Goats in the Garden-Dec 2010

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Garden Goats

By

Viv McNeil

 

 

Three months seem to fly by, no sooner have I written one article and sent it off to Julia than it is time to start the next one. I am told this is because I am getting old, I prefer to think it is because I have such an exciting life that time just flies; I rather feel it could be the former.

In the South we have had some funny old weather, one day it is so cold that out come the winter coats, then next day it is shorts and T shirts, well not shorts in my case but you know what I mean.

I think the weather must have confused my goats as well as some of them took a long while to come in to season. I borrowed Heatherview Phoenix again this year, he behaved so well last year and the kids he produced were really good so I felt I couldn`t make a better choice. He arrived mid September and with my usual optimism I expected all my girls to line up next morning in excited anticipation of a visit to an old flame. No chance. They looked across at him and then assumed an air of complete nonchalance for the rest of the day. In fact they played hard to get for quite a few weeks and it was not until the end of October that the last reluctant female decided to pay a call. I was hoping for earlier kids next year as it helps when showing but it was not to be.

I hope those of you who were hoping to have kids next year have managed to obtain the services of a stud male. As garden goat keepers this is always a headache, but providing you are prepared to travel then there is usually a solution.

 

My Jerusalem artichokes finally ran out in October, it had been another good year. I keep expecting them to give up as they have been in the ground for many years and they get no special treatment, but each year they faithfully shoot up again.

 I tried something different this year, instead of waiting for them to reach their full height at about 6/7 feet before cutting them and feeding them to the goats, I started cutting much earlier when they were only about 4 feet high. This meant that the leaves were fresher and more tender, and I found that the plant kept growing and produced another 4 foot leafy stalk.

 

With winter approaching I usually buy a large bale of Readigrass. It is not expensive and most goats really appreciate a little variety in their diet. I give mine a couple of handfuls in bowls placed in their run so they can all get a share. It is not a substitute for hay, which is essential to their diet, it merely adds a bit of interest to their day. I do not give it every day, probably about once or twice a week.

As expected, the price of hay has hit an all time high in my area. I paid 7.50 a bale last week, every time I go it has gone up again. I bought as much as I could store earlier in the year but that has now gone. I am lucky in one respect as it is very good quality hay, probably a double edged sword really, as my goats love it and empty the hay racks in record time.

Whilst on the subject of feeding, I occasionally give my goats sugar beet. There has always been two schools of thought on the amount of protein pygmy goats need, some people think that recognised goat mix is too high in protein, others disagree. As sugar beet is low in protein I sometimes substitute it for some of the goat mix. It comes in a sack in pellet form and needs to be soaked overnight, I then give it with a reduced amount of goat mix in the morning. Some of my goats love it, others will not touch it. Goats still need goat mix to keep them healthy but in the winter I feel it a little sugar beet is a bit like comfort food.

 

The fox I mentioned who was living on my hayshed roof seems to have had a better offer. I never got round to organising anything permanent to keep him away but I did manage to shoot him a couple of times with a water pistol, and I put some cat pepper on the roof. Either way he must have decided he was not going to stay where he was not wanted and I have not seen him for a while. No doubt he will be back once I get my hens installed, although I have decided to wait till the spring for that venture.

 

My vegetable patch is looking sorry for itself. I planted some late potatoes in August and they were much more successful than my previous effort, although many of them were no bigger than marbles. I think I need some advice, any offers?

 I will definitely grow beetroot again next year as they were probably my only success. Runner beans are certainly off the menu although I might have a go at dwarf beans.

 

Christmas will soon be with us once again and all the hustle and bustle it brings. I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, thank you for continuing to support the club, enjoy yourselves, enjoy your goats and lets hope for a peaceful new year.

 

 

Best wishes

 

Viv McNeil