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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all I'm brand new here and I've looked, but if this has been answered already sorry for asking twice. Oh and any typos I'm blaming on one of my new alpines I'm sitting in the middle of the woods with my heard yping this and my 3 week old doeling is being extra lovable (pesky).

I have 10 does and 12 kids right now. They are a mix of angora, Nigerian dwarf and the three newest are the alpines. All of them had only known a barn and small paddocks with little to no opportunity to forage before I got them. I have 5 acres of dense Forrest and wetlands. There is plenty to eat out there and I've slowly been carving it up into 1/4ish acre fenced areas.

I dont call them pastures because there is very little grass. It's all brush and let me tell you its dense. It takes me several days with a chain saw and brush cutter just to clear a path to put up a few hundred feet of fence.

Here is a cleared section.

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And before me or thr goats have gotten to it.
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My problem is the goats will stand at the gate where it is picked bare and cry and be hungry. If I drive them back in a bit deeper they'll eat but within 10 minutes they are constantly trying to get past me so they can cry at the gate.

I dont have the time to stand out with them all day. Who does?

To answer some prelim questions. We are milking the moms in the mornings. Next week we start weaning and twice a day milking. They get some beat and alfalfa pellets on the milk stand and only a small amount of hay at night.

The babies are all round and fat and growing but the moms are skinnier than I'd like.

Do I need to chop up the pastures small and rotate more frequently? My goal is to get to 2 week rotations in 8 pastures. But right now they are spending about 6 weeks in only 3 (I'm finally finishing number 4 tomorrow)

Is there some other way to train them to forage? I could commit more time to them during the day if I new it was only going to be for a few weeks.

Any other tips or advice?

Thanks.
 

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Hmm, this is a bit strange. A goat who doesn't eat in sight. Need to get me some of them! Honestly, I would just close them in there and get out of sight. Some of mine will occasionally want to get back in the main pen even though there is nothing to eat. After about an hour they give up and go eat. Maybe you could bring some grain out there put a couple piles as far away from the gate as you can. While they are eating it make a run for it and get out of sight and watch from a distance to see what they do. If not all you can do I guess would be to go out there every day with them. Stay until they go back in. Hopefully every day they will stay longer and realize how much goodies you have given them to eat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm not giving them any grain for several reasons.

Mostly because of the reading I've done that talks about how grain stunts rumen development and they never learn to feed themselves on forage.

Because a large part of why we started homesteading was to get away from soy and corn fed meat.

I cant find any local GRAIN suppliers it's all processed feed or pellets and those have a large percentage of corn and soy.

As far as the trick of putting a pile of feed back farther in. I have done that with the alfalfa pellets. And I also give them produce occasionally (costo gives me about 4000lbs a week of waste produce most of that goes to the worms/compost, but the good stuff goes to the ducks and goats)

Anyways the goats will swarm the treats... but as soon as it's gone they are back at the gate...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Two hunches I've had and I'd love feedback...

1. I'm afraid I may not be rotating pastures often enough and they are getting bored... grass is greener and all that.

2. I have one goat in particular that is the worst about not foraging and she is also the loudest screamer (I even had to resort to a dog bark collar with minimal success)... being herd animals could sue be causing the rest to come back to the herd before they are done browsing?
 

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I don't have land of my own, so I tether my goats on neighboring parcels. If I stay with the goats, they will cry and try to get to me. If I walk away and watch from a distance, hidden from them, all is good. You have to ignore the cries and let them learn to forage.
 
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I agree with dwarf dad and this is how I'd proceed. They don't know how to be away and foraging for themselves and this will take time, because you don't have an experience leader to teach them.

Hunger is going to have to come into play here.

For several nights, mix the hay you give at night with branches and leaves. Don't let them have any hay during the day at all, and increase the ratio of browse to hay every night.

In the morning, turn them out to browse, and do not respond to their pleas.

Be sure they have water and a salt block where they are sent to forage, away from the gate.

Don't let them manipulate you into feeding them.

Letting them go to different areas more often is fine, as they learn how to be goats.
 

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I'm not giving them any grain for several reasons.

