Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Want to make your own biodiesel?

The original diesel engine was made to run on peanut oil. Petroleum-based diesel became the fuel of choice in the early twentieth century because it was abundant. It is possible, however, to use plant-based diesel in a diesel engine with no engine modifications. It is called biodiesel, and it is growing in popularity because it is biodegradable, non-toxic, and non-flammable. It can be made from any type of vegetable oil, although soybean oil is the most popular for commercially available biodiesel.

Some people have started to make their own biodiesel. Because it is illegal to sell biodiesel without performing lots of testing and being licensed, biodiesel cooperatives are gaining in popularity. Members of the biodiesel cooperative started by Steve Fugate of Iowa City pick up used fryer oil from restaurants and turn it into biodiesel, which they use in their vehicles. Over the past seven years, membership has varied from six to twelve people. Each member buys a share in the cooperative and then is entitled to purchase a percentage of the biodiesel that is created throughout the year. The price they pay per gallon basically covers the cost of production. Members who help produce the biodiesel pay less per gallon than do non-working members.

Members also have to pay a road use tax directly to the state of Iowa. Most drivers probably don’t realize that in many states, part of the cost of commercial gasoline or diesel is a road use tax. Because they are not filling up at a gas station, each biodiesel co-op member has to keep track of how many gallons of biodiesel they use in their car, and pay the tax on that amount to the state. In addition to saving members a considerable amount of money on their fuel bills, the biodiesel produced by Steve’s co-op is especially ecofriendly because they use solar-thermal power and capture rainwater for use in the process of making the biodiesel.

The availability of used fryer oil varies from one place to another. In some areas, restaurants are happy to give it to you, according to Steve, because otherwise they have to pay to have it hauled away. In other areas, restaurants charge for it. If you are able to get used fryer oil free and you make your own biodiesel, you could save 40 to 50 percent on your fuel bill.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Did you know ...?

Goats are herd animals. That means that you can't have just one. Being prey animals, goats know there is safety in numbers. After all, it doesn't matter how fast I can run if at least one other goat runs slower than me, she'll get eaten instead of me! Maybe goats don't actually think through it to that level, but they are definitely unhappy and insecure if they are alone. The goats in the above picture are in a half-acre pasture, but they are all sticking together in their herd. It isn't any harder to take care of two or three goats than one goat, and one goat will forever be getting itself into trouble because it will be lonely and unhappy. It may walk around loudly calling for a friend, or it may turn into the world's best escape artist, trying to find a goat friend. Although there have been a few single goat success stories, there is simply no good reason to try having a single goat. Remember, a lone goat is a lonely goat!

"Did you know" will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More

Friday, October 25, 2013

Working Goats: What Now?

By Elyse Nicholson

PART 4 (Troubleshooting & Follow-up)

During this 4-part series, you have hopefully learned all the steps and instructions needed to successfully train your goat to pull a cart. Each post went through the information rather fast because of the small amount of space I’ve had to share it with you. This post will hopefully answer any remaining questions you have about Working Goats as well look into troubleshooting and follow-up.

What do I do when my goat just won’t respond to training?
One of the biggest keys to training a goat is patience --- and a lot of it! Remember that this is a journey, and that the instructions I’ve given are not one-size-fits-all. Some goats are going to take longer than others. The key is to be patient and positive throughout the experience.

That said, when you encounter a goat that is really stubborn and is just not getting it, try slowing things down for him/her and increasing the amount of praise you give. Go back a step perhaps. Or discover what it is that motivates this goat. While I warned against food motivations and reward, that may be just what your goat needs. I had one doe who just needed that incentive to walk forward. The only thing is you must be careful with it once you reach the cart stage. You don’t want your goat caring more about the food than its task.

Another suggestion is to train the goat with a buddy. Goats are naturally herd animals and some just don’t want to be alone. Grab a friend (the goat and human kind) and do some duel training! Have one walk in front of the other or train them side-by-side. Figure out what works for your goat and keep going.

My goat is terrified of the cart. What do I do?
Having a goat that just loves something following them is not a given and you will encounter goats that are scared to death once they are hitched to a cart. Here are some ideas to help you along:

Walk the goat next to the cart while someone else pulls it. Let them see it and hear the sounds it makes when in motion. Encourage the goat to get up close. Remember to work slowly with fears and animals. Don’t overexpose the goat to the cart, but do short sessions of exposure and positive reward to let your goat know the cart is not to be feared.

