We have practiced pasture rotation for many years as a means of increasing the health of our goats and our pastures. Pasture rotation can be handled in many different ways. This is the how and why of ours.
Our acreage is divided into four different pastures for the goats. Each pasture is connected to the corral which is connected to the barn, so the does and kids always have access to the barn.
The buck and wethers only have access to the barn when the herd is all together during breeding season. The rest of the time the ‘boys’ have a small shed in their area that they can use for sleep or to get out of the weather.
When we want to move the animals to a new pasture, we worm them, wait three days, then ‘move’ them by closing one gate and opening another.
The three day waiting period is to let the worms and their eggs pass. There will always be some exposure to the same ground in the corral and barn, but it is minimal and not much of a grazing area.
We try to let at least two of our pastures rest and regrow for a minimum of two months before the goats have access to them again. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is a goal. The life cycle of most worms that affect goats lasts 21 days. So if we can wait at least one month, the worms that hatch will not have a host to infect and will die.
Our largest pasture is the one we call our standing hay. We call it standing hay because we let it grow up all summer then leave it – it is our uncut hay. It is excellent winter browse for the goats and it is natural. Some of it still grows a little most of the winter if it doesn’t get too cold. The last two years we have had a serious drought and extreme heat. None of our pastures grew very well before everything died in the heat so we didn’t have much standing hay to speak of. This year has been much better and our standing hay pasture has grown wonderfully.
Many people that have pasture for cows would think our weedy pasture is in poor condition, but it is great for the goats. They prefer to browse and need more fibrous plant materials than grass provides, so this pasture is great. We will turn them in here around November or December and leave them there until March. That will give the pastures they have been on this summer the chance to rest and be ready when we need them. Once we have a good growth started in the spring, we will move them to a new pasture once again.
Since we have been rotating pastures for several years now, we don’t have to worm our goats as often. We always worm the does
after they kid, and the kids as they are growing. There are plants that help deter worms in goats, like honey suckle that grows wild here that we can use if there comes a time that we cannot buy commercial wormers. We have a start of wormwood growing that can also be used for that purpose.
I have been reading about growing plants to provide the goats with the minerals they need over at 5 Acres and a Dream. Leigh has done a lot of research about the nutritional value of different plants and how they can meet those needs for their goats and chickens. This has really started me thinking even more about ways to cut back on or eliminate commercial feed for our animals.
We don’t use any commercial herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on our pastures. We do brush hog occasionally, maybe every two years, and then not always the whole pasture. It is mainly to keep the briars to a manageable level for goat traffic. They love the leaves from the briars, so we are not trying to eliminate them altogether.
Pasture rotation is a simple, easy way to increase the health of your animals and your land. Once you make the investment in the fencing and housing, it will pay dividends in improved health and performance of your livestock for years to come.
Until next time – Fern