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The weather at this time of year is not exactly the greatest. And most of us have been feeding to the goats the best hay we could find last summer. But no matter how good the hay, it always seems that the hair coats are always a little rougher and less shiny than we might like. I take this to mean that a richer feed ration is in order. And Mother Nature always seems to know more than do I. So I always try to get the girls out onto pasture as soon and as often as I possibly can. The ladies always seem to slick right up. And the exercise has to do them great good. They're fat with kid and I don't want them lying about. They'll have a much easier time kidding if they trot around harvesting some chow. And my pocketbook will be much happier for a number of reasons. I'll feed less hay, thus cutting back on expenses, and if the gals are healthier, there will be less vet bills. Also, I will handle less manure and waste hay, so I'll have less work. This is good - right?

Since I only have 5 acres, I have to graze semi-intensively. So I've divided the land into several different enclosed pens. In Tennessee, we have a good growing season for almost all year. In the summer, we can grow alfalfa, orchard grass, oats, bermuda. And in the winter, we can plant Marshall ryegrass, which will do quite nicely during the Winter. The goats like to munch down on the fresh "hay". And I don't have to cut or bale the stuff. The girls do it for me. I'm also fortunate to have a wooded area on the back of my property so that the girls can munch on a variety of weeds and wild yummos. You don't need to have a big investment in planting tools to create a variety of nutricious pastures. All I use is a broadcast spreader. When I think we're about to have a good rain, I'm out in a pen spreading the desired seed. I use about three times the recommended amount of seed so that I still get a nice stand of hay even with the chickens out there licking their chops. Actually, I try to sew seed at night so that the hay gets a chance to come up before the chickens figure out that the area was seeded. I let the seed germanate and grow, and then let the goats in to munch.

There are lots of advantages to this intensive grazing. I've alluded to some. Cattle dairymen report better feet and legs, longer lives, improved somatic cell counts, less matitis, and more heat tolerance than confined dairy cattle. I would suspect that the same would hold true for dairy goats. Since the cleanest place for your animals to recline is probably in the pasture (as opposed to the heavily used barn), you see the improvement in overall udder health. Another benefit of grazing is that the animals will eat a much broader range of plants, hence increasing the number of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. If we provide all the hay and chow, we greatly limit the nutrition provided our cherubs.

So give it a go. Kick your charges out of the barn. Mine will stay in the barn all the time if I let them. Sew a little special grass for them. Let them munch in the woods if you are lucky enough to have a wooded area. Let them harvest the Fall leaves. Let your old herd queen teach the youngsters the ropes, as it were. Soon they will be dining on a wide variety of nutricious plants. They'll pick what they need. Darned if I know how they know, but they do. Your animals will be healthier for it.


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Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest