Tuesday, March 26, 2013
As far as livestock is concerned, goats are not necessarily the easiest. Alot of hands-on time will be spent with these animals, whether they are being raised strictly for meat; for their milk; or for a conglomeration of both. But, I daresay, these critters have a way of creeping into your hearts and can quickly become family members that earn their keep!
Goats are known as the 'farmer's weed whacker', this is due to not only the fact that goats can and will sample everything, but also, because of their anatomy, they prefer to reach at eye level or above for their food, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs, trees, and leafy plants. Think of them as miniature giraffes, they don't like to 'graze' as sheep or cows do. Goats are browsers, not grazers. This will help keep your land clear of not only those pesky branches that always snag the bottom hem of your shirt, but also the encroaching brambles.
The basic requirements, though simple, need to be thought out and planned for efficiency and effectiveness. First, they need shelter. Obviously this is not only a task to build correctly, but also, an ongoing project to keep clean. Once the 'goat hut' is built and function-able, it is important to set up a routine schedule for yourself of not only cleaning, but also maintenance and inspection. Buildup of yuckiness underfoot can and will cause sickness, and just like you, goats will not enjoy cold drafts and leaky roofs.
Second, they need space. With fencing. This is something that will definitely keep your hands busy in a SHTF situation. And here, once again, maintaining and repairing your goat's fencing and/or pen is an integral part of the upkeep of having goats. Keeping about 6 to 10 goats per acre is just about right. The amount of goats will vary with the quantity and quality of browsing material available.
Thirdly, they do need an alternative food source. Yes, they can survive on their foraging, but for the best meat and milk outcome, you will want to add some nutritional supplementation to their diet. Supplementation with corn and oats is much recommended. Lots of fiber in their diet prevents digestive disturbances.
Raising goats, while hard work and sweat, can be very rewarding. And in a teotwawki situation, you will be grateful to have a sustainable, yet productive herd.