Goats for weed control

I am “friends” with Carolina Noya of Devil Tower/Campstool Ranch meat goats in Wyoming on Facebook, so was notified when she shared a link to a video that PBS has done on goats for weed control. This is a very informative video, and I enjoyed watching the goats and hearing the information that the goat owners imparted.

Goats are really amazing animals and I enjoy being with my little crew of ten. I hope that things will work out so that I can bring in more goats to  my little ranch next spring and start working more on my neighboring ranches to help control the invasive weed growth that is on their acreage.

Here is the link to the video if you would enjoy watching it: Goats Eat Weeds

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Welsh Harlequin Ducks

p1180674I can’t believe I haven’t already posted something on my beautiful Welsh Harlequin Ducks! (Follow the link to learn more about this beautiful breed of duck.) I picked up my first three a year ago in November to help keep my lonely Khaki Campbell girl company. I had lost the Khaki Campbell drake and 2 hens over the late summer and early fall season, so she was the only duck left. I had had them for several years, so it was pretty sad to not have them hanging around anymore. And the remaining girl was pretty lost without other ducks. Chickens just didn’t quite cut it with her.

In one of the local towns, they hold a poultry swap the first of the month, so I headed down with some extra chickens I had and wanted to sell, with a vague plan of picking up some ducks if possible. While there, I sold my chickens and also met up with a great lady that had a trio of the Welsh Harlequin Ducks available. Next thing I know, I am driving home with new ducks.

When I first brought them home, I put them in a small enclosure so they would get used to their home and also allowed the resident duck access to them so she could meet her new duck companions. After a few days, I let them loose to wander around the place. All worked out well, and they have now been here for a little over a year.

In the spring, one of the hens tried to hatch out some eggs, but since she didn’t start until there were quite a few laid and it was super cold, none of them hatched. I was able to pick up a few from the same lady that I had bought the original three from, hoping for more hens, but of course both are boys. Sigh… I put them in with the little hen that had tried so valiantly to hatch the eggs, hoping she would bond with them so that when they were old enough, I could let them out with the rest of the ducks and they would stay together and protect the little ones.

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I did pick up a cute little girl later on in the summer, but she is about half the size of the other girls and is colored just a little different, so I suspect that she is not purebred. I’m not sure that I should keep her, as I would have no way of knowing who the mom is to any ducklings, and I wouldn’t really want to sell them as purebred Welsh Harlequins. They could easily end up being really small instead of the medium meat bird size that they are supposed to be. Not a good plan.  A bit of a dilemma, as I really like her looks.

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I am considering the purchase of new birds from a reputable breeder in Oregon, as I need more girls. I will probably have to sell off two of the drakes, as 3 drakes to 4 hens is not a good ratio! The only problem is that they rarely sex the ducklings, so I may end up with more drakes and no new hens.  A risk I will have to take, as I do want more girls. I really love the looks of the Welsh Harlequin and would enjoy getting involved a bit with the raising and breeding of this breed, as it is on the Watch List according to the American Livestock Conservancy. The “Watch” designation is not as serious as Threatened or Critical, but they still are a more uncommon breed, and I believe in helping to preserve the more uncommon breeds if I can.

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Updates on goat barn!

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Finally got a trough built inside my goat shelter. I have it so it is actually hanging on the wall on the other side where my feed area is, but they can access it from their stall. It isn’t perfect and I need to raise part of it up a bit so they can reach the hay more easily, but I am a bit paranoid about them getting into the feed area after their catlike escape through really small holes earlier this year!

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As only the boss goats seem to eat out of it, I am looking at building a hay rack on the other side of the stall so the lower ranking goats can eat, hopefully! They do stick their heads through where I had planned to put the mineral blocks and eat hay I put there, but it is in a corner and not really safe or efficient.

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I need to look at the GoatSpot forum and see if I can find something there that might work for my situation. I do know I want something where they can access the hay easily enough without too much trouble. Just have to figure out what will work out best for my particular set up.

