We asked a few of our “goat friends” to answer some questions for us (and you) to provide more practical case studies for the world to learn from. Here you go!

Ecoburbia, Urban Fremantle, W.A

Shani and Tim

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • Our goats provide us with milk, cheese, and yogurt. They eat veggie scraps and garden refuge and also cuttings from neighbours and a local tree lopper who brings us stuff he knows they will like. Once they are finished we mulch the leftover branches and use them in the garden and compost
  • Our chickens are in the same pen as our goats and they like to scratch through the goat droppings for undigested grains. Their poo and spent oaten hay is a valuable addition to the compost.
  • Our goats are also much adored members of our household. We love them dearly. We sit and have a cup of tea in their pen every morning and that’s when they get their daily brush. They love trying to eat the tea leaves from the strainer.
  • They are also a great way to develop community.  Our sharewaste folk also bring treats for them – they will do anything for banana peels. They certainly get lots of visitors and people are free to wander into our backyard whenever they like. School finishing time is a popular time for visitors.
  • Our daily walks (down the middle of the road so no one is tempted by the roses) have meant we have met many people in our neighbourhood. There is usually someone keen to have a stroll with us and a chat as the goat’s graze. When Pumpkin was younger she used to play on the play equipment with the neighbourhood kids – she loves going up and sliding down the slide, and walking along the rope swing.
  • When we meet someone from Beaconsfield they often say “oh you’re the goat people” People seem proud of this quirky aspect in their neighbourhood.

How many goats do you have and what breed?

At the moment we have two goats – Whimsy (who is five) and Pumpkin (who is two). They are saanen goats. We mated Pumpkin recently with a 50% Nigerian dwarf and plan to mate Whimsy next year with a 100% Nigerian dwarf. Our goal is to breed a small goat who produces milk but is good for an urban environment.

What type of fencing do you have?

We have one metre high mesh fencing held in place with metal star pickets. They have only once jumped the fence – Pumpkin did accidentally when she got spooked by an umbrella. She was quite young and “frisky” She looked so shocked. People always comment that they will get out but they never have – I like to think they are happy in there.

Whimsy can however undo most gate latches so our gate has to be double locked with a carabiner. She can also undo bolts. Last year she went to the Royal Show, figured out how to undo her stall and then promptly undid all the other goat stalls – she loves a challenge. She watches everyone who leaves the pen and knows in an instance if the gate is not latched properly.

And once they are in the veggie garden . . . . .

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Our goat’s pen is about 70 square metres (not including their stables) They share this space with 12 chickens. They also have a space of about 30 square metres on the verge which is planted out with a fodder grass called paragrass and they graze there most days.

What do you feed them?

  • They get a grain mix of Lucerne chaff, goat pellets, barley and lupins twice a day at milking.
  • Also clean oaten hay daily (most of which they waste!) They get lots of veggie and garden scraps. When they go for a walk they always get some grazing time – weeks acacia, fennel – other interesting shrubs.
  • For a reward or a treat we feed them carob pods. We harvest and dry from a local tree every summer and that keeps us going all year.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

  • Milking and feeding takes about half an hour morning and night. I don’t count our morning cuppa and brushing as care. The afternoon walk takes about an hour. So about 2 hours a day. Plus collecting feed, trimming hooves etc
  • When there are babies you tend to spend all day in there.
  • Although I walk the goats Tim and I share the milking duties and we like doing it together.
  • We have a few people in the community who can milk if we need them. Our most reliable is actually a 12 year old girl – the goats are better behaved for her than they are for us.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • I would say my main preventative approaches would be daily observation – are they off their feed, what does their coat look like, were they a bit slow to eat their food, are they getting up when someone approaches with a treat? . . . . that sort of thing.
  • I don’t worm my goats unless they need it – I get a stool sample tested once every three months and they have never had worms
  • We are lucky because we are 15 minutes away from a university vet school that has a wonderful productive animal unit. They are also happy to do home visits for the cost of the travel. And they know our goats!

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

We had goats “illegally” for many years but when we moved suburb we knew we would have to get permission. The council was well away we kept goats in our previous house but didn’t ever act as there were never complaints. Beg for forgiveness and all that!

