Nearly a week ago we hosted a pasture walk on our farm to share our grazing practices and how we raise our goats on pasture with fellow graziers and goat farmers. Thank you to River Country Graziers (including Kevin Mahalko for leading the discussion), Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Indianhead Sheep and Goat Breeders Association for coordinating the event. And, thank you to my State Senator Patty Schachtner and Representative Rob Stafsholt for attending as well.
As a grazier with four or so years of experience, I was able to share how we’ve gradually renovated our pastures, set up our fencing and water system, practice rotational grazing, and manage our goat herds in a pasture-based system. I’ve always enjoyed attending pasture walks to see how other farmers are grazing and managing their livestock. It was humbling as a newer grazier to be at a point where I could start to share what we’re doing on our farm with others. Personally, I also appreciated the discussion and tips other graziers offered during the walk as well. I was able to take a way a few ideas regarding some of my current “challenges” as it relates to conductivity, grounding and hotness of the electric fencing and rotation timing.
I’m looking forward to taking in a few other pasture walks this summer, including others that are local and of course, other small ruminant graziers.
Thank you to Danielle Endvick, communications director for Wisconsin Farmers Union, for taking and sharing the photos of our pasture walk.
Last week this time I was halfway home from a three-day road trip with a long-time friend from college. While we went by several large cities (Madison, Chicago and Indianapolis) and took in regional chain restaurant cuisine like Steak & Shake, Chick-fal-a and Cracker Barrel, it wasn’t the typical road trip. We drove to southern Indiana, just north of Louisville, to pick up two new breeding bucks for the farm.
Why did I drive 600+ miles just for new goats? I’ve been growing my herd of Boer-Kiko cross meat goats and am wanting to continue to build the herd’s genetics for thriving on a pasture/brush/forage-based diet. While meat goats are growing in popularity in Wisconsin, there are not as many herds that raised predominantly on pasture, nor are there many Kiko herds. The bucks, from McGuire Family Farms, have a lot of potential for continuing to growing our herd in the direction that I’ve been taking it: raising hearty meat goats on pasture. These bucks’ background includes coming from a herd that is
In comparison, these two new bucks are larger than our current crop of kids, born roughly about the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing how my herd will continue to grow with these new genetics. I’ll plan to use these new bucklings to breed our yearling does that were born last spring.
With the addition of these bucks we will be retiring several of our current breeding bucks, both Boer and Boer-Kiko cross. If you might be interested in these bucks please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I also want to thank Anna, Jr and Joan McGuire for their hospitality for also taking the time to show us around their farm, pastures and sharing their rotational grazing and goat management practices. You can learn more about their farm by visiting their website and following them on Facebook.
For our area farm friends/colleagues: We will be hosting a twilight pasture walk, Tuesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m. Come learn how we use rotational grazing practices with our meat goats. The pasture walk is jointly hosted with the River Country RC&D, St. Croix County Farmers Union / Wisconsin Farmers Union, and Indianhead Sheep and Goat Breeders Association.
Please RSVP to at wisconsinfarmersunion.com/events or to Mary C. Anderson at 715-579-2206.
Come along for a quick pasture check. Throughout the summer I do pasture checks at least 2x a day on our three herds of goats. I'm checking for animal health (does everyone look ok), water tanks, mineral feeders and the plant height and trample in the paddock to know when to move the goats on to a new paddock.
Now that we’re into our second week of rotational grazing, I’ve take the time to get the Gator, my “grazing-mobile,” prepped for the season.
We rotate animals to new paddocks every 3-4 days. I like to have my go-to-supplies on hand so I’m not constantly running back to the barn or the shop for things, and then back again.
So, here’s what’s usually in my office-on-wheels:
This season I also spray painted some of the harder to find in the grass items blaze orange in the event I misplace something. I should be ready for just about anything when it comes to fence repair, waterline repair and working with my goats and guardian dogs.
