Thursday, February 12, 2015

More goats

Having goats is an interesting experience in that they are livestock, but ours are also pets. Our five are fiber goats which already qualifies as a "job" but I keep wanting them to be useful in other ways as well. Our friends who offered us their open pasture, partially were happy to have animals there to help keep the weeds down, but we've found our spoiled picky goats are not as good at eating the pasture down as the horses. We've been trying to take the goats on "walks" outside the pasture to help eat down some of the weeds there, but it's more fun than useful.

In talking with an avid gardening neighbor, I was convinced to give the goats' brush clearing prowess another try. I only have a little car, so can only fit one large crate in to transport goats. Harvey was the "lucky" goat I decided to bring on our first field trip to my house in town.

Goats are amazingly easy to load up into the crate. I opened the crate in the back seat of my car and led the goats to it, waving treats in front of their noses, and they're all pretty much willing to jump in. Since previously I've only put the goats in my car when I've taken them to get disbudded and castrated, why they think it's a good idea to jump in, I don't know, but I'm very glad of it. Strangely, they all don't like getting out, whether we're at the pasture or at my house. 

He was greeted by angry cats. Apparently Buddy not only hates dogs, he also hates goats. As in wrrrrowwwww warnings followed by stalking menacingly towards them. Harvey was already nervous being away from his herd, and this was even more frightening. Meep was nicer but also cautious and had to give a few warning growls to show his discomfiture.
Meep and Harvey eventually came within a couple of feet of each other without incident.

But Harvey still needed a lot of reassurance. He nervously nibbled a little of the ivy I was hoping he'd help clear, but everything was scary, even the chickens, so we took him home.

I tried again a few days later with the twin girls. They're the smallest so can fit together into the crate. The terrible twosome had much more fun figuring out what they could jump on.

They checked out the chickens:

 And even ate some (a very little) ivy and cleavers.
 Mostly they explored and were good company while I cleared the ivy.
Tierra found a leftover volunteer squash hybrid and ate it with gusto. She was very proud of herself. Glinda took longer to find it but enjoyed it too.

 Back at the pasture, we've taken down the fence separating the horses from the goats and had a week of feeding everyone together. The horses are very nice about having goats underfoot. Galaxy tolerates them and I think Chester actually likes them. We've seen Chester and Harvey nuzzling each other. And Hattie was even wagging her tail when I saw Chester nudge her.

Still, it's better not to have the goats eating off the ground and getting in the horses way, so I tried a new feeder design. This is the fourth goat feeder I've made with the ever elusive goal of minimizing waste. I have high hopes for this one so far.

It's made after Harvey Considine's design which elevates a feeding tray and makes the goats put their heads through angled slats. The idea is that they pick through the hay in the tray and eat over it because they don't want to keep pulling their heads through the slats and flicking their ears. This is supposed to keep them from just pulling out large wads of hay and dropping a bunch on the ground which was a problem with the last feeder. Look how orderly they all look!

But someone is missing from this shot. Harvey wanted to eat with the big boys and though he could easily go around and into their stall, it's more fun to stretch his face through the bars.

No comments: