Right now my farm is somewhat like a teenager. It’s not quite to its full size, which at times can mean growing pains and even awkward situations (think of grandma giving you an XL shirt to “grow into”).
As my herd of goats grows, I’ll need more options for housing our breeding animals year-round. I have drafted expansion plans for our barns. But, I also need to consider how the pasture can be used in the winter as well. This is due to having multiple groups of animals over winter, which include our (1) breeding bucks, (2) breeding does, and (3) doelings kept for breeding, but not old enough to breed. And, then in January, the (4) dairy buck kids arrive. They need to be in separate groups because of their size difference, safety, and to prevent any unplanned breeding. This year the current barn space should be okay. It’ll be tight, but okay.
However, this is why I’m planning ahead for using our pasture over winter primarily for our bucks or older animals. Goats are fairly hearty animals as long as they have access to shelter to keep them from getting wet. I’ll be adding a tree line windbreak along our west pasture to provide more protection from the elements through the winter months.
This recently I started working on the actual windbreak layout. It’ll be two rows of Colorado Blue Spruce trees along the north end of the pasture. The trees are spaced about 15 feet apart in each row, with the trees off set in the second row, also 15 ft from the first row. Since there’s a field driveway that goes past the corner of the field, a small section of the windbreak will be one row to allow for hay equipment access to the other field. The spacing is based on recommendations for livestock windbreaks from my county NRCS conservationist and also account for ease of mowing around the trees, especially when they’re young, and still having access to maintain the fence line.
The trees are transplants and are 1 ½ - 2 feet tall and have a growth rate of 1-2 feet per year. This is why it’s important I get these trees in the ground now, so they’ll start being useful in a few years. I’ll plant them this fall and will put mulch around the base to help with moisture and weed control.
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 on pasture.
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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.