When we moved here I enquired (anonymously) and was told there was no way. I approached the mayor who directed me to the head of health. The council had no policy so had to follow state legislation. Surprisingly, most of the conditions were easy to meet – 6 metres from the house, lots of sensible stable requirements . . . . . except for the fact they had to be 20 metres from any other house.

The head of health suggested if I could get support from all the houses within 20 metres  then they would look at my application. We wrote a letter outlining what their care etc would be like, and everyone signed.  . . . . . and we have the only legal goat stable in Freo. The cost has not been put up since 1982 ($27.50)  and they quite often forget to renew it.

I am proud of our council for their creative thinking in this regard. I think by proving it could be done (if illegally) it made things easier.

The main time things are tricky is when the goats are on heat – the constant crying is difficult. We have some soundproof walls we put up on their pen and they have to spend a couple of days inside. Our immediate neighbours are very tolerant.

We have had four complaints.

  1. One neighbour complained about the goats and us generally (“why don’t you f… off to the country”) provoked by one of our goats pooing on his lawn. Despite our attempts to talk to him he has written or phoned the council 16 times (they told us!) They came out to investigate the smell (one of his complaints) and I made them sniff the goat! I also letterboxed an apology note from the goats (for their poo!) to all the neighbours on our usual route. Tim asked other neighbours to write letters of support about the goats (the council has a process for complaint but not compliment) and we have not heard from them since. And luckily he has sold up and moved away (not because of us!)
  2. An ex farmer felt like our pen was too small. He complained to the mayor who suggested he contact the RSPCA which he never did. He has since moved away as well.
  3. The RSPCA came one day as someone had suggested our goat has mastitis. She had what is called a pendulous udder and it did look very swollen. She checked out the goat, had a cuddle and left. She was very annoyed as she had to drive two hours to investigate (their city based officers only deal with “city animals”
  4. Someone suggested to the council that we were selling milk. Someone reported us based on a facebook post and they came around to investigate. Of course we don’t sell milk . . . . . . We just got a letter saying “don’t sell milk” and all was good.

I get very stressed with there is something wrong with the goats – they are my babies!

Melliodora, Central Victoria (rural)

David Holmgren, Sue Dennet and Brenna Quinlan (who provided this text)

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • They debark fodder sticks, which we then put through the wood chipper, and use on pathways, in veggie bed pathways, in the deep littler chook run, and in our compost. This is a major source of carbon for our property, as we don’t tend to buy in straw or other external inputs.
  • They are also our pets, so they give us love and cuddles. They get us out down the gully where we tether them each day so they can eat blackberry, so we get daily engagement with our commons, and Su gets daily exercise and ‘goatie time’, which is important when you’re in your 70s.
  • They reduce fire hazard by eating blackberry. This is very important in Central Victoria, the most fire prone region in the world. In spring when the grass is high we fence off paddocks on neighbouring properties and have them eat and trample the grass to reduce the need for slashing.
  • They give us milk each morning. We have 3 milking girls, Pip, Willow and Chia. Because none of them have had babies in two years (and three for pip), we only get about 3 litres of milk total, and now that Chia has one teat out of action, we’re only getting 2 litres. We make cheese, yogurt and use the whey for bread making and pickles.
  • They give us manure for compost.
  • We only mate them every 3 years, so when they have baby boy goats, we get meat from them as well.

  An illustration depicting the role goats play at Melliodora, by Brenna Quinlan

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We have three goats, which are all mixed breeds. Pip looks like a Toggenburg, and Willow is part Saanen, although she is fatter and has much shorter legs. Chia is Willow’s daughter. Willow and Pip were reject goats from Holy Goat, our local organic goat dairy.

What type of fencing do you have?

Our one hectare property is fenced against rabbits and foxes, and we divide it up with electronet into paddocks, depending on the season and the rotation with chooks and geese. We don’t ever let the goaties into the orchard because they ringbark the trees, and the one paddock containing fruit trees has electrified fencing around the trees to avoid ringbarking. Each day we take the goats out to the gully and tether them, or to a fenced off neighbour’s paddock to eat, and we bring them in with fodder each evening.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

From a whole paddock (quarter acre), to the length of their tether, which is about 4 metres. When they are in their stall at night they sometimes have about 10m squared, but sometimes we open the adjacent paddock and then they have about an eighth of an acre and the dam to wander around at night time.

What do you feed them?