Another suggestion is to have someone else drive the cart while you walk beside the goat, stopping frequently to praise its good behavior and performance.

My goats run with the cart instead of walking. How do I fix this?
This is a common problem with a semi-obvious answer. Usually when your goat is running with the cart, one of two things are happening: Either your goat is afraid of the cart or it isn’t a challenge for them. If its number 1, see the previous question.

To answer the second one, what your goats are probably telling you here is that the cart is too light and so running is quite easy. And it’s not entirely their fault. If the cart is too light, it easily rolls down a road or driveway, meaning its most likely pushing them forward. To solve this, add more weight to the back of your cart to help slow them down.

If, on the other hand, they are simply running to be running, have a helper walk alongside the goats, pulling them back to instruct them that running is not desired at this moment. Also NEVER allow a goat to run back to its barn/pen. This only creates problems. Always walk your goat home.

As stated many times before, training your goat to drive is a journey, not a three step process. This journey requires a lot of patience, time, and energy on both parts to be successful. Don’t become discouraged if you are stuck on a skill for a long period of time. If my ideas don’t work, think of your own and discover what it is that makes your goat tick. Never give up – especially when you’ve already put a lot of time and effort into it. Like every good thing in life, this takes practice, practice, practice. Work hard, make it positive, and above all, have fun on this journey with your goats!

If you have a question that wasn’t answered in this post, please feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to help you out. To review any of the steps, see the list below.

This post was shared at the Homestead Barn Hop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Make your own electric vehicle

Homemade electric vehicles are becoming more common. Although it may sound intimidating, the idea of building your own electric vehicle is gaining popularity. You can find a multitude of blogs and videos online about building your own bicycle, motorcycle, and car.

Ben Nelson of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, has built all three, even though he is not an engineer or a mechanic. In fact, he works in video production. He started with an electric powered bicycle, which he made from a kit in 2006 after seeing one at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association Fair in Wisconsin. He built an electric motorcycle in 2007, and in 2008, he built an electric car using an old Geo Metro.

Ben’s vehicles definitely fit the definition of ecothrifty, as he bought a used motorcycle and a used car and repurposed most parts. “The motorcycle project was almost exactly $2000 for the cycle, all the parts, and a motorcycle safety training class at my local college,” he says. “When I started work on the car, I figured out a few ways to save on the cost of the project, including used batteries and a forklift motor. The entire car project cost me $1300.” Buying a car that no longer has a working engine or exhaust system will save money on a do-it-yourself project because both are unnecessary and will be removed when converting the car to electric.

Of course, he had some challenges, but nothing that he couldn’t overcome. “I had really never worked on cars before,” Ben explains. “I was just working all by myself in my driveway, with basic tools. I had a lot of advice and support through the web forums, but sometimes I really just needed somebody else there to help show me the right way to do something. The challenge really never was complexity or any of the actual electric vehicle components. EVs are far simpler to work on than people think. Even the wiring is very easy. The hardest parts of these projects were things like dealing with rust, fixing brakes, and finding the right size bolts—just typical car repair challenges.”

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life. Photos provided by Ben Nelson. You can learn more about Ben by visiting his website.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Did you know ...?

Although goats most commonly give birth to twins, it is not unusual for yearlings to have a single kid. Triplets are not unheard of, and Nigerian dwarf dairy goats may even have quadruplets and sometimes more! The tendency to have multiples definitely runs in families. If a doe's dam (mother) had multiples, she is more likely to have multiples also. We had one doe named Coco, who had quadruplets three times and quintuplets twice! The picture is Coco's second set of quintuplets, which were born in March 2013. The doeling on the left is Bella, who still lives here, so it will be interesting to see how many babies she has!

"Did you know" will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More

Friday, October 18, 2013

Working Goats: Putting the Cart before the Goat

By Elyse Nicholson

PART 3 (Cart & Team Training)

In previous posts, we’ve discussed choosing the right goat and preparing for the journey (part 1), and also trained our goats to walk on collar, line, and halter, as well as drive with halter and harness (part 2). In today’s post, we will be going over the final steps to training a working goat as we learn about cart and weight training, as well as team driving.

