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ElectroNet 9/35/12 is an effective temporary fence for our goats.

ElectroNet® 9/35/12 keeps our goats contained where we want them. The goats do an excellent job grazing forages that our sheep flock do not prefer. As with all animals, train them to the electrified fence in a small area before relying on it to contain them in the field.

August 2016—Goat Edition

Practical weed control—
Too many goats have earned a bad reputation. Stories abound of their unparalleled climbing ability, escape attempts (and successes) and appetite for all manner of things! Some of this reputation is deserved… we’ve known a few goats that are immune to fences (they quickly find themselves on a trailer to market.)

A goat’s appetite is not a detriment, it’s a benefit! How so? Forages that sheep and cattle commonly pass over are prime pickings’ to goats. Honeysuckle? Thistle? Multiflora rose? Most animals won’t touch them, but goats do. They’ll even pass over tasty native grasses in favor of the seemingly unpalatable.

The preference for leafy greens over grasses makes goats an excellent addition to grazing systems. When cattle or sheep leave undesirable plants behind, the goats will mow them down. Some of the forages listed above are considered invasive species, making goats deputy conservation officers!

Part of the learning process is gauging the amount of forage a site offers. This takes time. Underestimating means more time onsite to complete the job. Overestimating could leave you scrambling to your next site or breaking into your stored hay or stockpiled pasture earlier than anticipated. Once you've figured this out, you're well on your way to converting low-quality forage to high-quality meat.

In this issue’s customer spotlight, Goats On The Go explains how it uses Premier’s electric fencing and goats to graze properties in an ecological-friendly way.



Goats On The Go
ElectroNet® 9/35/12 is keeping goats contained to an area.
Getting to work! ElectroNet® 9/35/12 is keeping goats contained to an area. Most of the herd has moved into the dense cover. Goats will reach up into trees and shrubs in order to defoliate.
Goats On The Go is a local (Iowa) company that provides prescribed grazing services, with goats!

Aaron Swailes started working with Goats On The Go while attending an entrepreneurial course at Iowa State University, where he met the founder, Aaron Steele. The business started as an effort to control forage growth on Steele’s small acreage and grew into a business. Word-of-mouth has been the only advertising (other than signs on the goat paddocks themselves.)

Before placing goats on site, Swailes will survey the piece to be grazed. Quantity and type of forage is assessed, as well as the landscape: sandy or rocky soil, trees, water gaps. All affect how the herd is deployed.

Mob grazing techniques are used—heavy pressure over a short duration. This encourages the herd to defoliate as much as possible, before their next move. The goal is to stress the non-native/undesirable plants to the point they simply don’t grow back. The manure from the goats is beneficial to ungrazed grasses.

With targeted grazing, goats will be browsing areas not commonly grazed by sheep and cattle: woodlots, brush and browse. These are areas that deer inhabit, which means meningeal worm is a concern. This parasite is carried by deer without causing significant issues, but when introduced to sheep, goats and camelids, it can be fatal. Keep an eye on your flock and consult a veterinarian if you suspect meningeal worm.

Offloading the herd onto a new site.
Offloading the herd onto a new site.
Swailes notes that the unique, spade-like shape of the goat’s mouth allows them to avoid thorns. This enables the goats to get in close to plants that other animals would prefer to avoid. Honeysuckle falls to goats first, followed shortly by multiflora rose.

The majority of Goats On The Go’s customers are trying to reclaim native species on their acreages (most grazed areas are covered in invasives). They want to avoid the use of herbicides and large equipment. So goats are a natural solution, plus the customers don’t have to keep them once their land is clear.

Use goats in the following areas:
  • Parks, trails and recreation areas
  • Prairie restorations
  • Residential woodlots
  • Public facilities and right-of-way
  • Vacant and reserved land
  • Campus and business properties
  • Pastures
The largest issues the grazers face are city/municipal regulations regarding electric fence. If electric fence is not allowed, it makes it difficult to build a secure enclosure for grazing goats. Other concerns are “the smell” and goats biting people who come too close. The latter two concerns are from folks who lack goat experience (goat manure is relatively odorless in the pasture and goats are not biters).

If you’re interested in starting your own targeted grazing operation, here are a few notes from Aaron Swailes:
  • Always test your fence before you leave them. (Goats always know when the fence is off.)
  • Communicate realistic expectations to customers. It may take several grazing periods to kill some plants.
  • Communicate with the neighbors about the goats (they’re not biters), the risks of electric fence and the ultimate goal, which is to control invasives and promote native grasses.
If you have further questions regarding a goat grazing business, Goats On The Go offers a business consulting service for targeted grazing startups. Folks can choose from a series of training modules covering everything from basic herd management to detailed market analysis, including price-setting.

Installing ElectroNet and a PRS Solar Energizer
Going through brush? Cover up to avoid poison ivy and ticks!
Going through brush? Cover up to avoid poison ivy and ticks!
The grassy margins are an easier section to fence. No brush to wrestle through.
The grassy margins are an easier section to fence. No brush to wrestle through.
Before leaving the site, make sure the fence is properly energized.
Before leaving the site, make sure the fence is properly energized.
Play Watch Online
What is required to make a targeted grazing enterprise profitable?
Premier asked Goats On The Go's founder, Aaron Steele, about his sustainable grazing operation:
     The first step is to separate the grazing business from the meat goat business. In order to know if either component, meat or targeted grazing, is making or losing money, they need to be separated into two distinct enterprises for budgeting and accounting and (most importantly) price setting. We've found pricing to be one of the hardest parts of the targeted grazing business, and mixing costs and revenues from the two enterprises can camouflage pricing problems.

     For example, including proceeds from meat goat sales in your profit calculation for the grazing service makes it appear that the service is more profitable than it is, potentially leading you to price the service below where the market values it (or even below your actual costs) because your profit margin looks so rosy on paper.

     Similarly, it's tempting to think that because customers will be feeding your herd you don't have to charge very much for the grazing service. But, there are real production costs when using your meat goats for targeted grazing. They may have lower gains, they will be exposed to more stress, disease, and predator pressures, and the risks are just generally much higher than feeding goats on your farm. Oh, and there's fuel, vehicle depreciation, liability insurance, your own stress, etc. It's far from "free" feed!

     We keep separate books for the two enterprises. The farm owns the goats, and Goats On The Go leases the goats from the farm. Money actually changes hands between the two enterprises. That way the farm is compensated for the increased risk to the herd, and Goats On The Go can budget for the actual cost of using goats for targeted grazing. That way we're not treating the grazing service as just "icing on the cake" of the meat goat business.

Raising Goats Naturally
Raising Goats Naturally $30
A practical guide on how to incorporate goats into a diversified homestead.
Milking Stand
Milking Stand
A goat friendly milking, hoof trimming and clipping stand.
Premier UltraScreen
Premier UltraScreen
A wind, snow, ice, rain and sun resistant material for siding on barns, coops and even decks!
Come see us at the Mother Earth News Fair!
September 23-25Seven Springs, PA
October 22-23Topeka, KS
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