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Introduction & Help me think this through? Adding goats to our family?

Discussion in 'Everything Else Goats' started by seachick, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. Jun 1, 2010
    seachick

    seachick Chillin' with the herd

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    Hi!

    We recently moved to about an acre in a semi-rural community in southern Maine. Our direct neighborhood is fairly dense and "neighborhood-y", though, so we've been careful to keep our agricultural pursuits as inoffensive to the community as possible. So far we've had only positive feedback about our 1000 sf organic garden and 9 laying hens.

    When we were looking at houses, they were mostly more rural than this, and the idea was to get dairy goats and maybe a cow as well. But this house just spoke to us and seemed the best deal, and we thought we'd only be living here a couple years, anyway. Well, the economy has changed our plans, and we'll definitely be living here at least 4 more years. So, now we have to either postpone our dream of goats for quite a while, or figure out if its feasible to do here....

    We done some research, both on line and in various Storey books, but still not sure what to believe. I'm hoping some of you more experienced folks (Hi, Patandchickens!) might be able to help us think this through and see if it's something we can -or should- pursue...

    Feasibility considerations, concerns and questions:

    1) Confinement? We'd need to keep them VERY well contained, so they did not get into neighbors manicured landscaping or cause conflicts with the numerous neighborhood dogs. How do-able is that?

    2) Disturbing the neighbors??? We're technically not zoned for farm animals, just "household pets"... However, the code enforcement officer told us he'd consider our small flock of chickens "pets" since we named them all :) so I think we could probably be OK with 2 or 3 dwarfs if we kept them in a cute barn and they did not cause the neighbors ANY problems. So, aside from secure fencing, are there any other issues you can think of that would be a problem? Smell, noise?

    3) Pasture area: Our back yard is half grass and half wooded, low area that is very swampy in spring, and filled with japanese knotweed in summer. I think we'd have two options: one would be to fence in a larger area that included the swampy forested area as well as the part of the lawn where the animals' buildings are, and let the chickens and goats roam that area. The other would be to continue to let the chickens free-range on the majority of the yard (we have a chicken-proof but not goat-proof fence down in the woods to keep them out of the neighbors properties) and then to build a separate, smaller "paddock" for the goats. I think we could fit something about 25' x 40'. Would either one work well enough?

    4) Breed? We want goats as pets/companions, and for milk. Ideally I'd like not to have to buy milk for drinking and coffee for a good part of the year, and also to try making cheese, soap, etc. Given the situation described, what breed would you recommend?
    Originally (before we moved into THIS house) I'd wanted medium or full-sized dairy goats, probably several LaMancha or perhaps Oberhasli. But- now I don't think we have the space for those, even 2 of them (do you?)..... so, now considering Nigerian Dwarfs or Pygmies. However, someone once told me that those are MUCH harder to keep confined, that they are terrific escape artists!

    5) Space! Space-wise......... We have a 12 x 8 shed that is half chicken coop and half storage. Ideally we'd like to build off that structure, however, we could find or build another shed of similar size for dedicated goat barn. (Money's tight and it's got to look "nice" in this neighborhood, so we can't build a big, proper barn.) I'm getting all sorts of conflicting numbers on how much space we'd REALLY need for all activities involved: indoor housing, outdoor paddock, hay/supplies storage, milking, kidding, etc. What do you folks think, let's say for 3 Dwarfs?

    I should probably also mention that this house is an investment for us, a fixer-upper in a rather chi-chi area. So we're also totally renovating the house and landscaping the front yard into a lovely, groomed area. We're doing the backyard as well, just fencing off newly planted areas so the chickens don't dig them up. The veg garden is fenced and if the buyer wants, we'll take the fencing down and seed grass there. I figure we can do the same with the goat area. Leave the shed/barn as a garden shed and take down fencing/reseed with grass (unless the buyer wants a mini-farmstead!)

    So: are we crazy? Should we abandon this dream until we move to a proper farm? What do you guys think??