At breakfast time they get the equivalent of a one litre jug each of a mix of lucern chaff and a small amount of seconds grain from a local organic supplier. They also get a slosh of vinegar and a handful of kelp seaweed to cut down on methane. Every second day they’ll get a half teaspoon of minerals too – a mix of sulphur, copper and dolomitic lime (so a teaspoon. so 1/2 a teaspoon of sulphur, 1/2 of dolomitic lime and the tiniest pinch of copper, divided between them). During the day they’ll demolish a blackberry patch, and a lot of other grasses, shrubs and wild plum trees that they’re tied up next to.

In the evening we’ll bring them a large bundle of willow or oak (summer), and blackwood or tagasaste (winter) or whatever needs pruning. The amount is equivalent to a small tree – almost to my limit of what I can drag up the hill.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

About an hour to an hour and a half each morning, because taking them out is very time consuming, depending on how far away the blackberry is. Then in the evening about half an hour to cut fodder and bring them in. We share the duties – I do three days a week of animal care, which included feeding chooks and collecting the eggs, and I keep the milk on those three days. Su and Dave share duties and milk/eggs for the other four days.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

We clip their nails every month or so. Their stall has a slotted floor so it’s relatively clean. We have dry spaces for them to be to avoid hoof rot. Su checks their condition to see if they need worming. We feed them a lot of diverse stuff during the day so they are healthy.

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

  • Taking them out in the morning is a challenge, because they tend to run off in the wrong direction, and they are very stubborn. It’s much easier and less frustrating with two people, and I quite enjoy taking them out with Su and spending that time with her.
  • It’s also become more and more difficult for Dave to kill the baby goats as the years go on. Two years ago Pip adopted a boy goat from another farm when he was 2 days old, and even that was really sad when he was 6 months old and had to die. The goats grieve for their babies.
  • Our goats also retire here, so when I arrived we had Bet, who hadn’t been milked in 8 years, and was always getting her horns stuck in the fence and falling over. She died two years ago, and looking after her was very time consuming.
  • Chia had a wound on her udder and it has healed closed, so for the past two weeks we’ve been gently piercing the opening again, but it is slow and I would like to dry her off.

  

The above photo is of the blackberry slope that the goats cleared this winter. We had them there for a couple weeks, moving them a bit further each day. The canes will break down and now trees can be planted there.

Good Life Permaculture, urban Hobart

Hannah, Anton and Frida

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • Our goats provide milk daily which we turn into cheeses and yoghurt (plus fresh milk of course).
  • They help manage the weeds on our property and in the nearby state forest. We inherited certain ornamental weeds which we use as a windbreak and cut fresh fodder from them daily. We also cut and bring home weeds from the nearby state forest. The weeds we have that we feed them include Tagasaste, Catoneaster, Photinia and Mirror bush. We also grow some Acacia for them, but it’s their least favourite!

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We have toggenburg goats. While we normally have two female adults, we momentarily have four in our space, two females and twin boy goats who are still very young. Once naturally weaned, these boys will move to farms as we don’t have the space to keep them here.

What type of fencing do you have?

We have a hardwood timber post and rail and mesh fencing. Goats love to use fences (non-electric) to rub up against, so these timber frameworks are nice and strong and provide their scratch post. They’re around 1.5m high.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Our goat’s yard is approximately 80m2 which includes their shed. We also tether them on our grass patches sporadically – but only when we can supervise them.

What do you feed them?

We buy in a mixed chaff (oat and lucern blend) and steamed/rolled barley grain. We feed them 2 litres of chaff (approx. 800g) and 600g of barley twice a day (morning and evening) for each milking goat and half that for each doe that’s not lactating. I’ll also cut fresh fodder daily for them and occasionally they get tethered on grass (when we’re home and can supervise).

