and does together, of course I only keep one breeding buck, so when he gets the job done, it’s done, one less thing for me to deal with.
“They pee – on their FACE!”
Literally laughed out loud for several minutes. Great interview.
Enjoyed the goat broadcast. We had over a 100 doe meat goat breeding herd. Goats are pickier eaters than the stereotype. Good hay kept clean and dry.
Electric fence is the ticket to goat keeping. Goats are hard to shock, buy the BEST fencer you can get. Lack of grounding is the biggest issue for inadequate shock. Use 3 ground rods, about 3 feet apart to attach your ground wire to. When we fenced a goat pasture we had ground rods on each side of the fence. A hot wire about 8-12 inches from the ground, a ground wire in the middle and a hot wire about nose height to your average goat. The braided rope electric fence strand IS certainly the easiest to work with but doesn’t carry as good a shock. Remember that goats prefer browse to grass so you can add goats to a beef herd and take very little grazing away from the cows because they prefer different plants.
There is a big learning curve with goats. A sick goat is a dead goat until you get past that learning curve.
The Boers are the easiest meat goat in my experience. The Kiko much more feral type and therefore harder to control.
Dairy goats jump fence like a gazelle.
All good info! My dairy goats don’t jump fence unless part of the herd is on the other side and they get spooked. The milking does never jump more than 6″ off the ground 😛
Absolutely grounding is a problem. If I had to fence large areas, I’d have a ground wire and about every 300′ I would put a couple ground rods in, and attach them to the ground wire.
For larger scale fencing, I prefer the heavy gauge aluminum wire. Good visibility, easy to work with, carries a good charge, but it has a tendency to slump with longer stretches of fence.
Lots of good info, thanks for contributing Garoleen!
Love the interview! What are your thoughts on raising Nigerian dwarf goats in an urban environment or smaller property.
I liked them but they were almost not worth my time to milk. I had to learn a whole new method of milking by hand and it just wasn’t worth my time. I prefer the larger Nubians. If you just want a little bit of milk then a couple Nigerian does are fine, but you aren’t doing that in an urban setting unless you have an acre at least, and then you are still talking about bringing in a lot of feed. You’d be better off growing produce and trading the produce with someone who keeps dairy goats and obtaining milk that way.
The reason to do it in a small property setting is that is often the only way to get fresh, raw milk. So, it is a given that they cant get their food from the property. But, you can also think of the alfalfa you buy as the main dish, and nice cutting you can grow as their “salad” , these fresh items do provide enzymes and vitamins that are very helpful. If you realy have a small area, you would need to take them for walks, I have heard of this done in city settings, but is quite a huge commitment first of all, and secondly you need to be in an area without loose dogs to pull that off. I could see good intentions on this taking for walks and then it stops happening, so dont recomend it.
We have Nigerian Dwarf goats. 2 things on the milking process, first there seems to be different emphasis by breeders which can make a huge difference with amount of milk and teat size. You would want to make sure you buy from someone who actually MILKS them, and take a look at the Dams’ teats. Second, once you get used to it, it is just as fast to milk out a Nigerian, and if you have never milked a different breed, this will be the only way you know. The only difference is that less fingers close on the teats, of then just the top couple, same technique though.
Another great thing about Nigerians is that they are year round breeders. The good part of this is that you can breed at alternate times, like one doe every 3 months, just keep 3 does, and always have a nice steady even milk supply. No glut and then famine. This also means the buck can and will breed them in the spring, so you must keep the young doelings away from him. But, it also means you can just rotate a doe in with him every 3 months so he has company and she gets bred.
Nigerian goat milk is higher milk fat and sweeter tastining than the other breeds. But, it does depend on how much milk you want, we have 4 does and have more than we need for cheese and milk and yogurt etc… but we are only 2 people. A large family may want something different.
Great podcast Jack! This really worth to hear this type of podcast and enjoyed the topic.
Regarding Arbequina olive, no questions asked down here in 8b it laughs at the cold. We never protected the ones we have last year at all even though we covered up young citrus. Still there no damage.
I will say right now its one droopy plant (from weight). I’m thinking about doing another hard pruning on it to release some of the weight on the top of it. I’ve noticed they’re quite leggy.
Great show. Thanks guys.
Couldn’t agree more about the fact that goats are a management tool. I will say you can get by feeding them significantly less than most people. I need to tally up my food bill but last year I fed hay for about 2 or 3 weeks in winter (as supplemental), and then a handful of times throughout the year when I was feeling lazy.
I like the idea of goats, especially for clearing acreage and getting some meat out of the deal, but I have one serious concern with goat milk… Does it taste as bad as goat cheese? Some people don’t mind it, but I’ve always found goat cheese to taste, well, goaty and awful. I don’t know exactly how to describe it aside from bitter/off/bad. Does the milk have that same characteristic?
If you don’t handle it properly and chill quickly, or keeping bucks with the does sometimes will impart that goat flavor. For the most part, if the does have good forage, and you keep them healthy, and take care of the milk, have excellent sanitation practices, you should have creamier, thicker milk than cows milk that in my opinion tastes great.
