Goats in the Garden-Sept 2012

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 At last the rain has stopped, well where I live anyway. The windows are open, the sun is shining and the goats are lying contentedly enjoying the warm sun on their backs. (I think I feel a song coming on)  I don`t know how long it will last but I am going to enjoy it while it does. With the perpetual rain I, like most garden goat keepers, have found it very difficult  cleaning the goats out every week, sweeping up wet soggy hay is hard work and I make my annual promise to myself that this will be my last year. Twenty five years later I am still sweeping up soggy hay, the only difference is the length of time it now takes me.

I have in fact reduced my stock over the last few weeks and the four goats I now have are much more manageable.

In the past I have sung the praises of growing Jerusalem artichokes, which are perpetual and give plenty of greenery with which to feed the goats. (They don`t actually eat the artichokes, they are left in the ground and grow the following year) Someone I spoke to the other day told me they had followed my advice but their goats would not touch them. As my goats are in a garden with no access to grazing I think they must be grateful for all things green, if given a choice with plenty of grazing possibly another goat would be less enthusiastic.

I have a very nice goat, she is stocky with plenty of bone and all the things a judge might like. The problem is she gets fat very easily. She is fed the same as my other goats, she gets the same goat mix, eats a reasonable amount of hay and the odd tree cutting. I have now cut her goat mix down and after several weeks she is beginning to look less rotund. It could be genetic that she is prone to obesity but I am wondering if she does not get enough exercise. When in a field goats walk all day long but in a garden this is not possible. I also seem to have more than my fair share of kidding problems considering how few goats I keep, is this perhaps due to lack of exercise, I don`t know. Apart from persuading them to go on my husband`s redundant running machine I can`t think what else I can do.

With the end of Summer (what summer) it is time, for those of us who enjoy the trauma of  a difficult kidding in freezing conditions at midnight, to seek a stud male for our girls. I am assuming that very few garden goat keepers have their own males, or if they do they have deaf neighbours with no sense of smell. I know a lot of garden goat keepers do not breed but from what you tell me on your membership forms it appears that more and more of you are giving it a go.

I am lucky enough to have a separate area in which to keep a male goat for the few weeks that I need him. I am borrowing Heatherview Borneville again this year, he belongs to the children`s farm just down the road so it is very convenient. If you do not have the space to keep a male goat  for a few weeks then the alternatives are finding someone who will allow your goats to board with them or wait until your goat is in season and make a mad dash to a pre-arranged billy. I do not favour the latter, it is too stressful for goats and owner. If your goats are like mine they may be very reluctant to show they are in season and if they are they may possibly have gone off the boil by the time you get them to the male.

Anyway I wish you all good luck in your endeavors and come the Spring some leaping bundles of fun.


Viv McNeil