|Newly planted annual rye|
Pasture forage includes both grasses and legumes which are divided into warm and cool weather types, just as garden vegetables are.
Cool weather forage
- annual rye
- various clovers
- winter peas
Warm weather forage
- various millets
- Egyptian wheat
These are possibilities in my region. There are other things liked by goats and used for forage and hay such as Johnson grass and kudzu, but these are considered invasives and so not a good idea to plant.
Other things that can be planted in the pasture area for forage include herbs (see my post "DIY Vitamins and Minerals For Goats" for an extensive list) and cool weather vegetables such as kale, beet, and turnip. In fact, I toss any old garden seed in with a pasture planting.
Fescue*, particularly tall fescue, is a bit controversial because it can be infected with an endophyte fungus which causes ill thrift in grazing animals including goats, sheep, horses, and cattle. Endophytes bind copper, selenium, zinc, and cobalt, which result in all the problems associated with mineral deficiencies. Endophyte free varieties of fescue are available, but apparently are not as hardy as the endophyte infected.
There are mixed reports on results from goats grazing fescue. Many, on some of the goat forums and websites, claim their goats do fine. Others have problems. For me, it may be a key to problems I've had. For example, almost all of Jasmine's problems, except the broken shoulder, pointed to copper deficiency. Fescue was the primary grass in our front pasture when we moved here and all my dark colored goats have shown symptoms of copper deficiency, for which copper supplementation doesn't seem to help. My white goats show no such problems, but their requirement for copper is lower than for dark goats. Learning about this has possibly been a major clue to a frustrating puzzle.
Immediate solutions include vigilant supplementation of selenium and copper and making sure animals are offered a large variety of browse to decrease the amount of infected fescue consumed. Long term, it means replacing the fescue with other types of forage. The good news on this front is that no pasture remains perfect for years on end. Grasses and legumes run their course, and pastures require maintenance and replanting periodically. Obviously, for us, this means not planting infected varieties of fescue as we work on our annual pasture remineralization and improvement plan.
My aim is to have both warm and cool weather forage in all goat areas, so that they have fresh grazing year around. Any that grows too tall can be cut and dried for hay. So far this autumn I've planted annual rye, wheat, oat seed, herb, and veggie seeds. I scatter the seed by hand wherever I find a bare spot, making sure there are no chickens around! I'll do the same in the spring with warm weather seed, which I believe I'd better start trying to find now!
Lastly, my resources for your perusal:
- Cool Season Forage Jack and Anita Mauldin Boer Goats
- Warm Season Forage Jack and Anita Mauldin Boer Goats
- Goat Pastures Tall Fescue eXtension
- Tall Fescue Toxicosis GoatWorld
- Tall Fescue Toxicity in Goats Onion Creek Ranch