Something that I would really love to figure out is how to maintain the huge waste of hay that seem to be notorious for goats! I rake up about a bale a week I think where their outside hay feeder is. I’m thinking of getting a little miniature horse or something to help clean it up so it doesn’t just pile up under and around the feeder. LOL!  On the one hand, it is building a nice cushy spot for them to hang out on, and I’m thinking I will spread it out in my “garden” area to help control the ridiculous weed growth, but I really hate seeing all that hay going to waste. So more research is due for me over the next months!

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Venturing out on our first off property trip

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Bummer! I had this all written, but lost it. Ugh! Sooo, I will try again. I will just have to remember to hit “Save Draft” numerous times as I go!

Anyhow, I have been making short forays out into our pasture with my little herd of goats over the last week or so. Not all planned, but when they are out and about and see me with the dogs in the field, they think that they should be following too! I had texted my neighbor and let him know that I would be venturing out onto his field sometime when the weather and time permitted and had vague plans of taking them this weekend. But I had a long list of things to do, (still undone!) and wasn’t really planning on taking them today. But they had other plans, as they were hanging out in front of my house when I was going to take the dogs for their morning walk. So off we went, 8 dogs, 10 goats, and me!

It is rather difficult to walk in a straight line when the goats are milling around you and sometimes surging forward, sometimes stopping, just because. But we made it down to the fence line and we went through without any tripping on my part and without losing any of the goats. I did kinda get hung up on the barbed wire fence, but with the boys’ help, I made it through and we headed out into the neighboring field.

The boys weren’t too impressed with the food choices at the fence line, only nibbling and tasting here and there. This field is not watered at all, so the only thing that grows is native plants and sagebrush for the most part. Oh, and lots of Russian Knapweed. Ugh! So I headed towards the gully where there are some Russian Olive trees and some Tamarisk. They enjoyed the few leaves left on the Russian Olive but didn’t touch the Tamarisk. Bummer, as it is a noxious weed tree and I am hoping that the goats will take it on. Maybe sometime later, like in the spring when it starts to leaf out, it will taste good to them.

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They sampled a bit here and a bit there, but as they are browsers and not grazers, they didn’t hang around any one plant too long. They all did gather around a little juniper tree and munched on it for a minute or two, but then grew bored and decided to explore a bit down the gully.

Here is a video that I took of our first venture off of our property.

Probably the wrong time of year to start taking them for walks, but it is good for them to learn to stay with me and go where I go. I need to figure out how to get them across the field, across the road and through the neighbors ranchyard to his field where a lot of coyote willow is growing. It is so darn thick that it makes it almost impossible to get through to find the ditch to irrigate from. Hoping that if I am still here with my goats in the springtime that I can walk them down there and see how they do on it. Although I don’t expect them to make a big dent in it at first, if they continue to eat it down, I think it will set the plants back to a point where they will die off. We will see. If they can do well there, then I can get them to munch on the willows in other areas of his acreage that is in the way of the irrigation pipes and just really needs to be controlled and removed.

I might need to get a few more goats to really do much, but at least my little herd of 10 will be a good start for me. As I mentioned, if I stay here, I will be exploring the goat and weed control business on some of the neighboring ranches. But in order to do it justice, I will need a lot more goats.

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One more new goat!

p1190024A few weeks ago I posted on one of the local agriculture Facebook groups that I belong to that I was looking for some goats, preferably wethers. A young gentleman contacted me and said he had two doelings available. In our conversations, I found out that he is a hard working young man who is buying and selling goats so that he can participate on his school football team. Although I wanted to help him out, wasn’t comfortable with bringing in two young girls with a bunch of boys, so I told him I had better pass this time. Later on in the week, he contacted me again to let me know that he had a wether available. I asked for a few pictures and recognized the goat as one that I was going to purchase from another lady.  When I told her I couldn’t make it on the day that I had originally planned on, and for her to give me a call, she never contacted me, but instead, sold him to this young gentleman. Ah well, some people….but since I had originally planned on purchasing him anyway, I let the fellow know that I would come down and pick him up this weekend.

