Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sustainability Using Goats On The Homestead

By Laura Campbell

"Back to the land!' is the war cry of those who want to drop out of modern life. Instead of working nine to five and earning 'a good living', they want to live the good life and make it pay for itself. Five acres of land can support a family, if you do it right. A lot of small farmers know that sustainability using goats really is possible.

The goat is a versatile animal. It can provide meat and milk, is gentle enough for even transplanted city folks to handle, and it's small size means that it can be kept in a small barn lot. It requires only a small amount of feed. Two good milk goats can give enough milk for a family.

Cows need ample pasture, but a goat actually prefers weeds and brush. These browsing animals like to take a mouthful here and another one there, trying almost every green thing it finds. They can be kept on hay, but this is more expensive than letting them eat the weeds that are free. Letting them tidy up fencerows and roadsides saves manpower, too. Why mow or weed-eat when the goat will do it?

Of course, you'll need to provide hay during the winter and grain if you expect to get a lot of milk. It's still true that a goat is much more economical then a cow. The only thing that you can't do with goat's milk is make butter; there's not a lot of cream in goat's milk and what cream there is doesn't separate out like the bovine kind.

Your milk goats can also clear the land for you. A temporary electric fence thrown up around a weedy lot will keep them confined, and they will quickly clear it out, even if there are rocks or down trees that would defeat a mower. You can also tie them out on a picket string. Just be careful that they can get out of the hot sun, since they are prone to heat stroke, and make sure they have water.

If you don't want to fool with milking, you can still raise goats for meat or use them for clearing. You won't get a lot of meat from a goat, but many families can't use up a whole beef cow. If you also raise chicken or rabbits, you'll fill your freezer with no trouble.

A goat will have one or two babies every time it's bred. It's not always necessary to breed every year; a good milker will often keep on going for two years or longer after it's had babies. The unpasteurized milk is considered more digestible than that of a cow, and it has medicinal properties, too. Many European cultures have used goatsmilk as a wound dressing and as a nourishing food for invalids.

Goats are fun to raise. They can be very affectionate. A family can keep a few chickens, a few goats, and a vegetable garden and make out just fine. Their 'barn' can be a shed, and even young children can handle most of the chores. The goat should definitely be part of a plan to live off the land.

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