    Here's a shot looking out into the back yard. The garden is to the left, and the space I'd put a dedicated goat paddock- of we did that- would be to the right, sort of half in the current lawn area, and half going back into the woods. Our property continues about 20' farther to the right than you can see, then goes back down into the woods almost to the blue car (rectangular lot). [​IMG]
     
  2. Jun 1, 2010
    cmjust0

    cmjust0 Loving the herd life

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    I'd make absolutely sure of that before ya did it, and I'd make sure that whatever permission I got was official and couldn't be revoked..

    If you can't get that...I wouldn't do it.
     
  3. Jun 1, 2010
    seachick

    seachick Chillin' with the herd

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    Thanks- yeah, we will. In the last town we lived in, my daughter spent 5 months campaigning the city to let us have chickens. It was a major ordeal! She won, and now a bunch of surrounding cities allow chickens because of her efforts, but it was a long summer :) We didn't even make an offer on this house till we'd talked to both the neighbors and the code enforcement officer in this town, and made sure our chickens would be OK here!
     
  4. Jun 1, 2010
    patandchickens

    patandchickens Overrun with beasties

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    Hi Seachick! Congrats on the move! :)

    Initial disclaimer: I have been around other peoples' goats a bit but never owned them. That said, a couple things to think about:

    -- As well as keeping your goats *in*, your fencing will need to be very good to keep dogs and coyotes *out*. The safest bet would be something on the order of strong 2x4 wire at least 5' high with reliable electric wire at the top and something to digproof it at the bottom. (I recently semi-dig-proofed my sheep paddock by putting an 18" apron of large concrete rubble slabs all around the base... I figure that anything managing to dig in past that will get discouraged enough by discovering the base of the chainlink fence is also buried about 6-12", and hopefully decide to go somewhere else to eat :p)

    -- Goats can be kind of loud. Your neighbors will *for sure* know you have them. Thus, it might be wise to sound them out on this beforehand, if goats are not actually technically permitted.

    -- Sheep are arguably a bit quieter than goats, and there are sheep breeds that give a reasonable quantity of milk (though not as much as a full-sized dairy goat, and not for as many months at a time), so that might be another option to ponder.

    -- Goats (and sheep too) do have a distinctive odor (anyhow their used bedding does), sort of "petting zoo"-ey. If you are doing things right, though, that should not be an issue except right *at* their pen/shelter and wherever you compost used bedding.

    -- If it were me, I'd plan on building a permanent, extremely dog-and-coyote-proof enclosure as big as I could stand. Then after you've had the goats for a while, and lived there a while, you can decide whether you'd be comfortable putting them in less-secure fencing for "pasture" during daytime, or whether that seems too risky and you'd just want to leave them in that enclosure and cut stuff to bring to them to eat.

    -- How much hay storage you need is totally dependant on how often you want to buy hay. It's better to have storage for most of your year's needs so you only have to buy it once -- allowing you to avoid the vicissitudes of seasonal price and supply changes, and ensuring that there are never any undesirable changes in what the animals are eating. But realistically, if you can get friendly with a good hay supplier who will be able to sell you hay out of more or less the same 'lot' for most of the year, and doesn't mind your coming and buying just a coupla bales at a time, you needn't *necessarily* store much at all.

    I don't think you're crazy :) I think it just comes down to whether you can get your neighbors to accept this idea well enough. And although I realize it is easier for people to say "no!" when merely approached with an unpalatable proposal than when they see you are already doing it, on the other hand it would be a shame to spend a buncha money on some serious fencing and THEN discover you can't have goats.

    As an aside, if you could set the goat area up in such a way that it had a vague air of "fancy dog kennels" or "tennis court" or something like that, I wonder if that might make it more appealing. Perhaps you might want to figure out what fencing you'd actually do, FIRST, before approaching the neighbors, so you could show them a sample pic or something and reassure them that it would look sufficiently chi-chi for them :)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
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  5. Jun 1, 2010
    seachick

    seachick Chillin' with the herd

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    Thanks, pat.

    Regarding noise and odor, how much worse, do you think, 2 miniature goats would be than 8 hens?

    Regarding fencing: what do you do about electric fencing in wintertime? Doesn't the snow make them ineffective? and the area I'd be putting the fence gets a lot of weed growth with jewelweed and japanese knotweed... pretty much impossible to keep weed-free. Wouldn't that, too, render the fence ineffective (sorry- no experience with electric fencing as yet!) I hadn't considered predators. Our hens free range during the day with (knock on wood) no problems but of course we lock them up securely at night. is it different with goats?

