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Experiments with Goat Paddock Relocation

I’ve been toying with my rotational grazing model since April. Each time our Nubians and Alpines are ready for a fresh new paddock, I do something a little different, trying to learn how to make the relocation process faster and easier.

I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to milk the goats when they’re all the way down the pasture toward the end of summer. My first thought was a mobile milking stand (just add wheels?), but now I’m thinking more about actually training my English Shepherd to herd the mama goat(s) to the barn at milking time. Of course, I don’t really see how that all works since we use electrofence around the herd and as smart as our ES is, he has no thumbs to turn off the electricity.

That was really just my attempt to work some actual herding work into our dog’s life. I’ll keep working on that.

It’s not easy to move 50 foot sections of temporary electrofence netting every week or so. My hat goes off to those farmers and ranchers who move it even more often.

You can see our dairy goats eating honeysuckle and other vines for the first time. For the past few months, they’ve been surrounded by electrofence with almost no access to trees or vines. They loved it.

Three-Sided Electrofence

I was hoping that twice the size of paddock would buy me twice the amount of time between rotations. Not so. April’s growth was ridiculous, but not repeated in May. So the extra large paddock only served to feed the grazers for the same amount of time as the previous paddock half as large.

I have pretty extreme chronic pain in my foot from a surgery gone bad, so until we address the issue next Spring, I’m trying to minimalize my labor in the fields. Instead of dragging the goat tunnel over to the next paddock and driving T-posts into new ground, I doubled the size of the paddock again.

To make this work with the same amount of fence, I removed one 50′ side of electrofence and added it to the other side to make it twice as long. I used the existing vine-covered fencing as the fourth side and left the ends the same length as before. The goat tunnel stays put for now, and the goats can roam over to the new half or the vine-covered fence for fresh greens.

The goats got out during my process, but stayed close to the tunnel. I’m not sure if it’s that the tunnel is familiar like we think of “home”, or if it’s simply the place where grain used to appear and therefore it’s where they want to be.

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