Cart Training
Now that your goat is successfully harness trained and is driving well on commands, you are  ready to hitch him/her to a cart. Make sure you have an assistant present with you to help control the goat or hold down the cart if necessary. When hitching a goat for the first time, make sure you are using a completely empty cart. Weight will be built up later. Also, be sure to make it a positive experience the whole way through. Your goat will remember this experience EVERY time you hitch it to a cart.

To hitch your goat to the cart, run the tugs through the shaft loops and attach to back rings on cart while sliding the shaft through the loop as well. Run the reins through the top loops on back pad and take position behind cart. DO NOT attempt to ride in cart on first drive.

With your helper holding a leash attached to goat, and driver ready behind cart, give goat the command to walk forward and begin basic maneuvers with the cart, stopping frequently to let the goat adjust to the feel of the cart as well as how to stop the cart. Take this step very slow. Do short training sessions until your goat is comfortable with the cart. This could take anywhere from 4-9 days. That last thing you want is a goat that is afraid of the cart.

Once your goat is comfortable with the cart and will drive for you, you are ready for weight training.
Weight Training
Before you can even attempt to ride in the cart (assuming your goat is big enough to pull you), you will want to begin weight training your goat to get him/het used to what pulling feels like. Weight rules generally follow this principle: Does = their own weight, males = twice their own weight. Remember that pulling weight is much different than lifting weight and often times you can pull more weight than you can carry, so these are just rough estimates. Only you will know how much your goat can pull based on their body language and strength. A goat that appears to be overly straining, falls over, or and won’t walk forward may have too much weight in the cart.

Start out with a small amount of weight in your cart --- about ½ the weight of your goat. Practice driving your goat with this weight for a few days and only when you feel your goat is ready, increase the weight slightly. You will know they are ready when they don ‘t strain to walk forward. Weight training for goats is very similar to weight training in humans. You need to take is slow and allow the muscles to adjust. This may take a few weeks, depending on how much weight you want your goat to pull and the strength of your goat.

Riding in Cart
If you’ve reached your desired weight in training and have a goat that is suitable to pull you, you can begin training to ride. It is best to first have a person of equal or lesser weight to you ride in the cart as you drive. This will let the goat know what it’s like to have weight that can sometimes be unequal with movement. After a few trial runs, you can take your first ride as goat and driver. NOTE: A single miniature goat SHOULD NEVER try to pull a full grown human --- you must have a team for this.

Once you’ve taken your goat on a few successful rides, you are ready for the big time! Take your goat out to fairs and parades --- show off your hard work! You are now the proud owner of a working goat!

Team Driving
Team driving is exciting, especially with miniatures who can’t pull much weight to begin with. This does require a different type of set-up on your cart to accommodate additional goats, but often times is not much work.

To train a team on a cart, use two goats who are equally trained to pull on their own and hitch to your cart. Again, start with small weight and drive from behind. Have a helper up front to watch and maintain peace between goats if they start to become annoyed with the close company. Work the team together and gradually add weight until you are able to add real human weight. Again, PLEASE NOTE: take caution with miniatures goats. They may not be able to pull a full grown human at first or at all, depending on their own size and ability. It took a year of training before the does pictured here could pull a full grown human.

If the goats work well together and progress with weight, you may enter cart and begin real team driving. And now you’ve got a goat trained to drive.

For follow-up discussion and troubleshooting, please come back next time for Part 4.

Working Goats is a 4 Part series which will appear every Friday in October. Check back each week to follow the journey!  


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The London Dispatches: To Market, To Market

By Cadence Woodland.

London is absolutely stuffed with markets, and I’m finding all of them glorious. From crafts to vintage goods, food to flowers there is a good bet that there is a specialist market for almost any item in this city. In this post I’m going to take you through my four favorite markets, a bit of their history, and then muse a bit on why that history is significant. Grab your grocery tote and come on a stroll with me!