    If we do this, we'll either find (on Craigslist and rehab) or build a cute shed. (I'm thinking maybe 10x12 would be enough to house 2 mini goats full-time, with an extra stall and a little extra space for kids (??) plus an area for hay storage, feed storage, milking stand..) It would be all cute and shingled, and basically be a nice garden shed for someone else, with the stalls removed and the goat doors closed up. In other words, a structure that will enhance the property rather than detract. It'll be down by my garden, so I'll probably store garden stuff there as well. Then the pen area could be behind the building, back into the woods. Unobtrusive to the neighbors, for the most part. Costly, though. I'm figuring about $2500 start-up costs, if we do it all purselves (which is all we ever do.) And since we are absolutely broke and need to reshingle the house first, this is a plan for -maybe!- next year or the year after.... I added up hay and rations costs indicated by my Gail Damerow book, and I'm trying to justify it by guessing that -not including start-up costs- we'd be spending about $450 on consumables annually. Which is about what we spend on milk now, so that's not too bad. Plus, I found a Nigerian Dwarf stud advertised on CL for $75/breeding. And bucklings and doelings are going for $100-$250 for the non-super-champion types, so that would help, too.

    Am I right in assuming, if we actually do this and chose a miniature breed, that since Nigerian Dwarfs go into heat all year long, if we had 2 does we could stagger their breedings so that we had no time with NO milk (I was reading about the 2-month rest period.)? Or is there a reason that it would be better to have then kid at the same time? (or, for that matter, to have one doe and one wether or dry doe rather than 2 lactating does?)
     
  6. Jun 1, 2010
    Chirpy

    Chirpy Loving the herd life

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    I would first agree that you need to make absolutely 100 percent sure that you can have the goats. So many people that have been in your situation (word of mouth permission) end up being forced to give up their beloved pets in a few years.

    I have Nigerian Dwarfs and can give some thoughts on them.

    First, mine don't smell... at all. I've never had anyone say that they smell. If their stall/barn is kept clean there should be either no smell or very minimal. Now, having said that.. I didn't see if you live in a humid climate. That could make a big difference.. it's very dry here.

    Electric fences can be the only way to keep some goats in... but most goats will not need an electric fence (especially the smaller breeds). I've only had goats for three years but I've never had any get out during that time. I don't have any bucks at this time; they are often harder to keep fenced, especially during breeding season.

    Predators.. anything the size of or larger than a coyote (dogs included) can kill your Nigi's. Even smaller dogs could do serious damage or kill if in a pack. Absolutely keep them in a secure closed area at night. During the day my goats have free run of our ranch or are in one of two goat areas. If we leave home the Nigis are kept in the chicken run... it has six foot high 2x4 welded wire fencing with chicken wire buried and tied up about 2 feet around the bottom. The other goat area is where my larger breed goats (Alpine and Nubian) are kept. Their fence is 4 feet high chain link with some horse panels making up part of it until we finish the whole area. The Nigi's like to be with the 'big' goats but easily go under the chain link if they so chose.. thus why they aren't allowed to be there when we're not home. As we are finishing a much larger big goat area we are stapling the chain link to 2x4s around the bottom; the goats cannot push under that.

    A 10x12 is more than wonderful for two Nigis. The biggest issue is to make sure that it has four sides with a smaller door so that no moisture (rain and especially snow) can get inside. If they are dry and it's pretty draft free they will be fine.

    If you are serious about milking a Nigi you NEED to research the Nigis in your area and spend the money to get does from solid, proven milking lines. They are tough to milk (those tiny little teats) even when they have great udders and large teats... they are next to impossible to milk when they don't come from good lines. You need to go to a farm and actually milk a few goats before you chose one. If you want kids then make sure you milk their dam and that she comes from good milking lines.