As he didn’t come with a name, I have decided to call him Gideon. I don’t expect him to really live up to his name, but as it is rumored that he came from a neglectful and abusive home, I think he would like a strong name. He is still a very young goat, and I have no idea what his breed is,  but he’s a good looking goat, and he’s a goat, so he’ll suit my plans just fine. He let me approach him and pet him, he even nibbled some treats out of my hand, so I think he will be easy to work with once he gets to know me. I just hope the rest of the pack doesn’t pick on him too much. I am hoping that maybe he and the other lone goat, Snickers,  will buddy up and hang out together. I did see him handle himself very well with the Nigerians who tried to boss him around, although Dawg did manage to get some good hits in. Time will tell.

I have discovered that my goats are a bit racist. While they seem to put up with each other, the four original boys, the Saanen/Nubian crosses, prefer not to hang out with the Nigerians, and the Nigerians, in turn, are very independent from the four white boys. I am sure it is in part that each group was raised together, and the Nigerians are older, being about a year and a half old. Little Snickers, the chocolate and light caramel boy kinda hangs out on the fringes. They are getting better with each other, so I am hoping that in time, they will at least get along well enough to do the job they are hired for. Unfortunately, at this time, if I let the whole herd out together to graze, the Nigerians prefer to stay away from the others and look for ways to escape. I can’t really have that, so I am working on training them to come when I say “goat” by offering them some goat treats every time they come to me when I say “goat.” Will see how that works out!

Here is a video of the crew…As well as some pictures of the group hanging out in their outdoor pen.

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Goat pictures in the evening

Happened to have my camera with me one evening when I had the goats out so I thought I would play around with some shots, since it was such a gorgeous day. (Please be polite and if you would like to use any of them, contact me first!)

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A goat named Dawg

I am now the proud owner of a goat named Dawg as well as a goat named Inu. Inu being the  Japanese word for dog, so he fits in well with Dawg. They are both Nigerian Dwarf goats, about a year and a half old now. Cute little chubby guys, especially compared to my Saanen/Nubian cross boys. They came from the same place and are, I believe, brothers. I have added them to my crew of 4 other goats, along with another young goat who I will probably name Snickers. He is a dark chocolate and caramel color. I think he will be quite handsome when he grows up, as he’s just a baby now.

Interesting watching the herd dynamics.  Right now I would swear my herd are racists. The Saanen/Nubian cross and the Alpine/Nubian cross hang out together, although the little guy is picked on by the bigger boys, and the two Nigerians hang out together away from the others, most of the time, when I have them out. Dawg seems to be the leader of the two, and littler Inu follows him around. Dawg also protects him, not that there is much pushing and shoving, but when he thinks there is a reason to protect him, he stands up to the job. I hope they learn to get along as a goat family in time.

I haven’t had the chance, or the know how to be honest, to be able to put up my goat “proof” fence, so there are a lot of holes in the current fence that a goat can easily waltz through. For the most part, there is plenty of tall plants that the goats can browse, so my crew don’t seem to be interested yet in leaving. Yesterday I left them out all day, as I don’t like leaving them in the pen for that long. The guys living in the other house said sure, they would be more than happy to keep an eye on them for me while I’m at work. When I returned home, they were all still busily nibbling away, so I went in the house to get something to eat. I had let the dogs out and had seen Chance and Colt heading towards the goats, but didn’t think anything of it. A few minutes later I heard some distressed goat baaaaing. Thinking that one of the goats was being attacked by the dogs or was stuck, I dropped my pizza slice and ran out the door. One of the guys from next door was just starting to call for me and as I ran around my truck, I saw my two Nigerians had escaped and were running around loose in the driveway. Whew! Ok, nothing too bad, just have to wrangle the little guys and get them back into the fenced area. While Neil made sure they didn’t go any further out the driveway, the dogs and I attempted to herd them back towards the pasture. After a half a minute or so of that, I saw it wasn’t going to work, so I got down on my hands and knees and talked to the boys. They both let me pet them, so I slipped Tucker’s collar off and slid it onto Dawg. Dawg didn’t want to follow me, so I picked him up to carry him to the pasture.  Ugh! He weighs a ton! I am proud to say that I got him about half way before having to put him down. With Neil’s help, we did manage to get the duo back into the pasture. The other goats came a runnin’, so I said ok kids, all of you back into your pen. You’ve been out all day, so you can rest now. Yup, definitely need to fix the fence!

