You ever have a vision in your mind and you swear that if you can make that vision a reality you'll be even happier? Well, for me, one vision I had was me sitting in a chair holding a goat while my kids jump on the trampoline. I know this sounds absurd but really what it comes down to is that with a little bit of a land and a barn ready to go, I wanted some goats to be around the farm.
"Rosa" and "Douglas" have been wonderful additions to our farm and family. Below is a look at the things we had to consider, what we've learned and how our lives have changed since adding our 2 goats.
Douglas (named after the Douglas Fir)
Douglas has an interesting personality, he is very skittish, quite stubborn and is subservient to Rosa's lead. As you can see, Douglas sure is a cute little fella', we are glad to have him around.
Rosa (named after the Ponderosa Pine)
I will admit Rosa is not the most beautiful goat I've ever seen, although I love her coloring, her lack of ears does give her a unique look. All of that being said, the first time I saw her and fed her at her former home, I knew she would be a great fit at our farm.
One thing Oregonian hobby farmers know is that if you don't manage your land well, you eventually end up with a berry farm...a blackberry farm...a 5-acre bramble. This is where goats bring the most value. The love blackberries, they'll choose them over every other vegetation. They nibble the leaves and the plants wither soon thereafter. God's perfect blackberry assassin. Here at Crushlife Acres, we have a blackberry bramble next to our rabbit/goat barn that we like to eat from in the late summer. Even this patch needs to be kept under control. Aside from those berries we have a few other places around the acreage where blackberries tend to take. This is a big issue under our Ponderosa's because the sunlight can get through the branches, with the firs the trees eventually win out in most cases because their broad branches starve the blackberries of sunlight. The constant blackberry battle was the premier reason I wanted to own some goats.
Where did we find them?
One word: Craigslist. Craigslist isn't just a great place to search for available goats, its a great place to learn goat lingo. After hunting for goats and searching the terms I was seeing I decided to look for 2 goats, a Whether and a Doe. Here are few more terms you may see and what they mean:
Whether: A Whether is a castrated male goat. In most cases male goats are castrated using a rubber band that is tightened above their "jewels." Over the course of time, as the blood supply is cut off, his "berries" fall off. As you would expect, a whether cannot get a female doe pregnant.
Doe: A female capable of having a "kid" and providing milk for some time thereafter.
Doeling: A female goat who is too young to give birth and/or milk.
"In Milk": This means the doe has given birth recently enough that she is producing milk. In most cases, the doe will produce milk for about a year after giving birth.
What do we feed them?
Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we have a very mild climate that farm animals function well in year-round. We also grow vegetation all year long. In the dry summer season, our prairies blossom with tall grasses and alfalfa and in the cooler, wetter winter months grass and clover do very well. For this reason, our feed costs for all of our animals at Crushlife Acres are very low. We buy a bail of hay every month or so for our goats and our rabbits to snack on, lay on and soil. These bails cost about $6 and either get eaten or added to the compost pile after a week or two on the barn floor.
Other than blackberries they like crab apples, apple leaves, blueberry leaves, grass, clover, doug fir, dandelions and oatmeal.
What does the daily work load, routine and costs look like?
We use 3 strategies to keep our goats happy, entertained and content:
1. We have a 3-sided cattle-gate holding pen outside of their barn that we can let them enjoy on really rainy days or days where I don't feel like tying them up. They are perfectly happy eating hay, laying in the trough and hopping up and down off an old wooden bench. When left in the holding pen, they'll often receive visits from our chickens who are coming to share some oats or see what's going on with their friends.
2. I purchased a standard yard anchor and made 2 15' lengths of rope to tie to it. Most days, I tie the goats up at various locations around the farm where I want them to eat. This strategy works well, they have no problem with it and if they did, they would let me know. When tying goats to an anchor, the one thing you have to be cognizant of is their tendency to walk in circles. and tie themselves up around anything and everything in their vicinity. My goats have tied them selves around trees, bicycles, blackberries, fenceposts and even each other. When you choose a place to secure them, it really needs to be an open area with few obstacles on which they can get their leads caught. Also make sure to leave water somewhere nearby and be prepared for them to find a way to tip every water container you use, over.
3. When I'm home and not pre-disposed by a task or activity, I'll unhook the goats and let them explore as they choose. For the most part they like to be where we are but there have been multiple occasions where were upstairs or looking out the front windows and saw our goats on our road...not good! I get great joy watching these 2 run around together, jumping and bucking, snacking on what they choose and coming by to check on the what we're doing. It's also quite entertaining to see them engage with the other animals here at the farm. They've become very comfortable with the chickens, deer, turkeys, peacocks our cat and the rabbit with whom they share their barn.
What have we learned?
• Having goats brings a lot of joy to our family and our friends. Even though my kids don't give them a ton of attention, they enjoy helping me take care of them and they love to show them to their friends when people visit. Seeing the joy on people's faces when they bend down to feed our goats adds to my life.
• They do best when they are able to get out around the farm and eat what they choose. One way to get a feel for the health of an animal is to take a look at its droppings. When I leave town for work and my wife doesn't let the goats eat around the farm, it is obvious based on their goat pies, that just eating hay or feed or oatmeal has a negative affect on their bowels. When they are able to eat what they would eat in the wild they drop those nice clean pellets that actually smell good and provide that great fertilizer for the compost pile. If you're going to get goats, have a good plan for getting them fresh air and the vegetation of their choice and, if you haven't already, you might as well start gardening so you can take full advantage of the gold they'll be dropping in the barn.
• They are not bothered by rain. I've have left them tied up on some pretty rainy days and they do not seem to mind. With all that hair, it appears their favorite weather is that of the Oregon fall and winter: Mild temperatures, steady drizzle, a sun break here and there and lots of fresh, green grass to munch on.
• If you have a good plan they will not flip your life upside down. You can leave town, give them as much or as little attention as you want and they will get along just fine.
• They don't "eat everything." Our goats don't just munch on fences and weeds uncontrollably, they choose what they like and what's best for them is variety. If you have a patch of blackberries don't expect them to hammer your whole bramble in a few weeks. They like to move around and try lots of things. Our goats don't clear this massive amount of brush everywhere they go, they munch a little, lay down, take a break and eat a little more...all day long. This being said, you will want to keep them away from your blueberries or your garden, they'll make those disappear quickly.
What is our long-term plan?
Keep these 2, maybe let Rosa visit a local buck so we can have a baby and milk someday. But in general, I don't have plans to grow my herd anytime soon. I love these 2 and everyone who visits enjoys them as well.
If you have any questions about raising goats, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org