    I stagger our does breedings so that they freshened at different times so we always have a milk supply. It works really well and is especially easy with the Nigis since they can be bred anytime of year. I do not like winter kids born though... I get to uptight about them being born in the middle of a night during a snow storm. We moved one of my Nigis into our laundry room this spring as she went into labor during a snow storm. She and her two kids spent the next three days living there until it was warm enough (to me :) ) to move them back to the barn. Her kids names are Stormie and Blizzard!

    It is your choice if you want two does or one doe and one wether. Either way works great.. it's what you want. You can always have two does and only breed one for a couple years if you want to get into the milking on a scaled down fashion.

    Gotta run... if you have more questions I'll check back here later to see if I can help.
     
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  7. Jun 1, 2010
    Chirpy

    Chirpy Loving the herd life

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    Of course as I was taking my son into town I thought of something else that might be important for your decision on having two does or one doe and one wether. If you are milking a doe she needs to be on good alfalfa hay with some type of grain (I like Klassy goat) and I like to add BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) to it. You do NOT want your wether to be eating those feeds. He should be on a good grass hay with no grain except as an occasional treat. Wethers can get UC (urinary calculi) and it can kill quickly. Does can get it but it's very rare... it's much more likely to happen in a male goat (especially wethers) that's being fed to high of calcium in his diet. Thus, you would need to fed your doe and wether in separate areas. If that's easy for you then a wether is a great companion and friend to both other goats and people.
     
  8. Jun 1, 2010
    patandchickens

    patandchickens Overrun with beasties

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    Well, electric fence DOES work in the wintertime IF you can arrange the animal to complete the circuit well despite frozen ground, i.e. either a fairly high voltage (on not excessively frozen/snowy ground) or a pos-neutral fence. The latter would be what you'd rely on for a wire mesh fence topped with a hotwire.... wire the ground lead of the fencer into the fence mesh itself, then any predator trying to go over the fence will be making contact with both the hotwire and the fence, and !zap!. The hotwire needs enough of a standoff that ice won't sag it against the fence mesh.

    An ALL-electric fence is hard to use effectively in the wintertime, though, yes. But then I don't think that an all-electric fence would be a very good choice for your main fencing ANYhow (although possibly useful for moveable grazing/browsing in summertime). Personally, I think that when a seriously predatorproof fence is needed, it needs to be seriously PHYSICALLY predatorproof, with electric just as the "cherry on top" so to speak.

    Two words: string trimmer ;)

    Basically you don't want a fence that has electric too low to the ground. Or if there IS a low "predator nose height" hotwire, it shoudl be disconnectable so you can decommission it when snow or weeds will cause it to just drain the fence.

    Goats and sheep are a bigger, more obvious target than chickens; they do get et by dogs and coyotes on a pretty regular basis, unless well protected. So I think it is something to take seriously in your planning.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  9. Jun 1, 2010
    ksalvagno

    ksalvagno Alpaca Master

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    Remember that you have to have somewhere to put all that poo and soiled hay/straw. That will probably smell. Also, what we consider "not smelling", others do feel smells. I don't think my barn stinks but anyone from the city who comes over practically holds their nose while in the barn.

    Also, you need to find out if you have to buy hay and straw for a full year or not. Hay and straw storage will depend on that. Some areas, you can buy a few bales at a time all year. Other areas like my area, you have to buy all you need for a full year and store it yourself.

    What will you do with the kids when they are born and then again when they are weaned? What if they don't sell quickly. If you get 2 females, you can have anywhere from 2 to 8 kids in a year. Nigerian Dwarfs can have anywhere from 1 to 4 kids at a time. if they don't sell in a quick amount of time, can you take them to auction or put them in your freezer? Do you have the ability to give the goats expanded space when the kids are born? Can you separate the boys when they are of weaning age?

    Just some other things to think about.
     
  10. Jun 2, 2010
    seachick

    seachick Chillin' with the herd

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    Thanks, folks, this is all great information. Good food for thought. This is a project for next year or the following one, so all of these comments help us a lot. I'm still not sure it's feasible, but we'll keep investigating.

    I got a PM with some other great tips, including that Nigerian Dwarfs are quite loud, and to consider smaller full size like LaMancha, or even a "mini" LaMancha. That sounds great- anyone know of a New England breeder of them we might visit?