Mostly because of the reading I've done that talks about how grain stunts rumen development and they never learn to feed themselves on forage.

Because a large part of why we started homesteading was to get away from soy and corn fed meat.

I cant find any local GRAIN suppliers it's all processed feed or pellets and those have a large percentage of corn and soy.

As far as the trick of putting a pile of feed back farther in. I have done that with the alfalfa pellets. And I also give them produce occasionally (costo gives me about 4000lbs a week of waste produce most of that goes to the worms/compost, but the good stuff goes to the ducks and goats)

Anyways the goats will swarm the treats... but as soon as it's gone they are back at the gate...
Great reasoning! Guess I should have been more specific. By grain I meant the alfalfa pellets/beet pellets whichever is their favorite. I refer to anything in pelleted form as "grains" even though they are not actual grains. Dwarf Dad had some great suggestion! Put some in their hay feeder and get out of their sight when they are supposed to be eating eventually they will forget and start to eat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hmmm I was afraid of this... I've done all of that. :D the one noisy one starts up at about 4:30 and will scream until about 7ish when I let em up to the barn.

I've put branches in the feeder. I've stood out and pulled branches or brush for them. I put them out at 8 right after milking (where they get a few handfuls of pellets mixed with alfalfa hay to keep them busy while they are milked) and they stay out all day (unless the weather is miserable) while I'm around and working on the property I'm mostly out of sight. The first several months I would go out several times a day to show them around and get them to start eating. The first month this was necessary they'd literally stand in the middle of a full green bush not eat and cry to go in the barn to have hay... we're going on 7 months.

Now granted I've made progress I'm down to 2 bales of hay a month, which is quit a bit less than I needed at first. And the babies all seem to be foraging way better than the moms (and they aren't fully weaned yet).

They do have access to water, I haven't put salt out for them I may need to try that.

I guess the question is how hungry /skinny do I need to be willing to let them get, and is my goal of getting them to 100% forage realistic?
 

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is my goal of getting them to 100% forage realistic?
Probably not. Once you move them on your younger herd that has been raised with foraging will take you further to that goal.
I guess the question is how hungry /skinny do I need to be willing to let them get,
Only you know that answer. Too far and they'll dry up. Even further they won't be able to carry babies.
I haven't put salt out for them
You haven't put salt out at all? Or you don't have salt for them when they are out foraging?

Do you have loose minerals for them in the barn? I had assumed you did, but that isn't something I should have assumed.
the one noisy one starts up at about 4:30 and will scream until about 7ish
Some goats are more devoted to what they see as the straight and narrow path to righteousness and that is what they will cling to. Depending upon her other qualities, that one may be one of the first you decide to let go to a new realm or home.

If you decide to replace her, consider buying from a breeder who practices the same type of management you need to give. In other words, look for a goat that has your standards, including knowing how to forage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks, Mariarose, yeah I've been kinda coming to the conclusion that this whole first generation may need to get replaced by babies that were raised on forage.

And I misspoke about the salt. They all have access to free choice minerals and soda in the barn. I just hadn't thought of putting a salt block out in the fenced areas with them.

As for the noisy one I've already decided to sell/freezer camp her my wife says she's a pain to milk and doesn't produce much either. We're just waiting to wean her baby and she's gone. It's a shame she's a pretty all white but basically only good as a pampered pet. Not what I need.
 

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It sounds like you have been doing all you can, up to the culling. Good luck with the next generation. We started out with kids, so they more or less learned with us.
 
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This is something that was my biggest pet peeve when I was starting to purchase goats for my herd and one I NEVER even thought to think about being a factor when I was buying. But you are a bit more in a hard spot because you are milking. I just went with tough love. If they wanted to stand around crying for food have at it but as long as there was feed to go out and find I wasn’t doing anything. Some of them took a LONG time to figure it out. What I always do though is when they come in at night is they would get their snack of hay but not a whole lot. Just enough to bring them in, fill their tummies up but will be totally gone by morning when I let them back out. That way they didn’t think that the feeder just constantly had good stuff in it all the time and they are leaving it for feed that they consider to not be as good. Also I never fully block them out of the feeders. The gate is always open. If they want to come home in the middle of the day they can and they will see nope still nothing in there. I’m not sure if your set up allows you to do that but maybe that will help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I had left the barn open with empty feeders for my first pasture. But it is picked BARE. It needs several months to recover... due to needing to clear wild land by chain saw I had no choice but to let them over forage it while I spent time fencing other places. So I really cant let them back in there.