Borough Market is, justifiably, famous. It’s one of the oldest continuously operating in the city, mentioned in official records in the 1200’s but probably dates much further back than even that. Borough functions entirely as a food market and the sheer scope of goods you can buy at it is truly impressive. Bakers and cheesemongers are stalled next to artisanal oils and truffles, farm shops next to butchers. My husband is particularly grateful for one vendor who stocks the spices, chilies, and other items required for Mexican cuisine (it’s literally the only place in London we have found so far that even sells black beans!). Food wares come from all over the world…and I do mean all over!
This may be one of my favorite stalls: exotic meats from ostrich to springbok!
Of course you come to Borough for the really fresh, seasonal produce!

Portobello Road Market is a much newer addition to the London scene, operating only since the 19th century, but in the 1950’s it became one of the top destinations for antiques – a ranking it has held onto ever since. Though antiques very much remain the focus, the market has expanded to include grocers, flower sellers, and streetfoods of every global region. I only live one Tube station away from Borough but I’ve already found myself a go-to cheese guy at Portobello who I visit on an almost weekly basis. A delightful Frenchman, who also operates a charcuterie with handcrafted cured meats.

Portobello is particularly famous for its offerings in antique silver wares

Covent Garden Market is another historical area. It was once church land but Henry VIII snapped it up when he dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century. In the 18th century it became an area renowned for…shall we say…illicit entertainment, but Parliament got involved to clean the area up and expand the local sellers there into a proper market to make it an area for more respectable trades than what were going on at the time. Today vendors sell a mix of original art and vintage goods here, but the market really got its start as produce venue, and later expanded to include flowers. It’s most famous fictional vendor is Eliza Doolittle of Pygmalion, or its musical version My Fair Lady, the cockney flower girl.

The Victorian hall is still standing the the areas of what sorts of goods you could buy still in place.

Another favorite is the Columbia Road Flower Market, which also has an interesting history. In the 19th century the area had become a rather notorious slum but a Victorian philanthropist determined to redevelop the area by turning it into a venue for legitimate grocery trade. She built a large building, which unfortunately no longer stands, to house vendors. The effort paid off and the area was transformed, but it was largely the immigrant populations which made Columbia Road what it is. French Protestant (Hugenot) immigrants brought a demand for freshly cut flowers to the area for the first time, and even the market’s functioning day (Sunday) was decided upon to accommodate the Jewish immigrant vendors and patrons who bought and sold there. Though WWII and its ravages put a halt to it for a while, Britain is a nation of gardeners and the market is thriving again. In addition to mountains of cut flowers, you can find potted plants, every variety of vine, pallets of flowers for gardeners to take home and grow, bulbs, seeds, shrubs, and trees.

Flowers: as far as the eye can see!

Truly, everywhere!
What I love about London market culture is how dynamic and proactive a force it’s been in the city’s history. Whether as a political action to change the dynamic of an area, or as a tool against poverty and corruption, or as a method for new immigrants to carve out a space for themselves, London markets are far from venues to simply exchange goods for money. They are ways for governments, individuals, and people with a vested interest in an area to get other people equally invested in it. I find the story of Covent Garden particularly interesting as an example of replacing one bad industry (prostitution wasn’t the only problem; gangs and thieves patrolling and controlling some parts of the area are well documented in the 18th century as well) with a better one which benefited the community at large.

These markets, in addition to purposeful use, also have a very organic (pun!) way of evolving on their own to meet the needs and desires of various communities. While a wealthy philanthropist may have decided to create Columbia Road, Portobello Road turned into an antiques and vintage hub largely by itself. Self-evolving supply and demand led it to become the center for historic goods it is today. What I’ve seen of market culture in the US seems very different. First of all, we admittedly don’t have a thousand years of history and tradition on our side, but most of the farmers markets I’ve been to are fairly recently created organizations. In that regard they have a lot in common with the self developing niche markets of London, but I don’t think the US has been able to harness the idea of using markets as a larger community force the way the UK has.

I’m curious as to your take on your local market culture. Is there one in your area, and do you visit or sell at it regularly? And what are your thoughts on how market culture might be used in the US to take on community challenges – good idea or bad idea? Let me know in the comments!

Cadence Woodland is a freelance author's assistant and writer. Her journalism has contributed to the New York Times, the National Wildlife Federation, and other venues, but she can be found most often at her blog where she writes about her adventures across the Pond in London.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Did you know ...?