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Goat weed mitigation venture

Thomas, my new Saanen/Nubian cross wether

Thomas, my new Saanen/Nubian cross wether

It has been a long time since  I have posted anything here on my ranch blog. Mostly because there really hadn’t been anything happening. Since we sold off the cows, it had been pretty darn quiet around the ranch. But this past summer has turned out to be a new challenge, one that I was not even almost expecting. For those who may follow my Rat Race Rat Terrier blog, you may have seen that my husband passed away quite unexpectedly the end of May. Needless to say, that really tossed my life around for a bit. But I have been blessed with good fortune, and am able to stay here on the ranch with all the critters.

Without going into boring details, I have found that I am in need of some sort of income. For many years I have had an idea of having goats for weed control in the back of my mind. So, having nothing better to do with my time, Ha!, I am now the proud owner of four little Saanen/Nubian cross wethers. They will be tested out around my house, as this year I am specializing in propagating weeds instead of a nice vegetable garden. That gives them lots of places to prove their worth. I will be adding to the herd as I go, so hopefully will have some new faces off and on and new kids to get to know. I’ll be posting pictures of the new crew as soon as they arrive. Looking forward to adding them in!

Here is a video of the four boys in my “garden.” As you can see, it is in desperate need of some weeding. Video of goats in garden

The long term goal will be to have two separate herds of goats. One smaller herd that are all people oriented and follow their people around like big dogs. This herd will be for maintaining weeds around my place as well as going to residential, business and industrial places to work on weed control. I want them to be people friendly so that they can interact with the home owners and employees of the businesses. Would be great for advertising and getting the word out!

The other herd will be much larger and will be run on the local ranches and forest service lands for weed control. They will either run with the cows, or be put on the fields beforehand to help take out the weeds that are poisonous to cattle. (Goats are amazing in that they can eat poisonous plants that the cattle can not. In some areas, especially Texas, it is becoming very common to run goats first, then put the cows in. )

I am planning on using registered, purebred Spanish Goats for my larger herd. They are on the Watch list on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy website. I am also very interested in the

Moving day for my chicks and poults

As the chicks and poults were outgrowing their home in the stock tank, I have moved them into a bit larger area where I will keep them until they are big enough to not slip through the fencing in the outdoor courtyard. Which I think will be in about two weeks.

Of the poults that I ordered from Ideal Poultry, I did lose one that didn’t look good from the start. It’s head was a bit crooked and one eye didn’t look right. I had thought it was one of the White Leghorns, but it ended up being on of the Buff Orpingtons instead. I am a bit bummed, as I really like the Buffs, but hopefully I can pick some up next spring. The Narragansett Turkey poults are doing well.

In the meantime, we are hatching out about a dozen eggs, hopefully, that I collected from our current survivor hens. We decided that since they seem to be the ones that are surviving both the coyotes and the puppies, they must have some excellent survival skills, or just plain good luck. But since some have survived several years of being free range, I think they deserve to be continued on. We’ll see how it goes. Heck, who knows. Maybe I will start my own breed! Ha, right!

Anyway, here’s the video for anyone who wants to see my little flock.

 

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Damage to gate by bull

Ok, somebody has got to go away. Reno has slowly destroyed one of our gates. It needed replacing, so maybe I should thank him for ripping it out for me, but I would have like to have done it on my schedule, not his. Dratted bull!

Our neighbors have some Longhorn cattle and a bull, so Reno thinks he should be with them and our little herd. Needless to say, the neighbors aren’t too crazy about that, but no matter how the fence between is fixed, Reno goes through it like it doesn’t exist.

So, hopefully, he is going home. We really just don’t have a place to keep him right now

Here’s a few snapshots of the now defunct gate…

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