I suggest finding someone who keeps dairy goats like I just described, buy some milk, and try it.
I was wondering if meat sheep would be better than goats. My thoughts are they would be easier to keep in a fence, have a higher meat yield and possibly not stick as bad. Am I way off with those thoughts? Once I finish my fence and get water to the 10 acres I just got I want to put some animals on it.
We’re looking at figuring that out here maybe next year.
Part of it is the breed, different breeds of sheep like more or less browse.
I went with Icelandic in part because they’re supposed to like a ton of browse.
I had originally planned on doing boer goats but after listening to so many horror stories decided to go the sheep route. I’m on about 6 1/2 acres in east central Ohio. I do katahdin/dorper cross and they are a snap so far to take care of. Have had them for about a year now, so far so good. Almost zero inputs so far, I fed hay this winter and supplemented the pregnant ewes with just a bit of sweet feed for some more energy but other than that they are purely grass/browse fed. They love browse, the first thing they go for when opening a new paddock is any trees, shrubs, or brambles. Super hardy so far, no issue with parasites, though I have been keeping the rotation fairly regular. They aere easy to fence, right now I’m using a combination of existing woven wire field fence and cattle panels. They don’t challenge the fence at all unless there is something on the other side they want (trees/shrubs/tall grass) within reach. I will be opening a back field up soon and splitting into paddocks with electric, we will see how that goes. Last fall I crossed the katahdin/dorper ewes with my st.croix ram. 5 of the 6 had twins. The katahdin/dorper/st. croix mix looks promising, as all the lambs are healthy and putting on weight well on grass/browse only. Also, a couple of the ram lambs are almost as big as their father already so the heavier body of the dorper seems to be coming through.
Sheep are only slightly easier to fence. I built fence professionally for farmers and ranchers all across TX, OK, AR, and LA. A good fence is bull strong, goat tight, and some other example.
If you are wanting hands off, then make a good tight horse fence, with a strand of electric at shoulder height to prevent rubbing, and put goats in there. They’re hardier than sheep unless you are in a colder climate, then go with sheep.
Hey Nick [or anyone else reading this with experience with Goats and/or Sheep], do you have any advice for befriending a skittish, ‘semiwild-natured’ Goat/Sheep? I’ve been having some real trouble trying to get close to mine.
Yep, it’s gonna sound counter-intuitive, and a little cruel but you need to catch it, corner it or something. Get your hands on it and prevent it from running away. Pet it, scratch it all over, brush it, feed it something tasty. Do it every day until it warms up to you. Shouldn’t take long. They need to learn that contact with you is always a positive thing, it feels good and tastes good to have my human touch me and be near me. Do that and you’ll tame the critter in no time!
Can you feed goats chipped tree trimmings? Jack was talking about the very high yields you can get by growing mullberries and the same could be had with locust and other trees. Seems to me that you could use less inputs if you could give them much easier to handle chips than branches and if put in troughs that were kept clean, would be a viable alternative to hay and such.
Also, I have a hand pump milker,http://www.maggidans.com/milker.htm, that works great for me and there is really no learning curve to using it. Works great for small teats too. Was a great show, I really enjoyed it. Nick, have you ever used sea salt products like SEA 90, I have some that I give to my friends that have horses and they eat it first over other salts that are given to them.
Chipped trimmings? I’d say no. If you’re cutting the tops off and throwing them to them thats another story. We basically used to cut down brush and throw it in their netted areas. I’ll say though that this can be kind of a pain in the butt because when you move the fences you now have obstacles that like to grab nets, and then you have to clean up the piles afterward.
Mike, I heard from a goat owners that don’t like using cut down brush and such because they are an obstacle like you mentioned plus they can be pokey to their eyes too. Didn’t know if you ever tried chipping branches smaller than half inch diameter and only chipping enough for a half day feeding. Just a thought cause yields can be very high from small trees and brush.
I wouldn’t go with chipped trimmings, what I do with my cut forage (that’s what it’s called), I take the cut branches to the animals, toss them in the pen, let them strip all the leaves and tender twigs. When they’re finished, I get in there with a sharp machete or a pair of lopper pruners and chop it all up into 1′ sections. Generally I do this in the mulch yard where leaves and sticks are thrown anyways. This builds up for 3-6 months and then gets cleaned out or just piled up into compost piles for the chickens to work down into compost.
I’ve tried the hand pump milkers, they leave a lot to be desired in my opinion, I can never get them to milk the animal out completely and they are slower than milking by hand for me that is.
I do like SEA 90, I always try to use sea salt or other salts that have not been de-mineralized before going to a pure Sodium Chloride source.
Haven’t listened to the show, but if your goats escape, can’t they ruin someone elses life by eating everything in sight ?
They are browsers, so they nibble a little here, and a little there, but sure. Depending on your situation, what there is to eat at the neighbor’s, and how far away the neighbor is. Yeah they could eat stuff, same as any other livestock. Chickens could get into a flower bed and wreck it, cows could do tons of damage. It’s part of the territory and a good reason for making sure you have good fences that are maintained regularly.