Goats do not have any teeth on the top of their mouth in the front. Their bottom teeth serve just fine for ripping off leaves, stripping bark from trees, and ripping up grass and weeds. They do have molars on both top and bottom, however, so if a baby goat ever wants to suck on your fingers, be careful that you don't accidentally let your finger slip between their teeth in the back of their mouth, or you could be in for a painful surprise!

"Did you know" will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More

Friday, October 11, 2013

Working Goats: Beginning the Long Haul

By Elyse Nicholson

PART 2 (Halter & Harness Training) 

Welcome back! In Part 1, we discussed all the basics of selecting a goat and acquiring the equipment. We also went over preliminary training for your selected goat. Now we’re ready to start training, so let’s get to it!

Before you begin training, you will want to establish some solid commands that your goat will respond to for going forward, stopping, backing, turning, and more. Here are some suggestions:
  • Going forward: Walk on, forward, step up!, hike!, move on
  • Halting: Whoa, halt, hold, stop
  • Left: Come left, Haw!, left
  • Right: Come right, gee, right
  • Back: Back, *click*
Whatever words you chose, make sure you stay consistent with your choices. This will come in handy later on.

Training note: Make sure training is always a positive experience for you and the goat. Goats can tell when you are stressed, which makes the experience negative. Keep it fun and upbeat to get the most out of your goat! And make sure you are rewarding your goat with vocal praise and a pet. Treats may be used, but can be dangerous when goat is on harness and cart and believes it deserves a treat. Take caution in how food is used as a reward.

Halter/Harness Training
Once your goat is collar trained, you can begin working with your goat on halter. Begin by allowing your goat to become familiar with the halter. Let the goat wear it for a few minutes SUPERVISED for 1-2 days. Once it becomes calm with a halter, attach a lead-line to the center ring and begin walking your goat on halter with a firm grip on line, standing very near to the goat. Let it adjust to the feel of being led from its head, rather than neck.

When you start moving, make a turn, stop, or back-up, reinforce this with your vocal command. Work with your goat 5-10mins each day for a 1-2weeks on halter training until it becomes comfortable and is responding to commands. Always make sure you and your goat are both ready to move onto the next step before proceeding. This is the slowest part of training, but pays off in the end when are ready for a harness and cart.

Once halter-trained, begin standing behind the shoulder of your goat and use the vocal commands like before. Work with your goat to a point where you are standing behind the goat completely and it is following commands in front of you. At this point you will want to have the both reins attached to each side of the halter as if you were actually driving your goat --- because you are! Keep the reins loose unless you are turning or halting your goat. This will take another 1-2weeks or more, depending on your goat’s personality. The point of this step is to simulate actual driving and prepares them for what’s next.

After you have successfully trained your goat to drive on halter, harness the goat up fully with reins running through the loops on the back pad. Begin driving your goat with full harness to get your goat comfortable with source of the rein tension, which becomes its back. Remember to keep lead-lines loose at all times unless turning, backing, or stopping. This should take no more than a week to reinforce the training.

Once you have reached this point, you have successfully harness trained your goat. Your next step will be cart training, which we will discuss at greater length in PART 3.

Working Goats is a 4 Part series which will appear every Friday in October. Check back each week to follow the journey!  

This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Raising Livestock: What caused what?

One winter after receiving my master’s degree and suffering through a class on research and statistics, I decided to finally put that knowledge to use. (Even though my master’s is in communication, the scientific method is the same from one discipline to another.) I then proceeded to design a study that I knew my professors in grad school never would have approved. Because of the study design, there was the risk of conflicting variables, meaning that my study might not actually study what I wanted to study, which was efficacy of dewormers. I wanted to compare how well different dewormers actually worked.

The study was designed so that does freshening in February would receive diatomaceous earth (DE) after kidding; the March does would receive a commercially available herbal dewormer; the April does would receive a chemical dewormer; and the one doe freshening in May would receive nothing and act as my control.

What’s wrong with this design? There is the possibility that the month a doe kids might play a role in parasite load. I quickly dismissed that idea, however, because surely I would have already noticed that if it were true, right? In a properly designed study, participants should be randomized, which means they should be randomly placed into treatment groups. I didn't do that, however, simply because it was easier for me to give the same treatment to all the does kidding in one month. At the time it seemed like too much work, and I really didn't think it would make a difference anyway.


