Q. When your pasture is dormant, how do you feed your goats? A. Bale grazing!
Bale grazing has been an incredible practice for us on our farm.
Feeding our goats outside had allowed us to keep our barn cleaner. It reduces the need for equipment use since the bale residue and manure stays outside.
Aside from nutrition, it also encourages the goats to get exercise, which is good for muscle (meat) development. More time in the fresh air also helps reduce respiratory issues.
Once we have snow the bale residue is also a great ”sunning” spot for our goats. We’ll often find them hanging out in these areas since it's nice and dry.
Finally, probably the best benefit (yes I'm a nerd), is the leftover bale residue and the 🐐 manure and urine. What?! Yep. The bale residue adds more organic matter to our pastures and adds to the seedbed. The goats are doing the fertilization for us. In the spring the bale grazing sites will start to work their magic helping us strengthen the health and quality of pastures without the need for any further seed or nutrients.
This bale is strategically placed in an area with minimal topsoil. We don't have a bale feeder on it because I want more residue in this area.
All winter bales will be strategically placed in our pastures where there is a greater need for the soil. A bale is always placed in a new site to maximize its full potential.
P.S. If you're wondering if we only have one goat in this pasture, we don't. Our young stock/market goats are always a bit wilder than our breeding stock since they haven't been handled as much 😆. I assure you this goat has many friends.
During snowy, cold weather like this our young stock are tucked away in the barn. Part of our herd stays outside and does quite well. During weather like this or cold snaps we feed extra hay, which helps keep them warm, bed down the pasture shelters and the goats naturally grow a thick winter coat. I often find that our goats that live outside year round are healthier than if they were in the barn. I didn’t stay out long since I came out to check the goats and bottle feed a few babies.
Note: Our goats and guardian dogs always have access to shelter, water and food. If it gets too cold or too much snow they'll be moved into one of our barns.
While our Wisconsin weather lets us practice rotational grazing (feeding on pasture) during the spring, summer and fall months, the winter is a different story for feeding our goats. In the fall when the pasture quality starts to drop, we’ll let the goats have access to the barn and start to feed them hay, usually in a feeder in the pasture closest to the barn. Just like during grazing season, our goats always have access to fresh water and loose minerals (think goat multi-vitamin).
We feed hay outside for a few reasons. First, the goats get regular exercise. And, second, is to keep the barn cleaner, moving the hay debris and extra manure waste outside. As a bonus, the manure also helps fertilize our pasture. The goats are fed in the barn when the temperature drops below zero. They do great in the cold weather and grow and impressive, thick winter coat, much like you’d see on a dog.
We’ve been lucky this last week, as it’s been seasonably warm for Wisconsin in January with day temps in the mid-30s. Now, I’m closely watching the snow melt, mud and puddles to make sure the pasture doesn’t get too damaged by all the hoof traffic, and more importantly, the goats’ hooves aren’t exposed to too much moisture, which can cause infections. If it gets too muddy and wet, we will have to start feeding in the barn again until the ground surface freezes again.
In another month we’ll be getting ready for kidding (baby goats!). Depending on the mobility of the pregnant goats, I may start to do more feeding in the barn to give their legs a little more rest.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.