Daily Browse Walks


American Lamancha “Pecan Sandy” and her two kids

It’s important to balance the diet of a goat. For their own health you never want to feed them only grains or let them feed solely on pasture grass. Goats are “ruminants” just like cows, sheep and deer. In layman’s terms this means they have four compartments in their stomachs that are able to process plant matter into a usable food source (trust me when I say I’m simplifying this). Roughage is an important part of this process for goats.  On the farm roughage can come from different kinds of hay, and in nature it takes the form of various types of leaves, shoots, twigs, even tree bark. I love letting our animals be as close to nature as possible without allowing them to completely strip the land down to bare dirt. This is where proper pasture rotation and land management comes into play.  A few months ago we started taking the goat herd on daily browse walks, opening up the gates and letting them wander through the fields and woods at will to consume their needed natural roughage.


Saanen goat “Sunshine” and her kids

Do we still feed them hay?  Of course we do but much less than we did before.  A favorite on the menu this week has been the young tender leaves and berries of the creeping springtime blackberry canes. I’m continually amazed at how they’re able to strip off the leaves and not get stuck by the needle-like thorns, while I’m always getting two thorns jabbed into my skin for every single blackberry I pick.


Saanen kid enjoying blackberries

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Goats On The Run


Clover the goat, enjoying my shrubs

This past Wednesday I spent a short time out in the goat pasture with a fellow farming enthusiast from up the road. We spoke about chickens, goats, growing vegetables, cultivating mushrooms…and at some point I’m sure I talked about the portable electric mesh fence we use to keep the goats in place. I no doubt mentioned that despite its flimsy appearance, they rarely challenge it and certainly never escape.

Fast forward two hours later as I’m rounding the bend with an armful of hay, only to be greeted by a most unpleasant sight: one of the large white goats had both its feet in the fence, kneeling down and thus bending it all the way to the ground.  Almost the whole herd was suddenly leaping over the lowered section and out into the woods. Have you ever seen a cartoon depiction of someone counting sheep as they try to fall asleep, one animal after another jumping over the fence every second? It looked exactly like that except with Saanens, Lamanchas, and Nigerian Dwarfs.sheep-jumping-over-fence-in-a-cloudy-moon-scene-dieter-spannknebel

I usually would have been irritated at such a spectacle but it did look funny, especially to the carpenters building a house next door who suddenly stopped working to enjoy the show. I casually leaned against a pine tree with one hand to give the appearance I had everything under control. I doubt it looked very convincing.

But what happened that they no longer respected their enclosure?  After rounding up the escapees I inspected the fence and found that the last time I moved their pasture, I forgot to connect a section together which left half the fence uncharged for an entire week. In seven days they figured it out and took advantage of my error. Lesson learned, I’ll pay more attention in the future.

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Free Range Goats

It almost looks like Spring…in certain areas of the property at least. IMG_2710                                                The nice thing about coastal Georgia in January is that even though the fields have turned brown it’s still possible to plant a seasonal pasture to supplement the goat’s winter diet of hay. We’ve been experimenting with different grasses to see which grow best and which ones the animals prefer.


Native trees and shrubs that retain their leaves also provide great forage necessary for the health of a goat.

IMG_2722We let them out of their enclosure to range about the land as they wish, all under the watchful eye of a Rough Collie. It’s a beautiful sight to observe, stark-white goats against the landscape, moving as a herd as their guardian dog follows, always the protector.


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New Kid In Town

Goat kidding season has officially begun. Last week one of our Nigerian Dwarfs finally gave birth after a difficult 10 hour labor.  She started showing signs of distress early in the morning and by the time the sun was setting she was still outside laying on the ground bleating away.  WP_20150104_17_38_39_ProWe picked her up and put her inside in a birthing stall.  Her cries of pain brought all the other goats over to investigate, they actually looked concerned about her.  WP_20150104_17_38_49_ProOr it could be they were wishing she would quiet down so everyone could get some sleep.  I’ll probably never know.  Either way, an hour after we moved her inside she gave birth to two kids…one stillborn and one very alive female.  Over the next few days as it became apparent that the new baby was getting stronger and would survive, we found ourselves calling her “Ellie Mae” (from the Beverly Hillbillies).  I have no idea who thought of that name but for some reason it stuck. WP_20150106_14_23_42_Pro

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