And yeah I really do need to keep em fat enough to keep milking.

Here's another wrinkle to add to this the last several days they have been a lot more difficult to drive back to the barn. They all want to stop and forage on the way back because they are hungry because they spent the last 4 hours standing 20 feet away from the exact same stuff not eating crying at the gate.

I'm standing here on a Sunday morning watching them be piranhas on the side of the path 20ft away from the gate I'd like them to be behind
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And trust me 50 feet behind that gate looks identical to what they are swarming in right now. But if I herd them back there they will stand in the middle of the brush and look offended at me.

So more and more I'm thinking this may be a problem of the grass being greener. And that I just need to rotate them more frequently.

Well i was planining on doing more garden beds this week and finishing up more fencing the week following. Looks like those priorities need to get swapped.
 

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If your way of life, or economic/food security depend upon more garden space, then do the garden space. The goats will just have to deal.

If by "soda" you mean baking soda, take that away. They don't need it, the sodium will interfere with their intake of other minerals, and you giving it will interfere with their ability to make their natural buffering compounds as they chew their cud. If you were giving a great deal of grain/concentrates, then I'd give different, more nuanced advice. But you aren't.

They do need salt, which has more chemical benefits than the baking soda does. Were this my herd, I'd not put the salt lick in the barn, but only in the browse area, away from the gate, and lead them to it when you put them out. As the Baking Soda leaves their system, they'll want the salt and be willing to move away from the gate for it.

Before my herd was closed, I would enjoy watching a new goat learn from the other goats how to forage. Eventually they learned, the herd would leave them behind and they did not like that, because I steadfastedly refused to become their company/entertainment, and they'd get hungry.

But you don't have that working for you. People do not realize how important habit and conditioning are for successful goat husbandry.

And inability to accept change really can happen with goats.

The one you are most unhappy with, she can teach the others to follow her in her demands... if you give in to her at all...

If you have determined that she should not stay in your herd for other reasons, I'd move her along sooner rather than later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ok I'd heard some others talk about not needing baking soda, but that was a great explanation. I will give that a try.

So would you do free choice minerals in the barn at night, and a salt block in the pasture? Or only in the pasture.

My economics allow another year or two before food security off the land is a realistic goal. So the infrastructure for the goats can be moved up the to-do list.

As for the trouble maker, even though she's not the heard leader I've been suspecting that she's calling the others back before they are done browsing. Glad to see that suspicion may in fact be well founded. The wife is listing her for sale as a pet in 2 weeks (we're hoping her baby is weaned by then) and she's got 2 weeks after that before she goes to freezer camp. Honestly she's so much trouble I'm debating weather I can even sell her in good conscience.
 

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She may be a great producer for someone who needs a milk goat for a more confined space and who is willing to bring her all her nutrition. I can't make that decision for you, but there are many reasons to want goats and many ways to keep them.

She's your headache, only you (and your family of course) can make a decision like that. Food for yourselves is a totally legit end for her, and you know the end will be quick and merciful.

I'd give the minerals in the barn, protected from the weather, and the salt blocks out in the daytime areas to make them realize good things are out there.

There is a for sale forum here on this site.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hmm that's a good thought. This goat was the favorite of the previous owner who liked how she milked... maybe she's a good goat for someone willing to spoil her and throw loads of grain to her.
 

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As I said, there are all kinds of ways and reasons to keep goats. This decision is completely up to you, but as I said, I would not put it off long, because of the effect on others in your herd.

Remember, as you clear and fence, to put branches and leaves in the hay feeder for night time accessibility (mixed with hay)
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well then while we're on the topic what steps can I take to ensure the next generation grows up as good foragers? Do I need to just sepperate the entire first generation (or at least the laziest eaters?)

How can I ensure that the new babies aren't being taught bad habits by their moms?
 
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