The DE appeared to work perfectly as none of those does had a high worm load. The herbal dewormer didn’t work very well. The chemical dewormer did not work at all, and the doe that kidded in May and received nothing had a huge load of parasites. I concluded that DE was a great dewormer. Later, however, when some of the other goats had a heavy worm load, I used the DE, and it didn’t do anything to reduce the fecal egg counts. Why the difference?

Ultimately I realized that the month a doe freshens has a big impact on whether or not she winds up with a worm load that needs to be treated. I had not noticed this in the past because I had been giving all does a dewormer when they kidded. This is a classic example of a conflicting variable affecting the outcome of a study. A properly designed study would have randomly assigned the does to a particular dewormer so the different does kidding each month would be treated with a variety of dewormers. Had I done that, I would have immediately seen that the month of kidding correlated to the doe’s worm load regardless of which dewormer she was given.

This is why it is important to take careful notes and record everything you do. You can’t count on your memory after a few months to remember exactly what you did and when. Write down everything that could possibly influence the outcome because you never know what will make a difference until you look at it in retrospect. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

But the most important thing to remember is that correlation does not mean cause and effect. There was clearly a correlation between which dewormer I used and the parasite level of each goat, but the dewormers ultimately proved to have nothing to do with the goats' parasite levels. As it turned out, none of the dewormers actually worked.

Although the point of this post is to show how we can easily be misled to erroneously believe that something works or doesn't work in our herd, you might be wondering what we did since we couldn't find a dewormer that actually worked. We now have most of our goats kidding in the dead of winter when the worm load is minimal. By kidding in January and February when the world is frozen in Illinois, we have found that we don't need to use any type of dewormer with most does after kidding. The optimal time for kidding will be different in different parts of the country and depending upon which parasite causes the most problems in your herd.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Did you know ...?

Goats are browsers, not grazers. No, that does not mean that they prefer walking through the farm supply store checking out the latest goat accessories. Browsers are animals that prefer to eat leaves, overgrown weeds, small bushes, and baby trees, rather than grazing grass. So, if you have overgrown, brushy property, rather than pastures of lush green grass, you would provide a heavenly home for a goat!

"Did you know" will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More

Friday, October 4, 2013

Working Goats: Your Journey Begins Here

by Elyse Nicholson

PART 1 (Introduction) 

The working goat. Yes, you are reading correctly --- the working goat. Believe it or not, goats actually do have another purpose on the farm besides meat and milk. This strong production animal has the pulling capacity to be a powerhouse worker, given the correct training. Goats have excellent work ethic and know how to please. They delight children and surprise parents. They can and are hard working animals that have the capability of being drive with a cart. And that’s what this 4-part blog series is all about --- training your goat to be the next great working goat! I have been training and driving goats with a cart for the past six years and am excited to share this world with you and teach you how to train your own at home.

Welcome to the journey!

Training a goat, like any working animal, is in fact a journey – not a process. It is so much more than simply following instructions. To have a successful working animal you must first have a bond with that animal --- one built on trust. There is no magic formula to teach every goat. What works for some, may not work at all for others. Again, it’s all about the journey.

So let’s get started.

The Right Goat
 Unlike the show ring, the breeding pen, or the milk pail, any goat is capable of becoming a working goat with the right about of patience and training, and none are left out. Goats can be really any age and begin working. However, there are a few exceptions. Goats should never fully have weight on the harness until they are about 1 or 2 years old (depending on weight). Usually if they are at the size and maturity for breeding, they are ready for weight. But training can begin as early as three months. And all breeds of goats are able to perform --- as long as they have the ethic and work attitude to pull, no breed is excluded. And this even goes for genders. Wethers are ideal because of their size (and for lack of other useful opportunities), but does and bucks can be used as well. Caution must be taken when using a full grown buck and a solid relationship must be in existence before considering use of the goat.

Relationship is key in choosing any goat for this mission. At minimum, you should be able to walk up to the goat in the pasture, pet it anywhere and lead it by the collar with limited or very little difficulty before starting any training. Having a goat that likes to be touched and is good around most types of people will benefit you in the long run of training. However, these skills can also be taught. Basically, you are looking for a good mannered goat that you can build an even stronger relationship with through this journey.
For the purpose of this series, we will be using one of my novice workers, Beauty, pictured above. 