I've recently received a number of questions about the portable paddock fence system I'm using. In the past I used an electronet fence, which has worked well. However, now that my herd is larger, I am grazing three groups of animals: breeding does, breeding bucks/buck kids, and dairy buck kids. It takes time to move each group of animals, including fence set up/take down, shelters and water stations. I depend on our John Deere Gator to help move everything as efficiently as possible. With a larger number of goats, I decided to start using Gallahger's Smart Fence, an all-in-one four reel poly wire system. It's lightweight, simple to set up/take down, doesn't tangle as easily as the eletronet fence, and travels well in the back of the Gator.
As I've talked about in previous blogs, it's important to fence train the animals so they learn to respect the electric fence and stay inside. The fence training allows the animals to "experience" the electric fence, while I supervise for any issues. Just a quick touch of the nose on the poly wire once, will teach the animals to stay away. On a very rare occasion, I've had a goat get out. But, they usually don't go far since they're herd animals and the fact that this fence is used inside our woven wire perimeter fence. I'm ok with rounding up an occasional goat or two, versus having a goat kid get hung up in the electronet fence.
I set up our paddocks in Ls to maximize the fence length and always be set up for the next paddock (see picture above). Each group of animals uses three of fences, so each time we move a group, the previous fence can be taken down and set up for the next move. The video clip below give a little more information about the fence system.
A typical day during our grazing season (when animals are out on pasture full time) includes at least one to two pasture checks to make sure the goats are doing ok, the water tanks are still being filled by the automatic floats, the fence doesn't have any issues, check if the mineral needs to be refilled, monitor the grass/brush consumed and anything else that might catch my eye. Depending on my time, I will often walk out to do to checks. We currently have three groups in three different pastures: our does and doelings, bucks and bucklings, and our dairy buck kids. If I'm a little tight on time or have my two year old with me, I'll take our Gator out. I love to walk. It's peaceful. It's me time, well more like me and the 70+ goats time. Yesterday during pasture checks I took out the Gator and stopped to catch this quick video of our dairy buck kids and donkey in the "bonus" pasture.
While most my blog posts are focused the day-to-day work of raising my livestock and caring for my land, this video post steps back and gives a bigger picture look at our farm.
In this video blog I share how our meat goats are helping us improve our pastures.
When we purchased the farm four years ago, it hadn’t been in operation for quite some time. Since then we’ve done a lot of work around the farmhouse, on the pole sheds/barns and put up new pasture fence. The fields appeared to have been in some sort of CRP or set aside program at one time and then later let nature take its own course.
We contemplated tilling everything under and starting over from scratch. But, our grazing specialist at the time brought up the idea of letting the goats do the first round of pasture renovation since their diet includes browse/brush. Since last fall we’ve started grazing and the goats have been doing a great job of cleaning up the pasture. We also make our own hay on the same ground. It has been really fun to watch the diversity of the pasture grasses change with each rotation of goats and cutting of hay. Even with those improvements, portions of the pasture were so bumpy it was almost impossible to cut hay without breaking equipment or going incredibly slow. So, we decided it was time for our second round of pasture renovations.
For part two, we did a modified version of interseeding to smooth out the ground (no bumps) and out of practicality since we have limited tilling and planting equipment. Selected areas of the pasture were lightly disced and then planted using our small grain drill and drag as described in the GrassWorks Grazing Guide on page 8: http://grassworks.org/?300604/Guidebook.Pasture%20Density.pdf.
Throughout the last year I’ve been doing my homework on the type of plants I wanted to establish in the pasture. If I was going to make an investment in seed, it was important it was:
I ended up ordering three types of seed from Prairie Creek Seed:
Now it’s a month later. We’ve had great growing conditions for fall with warm weather and rain. The new seeding is taking off great. I’m anxious to see how the goats like it come next grazing season and once it has had time to be established.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats and dairy buck kids all on pasture. We also harvest maple sap. Read more here.
Keep up Day-to-Day with the farm:
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.