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

I spend around 1 hour with them daily with them. This includes morning milking, feeding and cutting of fodder and then an evening feed. We only milk one goat in the morning.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • Our goats came from a wonderful farm, but also came with a level of worms. My understanding is that you can never really get rid of the worm population once you have them. So we manage them.
  • We make sure they have diverse diet of fresh fodder.
  • A mineral block which they can help themselves to any time – we have “Mineral Health Essentials + Copper” from Olsson’s (that’s the brand name).
  • We cut their toenails every 6 – 8 weeks to keep their feet healthy.
  • We’re still trying to find the right worming treatment that they’ll actually eat properly. I think our goats are a bit spoiled so they often reject the herbs we mix in with their feed. They’ll literally not eat their food (or not much of it) if they think “it’s not quite right”. So we’re still experimenting with the best system for them and have tried a wide range of things. This has included conventional drenching with a product call Panacur which has a one day withholding period from drinking milk. Apparently this isn’t strong enough for most commercial herds with worms as they build up a tolerance to it quickly. We’ve used it twice in 2 years and it appears to have helped manage the situation. However we’re also still trying to train them to eat the herbs.

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

  • Finding experts to advise on natural preventative worming approaches which work well.
  • When they’re in heat (every autumn), they can get very noisy every 3 weeks for a few days at a time. One season the youngest goat also developed advanced jumping skills and they both jumped the fence. They only did this once.
  • Finding friends who can milk and look after them while we’re away. It’s not for everyone and we generally struggle to find someone who can “do it all”. Luckily we’re happy homebodies so don’t travel too much.

You can find a bit more detail about our set up on an older goat blog from 2017 here. 

Sue Dennet milks Gerty at Good Life Permaculture while Frida shows off her chook catching skills

Twelve Trees Farm, Cygnet (rural)

Jilly Middleton (Jilly no longer keeps goats on her property, the below is from past experience)

 What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

We had between 15-40 goats over 7 years primarily to manage gorse, blackberries and thistles. We milked some and ate goat meat. We sold live goats to eat other peoples weeds as well. we also cuddled many, many goat kids.

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We started with 15, dropped down to 9 within the first year to strengthen the herd. we didn’t breed every year, we bought some in and sold some. We had some who were worry warts and were sold to backyards where they got lots of attention. We had some who were predisposed to getting their heads stuck in ringlock, they were sold or eaten. We had some that always had triplets and would struggle to thrive. We bred for hardiness, specifically for parasite resistance, and foot health.

What type of fencing do you have?

External fences are 90cm high mesh (sheep or wallaby ringlock) with a single or double strand of electric up top, and an electric single line on an outrigger about a foot off the ground. Internal fences are many and varied. We used gallagher ‘smart fences’ which had 5 strands of electric poly wire with tread ins, and made our own temporary electric fences with steel rods and insulators to graze strategically within paddocks.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Too much, usually! The fenced part of the property was about 80 acres. one of our challenges was maintaining a large enough herd/small enough paddocks to have significant impact on the woody weeds.

What do you feed them?

Hay – the amount depended on the length of the winter, and whether the goats were bred. We also fed them propharma mineral lick, and a monthly week of worming herbs. This varied depending on what was available on the farm and in the shops- oregano oil (3 drops/day/goat, fresh garlic, nigella seeds, pine/wormwood branches, rosemary, apple cider vinegar, kelp were long standing favourites) we’d use kelp meal and lucerne chaff to mix with supplements.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

Anything from 30 minutes a week to 4 hours a day in kidding season.  For about 5 months we’d supplement their diet with hay, some weeks we’d let them into a bush paddock and pop back once a week to check them all out. we trimmed their feet every 3 months or as needed. Once, we needed to do it every 2 months and that was because we were overfeeding minerals in the Pat Coleby style.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • Eventually we bought the best stock we could afford, bred for resilience, destocked in bad years, made sure they had adequate nutrition and didn’t push them too hard. We’d take a year off kidding if we thought they were slow to recover/we knew we would be busy with a new baby (of the human type for us)!
  • Rotational grazing for parasite management and many experiments with mineral supplementation. We started with the Pat Coleby regime; using dolomite, copper, sulfur. That was a good starting place – copper can help control internal parasites, dolomite makes the copper safer for the goat, sulfur helps to control the externals. However its a blunt tool and misses some marks. We had some goats present with possible whilte muscle disease one year and we started using the propharma supp to efficiently get a nice mix of minerals in. If it were just a few goats, I’d be more excited about finding the organic mineral sources to feed the goats.
  • Herbal worm treatment took many forms depending on ingredient availability. We would tend to use it every few weeks for a week, and at specific strategic times. After kidding for the mums, at weaning time for the kids, the first warm wet days of spring. Keeping housing clean and treated with lime after wet seasons and/or suspicion of worms.