Every time you feel in God's creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: "O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!
- Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

You can’t get to joy by making everything perfect. You can only get there by seeing in every imperfection all that’s joy.
-Ann Voscamp

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Counting Blessings # 227, and More Homestead Management

#227) I'm so incredibly thankful today to have married someone who is such a great father. I'm so glad he takes such an interest in his children, guiding them and teaching them. Being a mom is challenging, but it's a lot easier with a dedicated husband and father to lead us all. I don't think I knew enough when I married him at 21 to know what a gem I had. :)

I wanted to share a bit (and I know only a bit) about rotational grazing for livestock. This is a system that is critical to the holistic, natural care of cattle, sheep or goats (I only really have experience with goats), especially on small acreage.
We utilized some rotational grazing in a very simplified way last summer, and hope to use it more efficiently and effectively this grazing (or browsing, as the case may be) season.
The simple form we used last year was to stake the goats out in the yard, keeping a constant eye on them to make sure they didn't get tangled or harassed by wildlife or neighborhood dogs. The staking method we came up with involved movable twist in stakes such as you'd use for a dog run. We used a bungee cord from the stake to the actual rope, giving the goats a gentler stop in case they got scared and began to run (which they often did at first). Thicker cotton rope is the best to use because if a goat gets tangled and panics she won't cut her legs. This could happen very quickly with a cable or nylon rope, and the goat may become injured even if you're keeping close watch.

This coming spring, we plan to use cattle panels to create movable fencing, and have a lightweight shelter for each pen. This will allow the goats to spend more time grazing/browsing in their movable pasture. Without any shelter, goats especially won't feel secure in the pasture. They won't want to spend as much time there. They also need the shade and shelter from even the shortest rain showers. If it rains and goats don't have shelter, they will cry like the Wicked Witch of the West. They seem convinced they'll melt away.
The benefits of rotational grazing include healthier pastures and parasite control. The pastures are healthier because you control how much and what is eaten. The idea is to keep close watch on the condition of the grazing area. See that the animals eat all the browse/pasture down evenly, but not so far down that it causes stress to the pasture plants. First they will eat everything they love, and then they'll be forced to eat the things they don't love (but are still healthful to them). This way, the things they don't like won't take over and choke out those plants the animals like the most. When they've eaten it down sufficiently you move them to a new area.
This also helps control parasites, which are a goat raiser's most prevalent problem, especially if she wants to avoid chemical wormers. Ideally, one area of pasture should only be grazed on once a season. Of course, on 1.5 acres that's not possible. There's a solution, however, that makes it work. The grazing area shouldn't be allowed to be grazed down any lower than about 4 inches, and then the animals moved. The grazed pasture should then be left for about two weeks. The poop that has been left behind in the pasture will contain parasite eggs from the host (cow, sheep, goat). During the two weeks that it is left alone, the parasites will hatch and climb the blades of grass (They can climb about 4 inches, hence the reason you shouldn't let the grass get shorter than that while the animals are grazing on it).
After two weeks, mow the grass. Either use a mulching mower with a bag to collect the trimmings (and parasites), or mow, let it dry and rake it up. This takes care of the majority of the parasites that would have found their way back into the host who grazed on that pasture next. When the pasture has grown out again, you can safely move you animals back onto it. The pasture will be healthier for the good fertilizing it's had, and it will be safe for your animals.
That's the idea, anyway. :) I plan to attempt this system along with an herbal wormer. I will try to keep you posted as to what I learn and how it all goes. I'm just beginning to understand this myself.
I also wanted to point out that having these movable fences makes it easy to allow goats to graze down overgrown areas of your property, and maybe even the neighbors who would like to get rid of an overgrown area. Goats thrive on good quality browse. They will be sleek and shiny, have less parasite problems, and get into real nice condition very quickly on it. They love raspberry, pine, willow, tag elder, wild roses, poplar, thistles, and lots more. They're really good at staying away from things that are bad for them as long as there's plenty of good healthy browse available. They will also graze on pasture if there's no browse available. They like dandelion, trefoil, red and purple clover, lespedeza, and various grasses and lots of other things that I don't know what are. I never paid much attention to "lawn" and "grass" before, so it's been a steep learning curve to understand what little I do.
Some cautions with goats on pasture:
-Avoid putting your goats out to pasture early in the morning when the grass is wet from dew, especially if slugs and snails are a problem in your area. They climb the wet grasses and are ingested by the goats. They are host to liver flukes and lung worms which could infest your animals.
-Any changes to your goats' diet should be made slowly. If you're going to put them on pasture in the spring, or if they aren't used to it, give a feeding of hay in the A.M. first. Start with a short amount of time and build up slowly, until they can tolerate being on pasture all day. It is a good idea to continue a small hay feeding in the morning. This will help to prevent bloat from too much rich green vegetation being compacted in the rumen.
-Provide baking soda free choice so the goats can self regulate the acid level in the rumen. This is important in preventing bloat, especially in a diet high in green grasses and concentrates (grain).


  1. I'm glad i am able to comment but for how long ,who can tell. your lucky to have such a hubby and so nice to be cheering him on and not complaining about him as others often do. I see a very prosperous and beautiful farm in your future.

  2. Judy, thank you so much for your kind comment. :)