Great Lakes Permaculture

Goats Love Silvopastures

Goats love Silvopasture

Closeup of goat eating grass

Closeup of goat eating grass

My son Joel is embarking on his dream of creating a permaculture homestead for himself in the Nashville TN area. His recent purchase of the land was only the first step. While taking his Permaculture Designers Course training, it ignited a passion that we did not know he had for building architecture, mushrooms, and cheese. Okay, we did know about the cheese because he has always liked cheese.

Joel has already setup short term and long term goals while he starts to observe the land and surroundings for wind, water and solar energies crossing his property. Short term he will start to create an income using mushrooms, a combination of logs and bags. Long term his plans are to raise goats and manufacture goat cheese, it is that plan that brings us to silvopastures.

Many times we think of Silvopasture as something we use for cattle only, but that is not the case. Silvopastures work equally well with goats. Silvopasture simply means Forest Pasture. By using a Silvopasture, you combine an intentional combination of trees, forage plants and livestock. Using this system, Joel will diversify his income opportunities while increasing his forage potential, reducing his need for chemical or mechanical vegetation control, reduce or eliminate his need for fertilization, and provides greater livestock protection from any harsh summer heat and winter chills.

If you have a few acres you can raise enough animals to provide a supplemental income, conversely if you own a large farm you can also benefit equally well from diversification into goat meat as supplemental income. By using goats to control invasive weeds in the pasture, Joel will eliminate mechanical cutting or mowing and any chemical herbicides or pesticide use. The goats will also provide nutrient cycling helping to improve the soil fertility.

I do not think that Joel has finalized his decision on the breed of goats to be used, but his final determination will be based on the following criteria.

1. Adaptable – Can easily adapt to the conditions of Joel’s farm
2. Growth rate – Meat goats should have high post-weaning growth rates. We understand that we are partially responsible for this based on feeding techniques, but the breed of goat also contributes to this also.
3. Reproduction – Keep or purchase does that produce twins.
4. Feed efficiency – Has a high growth rate for the feed provided. Consider using sustainable fodder as part of your overall Silvopasture strategy.

Marketing can take you down many different avenues also. As I explained earlier, Joel plans to use the goat milk to create goat cheese but he also must keep in mind that many ethnic and religious groups celebrate with goat as part of the festivities. This can increase the demand for meat, also providing another outlet for his homestead products. For additional information about respective animal varieties suitable for your area, a good source of information is you county extension agency. A quick look in your phone book or online will provide you with a phone number for your local office.

If you prefer a good book on the subject, the best source of a total farm system using restoration agriculture I know of is Mark Shepard’s book “Restoration Agriculture” you can also obtain additional information about Mark’s farm enterprises at http://www.newforestfarm.net/.

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