Let’s talk about dairy goats!
hoping planning on getting two small dairy goats next spring. In my ideal world it would be a Mini Nubian doe in milk and a doeling…but whatever we end up purchasing, they’ll need to eat! I mean, pretty basic animal husbandry – feed your animals, right? But what to feed them, is the question.
In case you didn’t know, goats digestive systems aren’t meant to digest grain. They should have a diet that is mainly composed of high quality hay and/or fresh forage. So the Husband-Man and I got to thinking about how to best use our land to keep us as self-reliant as possible – and the feed costs as low as possible.
A little reading and you’ll know that goats are NOT grazers, they are browsers. The difference?? Grazers will eat grass. Browsers won’t eat grass, they will search out variety. They won’t just eat one thing, they like to pick and choose different weeds and brush. This is why goats are often used to help clear acreage. So what’s a little 1/3 acre homestead like ours to do?
Turn the lawn into a goat pasture.
What?! Yep. I did some searching and came across a company that sells deer plot seed mixes. Well, wouldn’t ya know, they sell a mix for goats too! And, as if this isn’t exciting enough…they are non-gmo! It’s this little crunchy homesteader’s dream come true. The mix I’ve purchased has equal parts alfalfa, chicory, medium red clover, white ladino clover, dutch white clover and perennial ryegrass. Plenty of variety to keep our mini dairy goats happy…I hope!
So what’s our plan? There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning out a pasture. When to seed, how to seed, what to seed, when to fertilize, etc. From what I could find, the generally preferred method is to use herbicide and kill off whatever you’ve currently got growing, and then till and spread new seed. Well, that method just ain’t gonna fly around here. It’s toxic, it’s expensive, and it’s time consuming. No thank you!
A little more research and I discovered a method that is just perfect for our situation – it’s call over-seeding. Here’s a basic run down,
- Do some ‘gentle’ tilling just to loosen the soil, but not completely rip out the current vegetation.
- Spread your seed over the freshly loosened soil.
- Roll the pasture to help press the seed into contact with the soil. An alternative method is to put livestock out onto the over-seeded pasture for a few days. Their hooves will do that job for you. My livestock of choice will be my children. Ha! Seriously, we’ll probably invite some friends over and play frisbee and let our children run all over the yard. I think that should do the trick! Perk of small scale farming.
We’re going to use one of these handy little contraptions to spread the seed mix all over our yard (front and back) at the end of this month. Late summer/early fall is the best time in our area to seed a lawn – check your local extension to see details for your area. We’ll be monitoring the soil moisture the first 6 or so weeks if it doesn’t rain regularly, and then hopefully by spring it should be pretty well established. We may need to do another over-seeding in early spring, but we’re just gonna have to wait and see how it’s going at that point.
In order to keep the pasture healthy, we’ll be experimenting with rotational grazing. Hopefully we won’t need to mow the yard very often! When we do mow the lawn though, we’re going to bag the clippings and feed it fresh to all the livestock (chickens, rabbits, and goats should all love this mix). I’m also going to experiment with making our own hay from it. We’ll see how that goes, I’m excited to try it out!
It all starts with some tiny seeds! So cool.