Diagram of a typical goat harness.
Please note: this is not a real goat pictured-- just a
paper mache model.
A harness is one of the main pieces of equipment you’ll be working with and be purchased from Hoegger Goat Supply, Caprine Supply, or Alternative Livestock, or even made! Pictured below is a diagram which will help you understand the different parts of the harness. When shopping for a harness or making one, make sure it has the essential parts: halter, lines, breast piece, britching, tugs, and shaft loops. Also, be sure you are obtaining a harness that is made for your goat’s size. Miniature goats will require a “pygmy size harness”.

Now onto the cart.

These can be purchased from any of the links above, but making one is cheaper in the end. Here’s a photo of the cart my dad made using a piece of plywood, two bicycle tires, and a 2x4. This is for simple working. He also added to it and made it more of a driving cart to give little kids rides, which is shown in the first photo of this post. There are tons of designs and options out there --- you just have to decide what works best for the size and capacity of your goat.

Nichole Hansen (pictured at right) from Goat Wagon Sutlers uses an actual driving cart with a seat, as she has Boer goats with more pulling capacity. Please take note: The pulling capacity of a goat usually matches that of its own weight. Does can pull their own weight, and males can do twice their own weight. You should NEVER use a pregnant or lactating doe for pulling purposes.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve got your goat selected and your equipment on hand, you are ready to begin the first step. And that step is to do some preliminary “test training” with that goat. What I mean is collar training to see if your goat can be used. Can your goat lead by the collar with ease? If your goat is not already trained to lead on collar, you will want to spend 5-10minutes each day working with your goat to do so. Lead it around by the collar and lead-line, making it comfortable with the feel, and make sure it is able to do it with ease.

And that’s all for part 1. Tune in for PART 2 next time where we will begin pounding out some training!

Working Goats is a 4 Part series which will appear every Friday in October. Check back each week to follow the journey!
This post was shared on the Homestead Barn Hop.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rotational grazing

Unless you have a hundred acres for four or five goats, consider rotational grazing. It will make your pasture last longer and reduce the incidence of internal parasites in the goats. Rather than fencing in several acres for the goats and letting them spend the whole grazing season on that space, subdivide the pasture into smaller paddocks. The goats stay on one section of pasture for a number of days before being moved to clean pasture with fresh grass, leaving behind their poop, which contains parasite eggs that will hatch and die without a host.

There are a couple of ways you can utilize rotational grazing, and the method you use will depend on the number of goats you have. Four livestock panels can be used to create a 16-foot by 16-foot pen that can be moved every day or two, depending upon how fast the goats eat the grass. This works well for goat keepers who have an acre or two and only a couple of goats. For those with a larger herd and at least five acres, the grazing area is enclosed with a permanent perimeter fence, and temporary electric fencing is used to subdivide the large fenced pasture into smaller paddocks, through which the herd is rotated.

Opinions vary widely on how often the goats need to be rotated to clean pasture, but it depends on weather as well as whether your main objective is pasture utilization or parasite control. For best parasite control, animals should graze an area only once per year, whereas a rotation of every thirty days works if you are only concerned about the best use of the pasture.

The height of the grass also plays a role in deciding when to rotate. Someone once said that goats should never eat below their knees. Technically, they are browsers, not grazers, and they prefer to eat shrubs and young trees rather than grass. Because goats have gone through history not eating off the ground, their parasite resistance is not usually as strong as that of cows and sheep, who do eat off the ground. Goats really should not be eating grass down to the dirt. A commonly encountered recommendation is to move goats to new pasture when the grass is about 6 inches tall. Larvae do not have legs, but they can float up on a blade of grass when it is wet. However, without a true means of movement, parasites don’t move very far up on the grass, which is why parasite problems are generally low when goats are consuming grass that is taller. It is a balancing act, though, because when grass gets too tall, it is not as tasty.

Rotational grazing allows you to graze other livestock on a piece of land. Because cows and horses prefer grass and goats prefer bushes and small trees and each species has different parasites, cows or horses can graze the paddock just vacated by the goats. Although sheep and goats have the same parasites, sheep prefer weeds, so they can graze a pasture at the same time as goats. This means you will be able to graze more animals on a piece of land than if you only had one species.

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.
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