August 21, 2014

Weeding For Goats

Last spring I wrote a weeding and gathering post on Heartsease. Over the years I've been learning to identify herbs and edible wild plants and let them grow in my garden and yard. When they need to be removed for other things I want growing, they can be a welcome harvest, either for us or for the goats.

I've been studying plants and weeds in regards to goats. I observe what they eat and what they don't. I learn what weeds are growing and check them against lists of plants considered poisonous for goats. Anything that is especially nutritious I chop, dry, and add to my vitamin and mineral mix for goats. (See "DIY Vitamins & Minerals For Goats" and "Homegrown Goat Minerals")

Amaranth thinnings. Amaranth is a good source of
calcium. I find it easier to chop while still fresh. 

Everything is air dried on screens and later added
to my goats' homemade vitamin and mineral mix.

Other things I just cut and dry for the hay pile. I like to spread them out on a big tarp in the shade. That way I can fold it over at night to protect from heavy dew. Being in the shade, it doesn't bleach out and retains a nutritious dried green color.

Fresh and dried grasses and weeds the goats like to eat. 

Once dry I toss it onto the hay pile. I don't get a hugemongous amount, but I'm a firm believer that every little bit helps.

I suppose it could be said that all this takes a lot of extra work. I figure if I'm going to weed or otherwise get rid of it anyway, why not save it and feed it to somebody? Makes sense to me. :)


Quinn said...

I'm the same, on the might as well and every little bit approach. Adds up!

Farmer Barb said...

I have been hard at work making hugelkultur mounds. I add the slash from the trees I cut to the piles of logs. The sheep and goats like to stand on the edge and eat the dry leaves off the branches. They eat them fresh in a bite or two, but for some reason dried, they will eat them for hours. Waste not, want not!

Leigh said...

Quinn, and it really does add up, doesn't it? Sure beats fretting over all those weeds!

Barb, good observation. One thing I've learned is that what they want throughout year varies vastly. My goats won't touch magnolia during summer, but in winter they fight over it! Ditto with quite a few other things.

Frank and Fern said...

Great example, Leigh. Thank you again for more ideas on 'producing' animal feed. I've been thinking that the old blackberry canes would be great goat feed. The only preservation technique I've thought of so far is slinging a rope up in the barn rafters, then tying the canes in bundles and hanging them from the slung rope. They would be up out of the way, and I could feed them gradually. I just haven't figured out a good way to reach them without having to use a ladder. I'm still working on that one. Thanks again.


Renee Nefe said...

It doesn't sound too much different than us tossing it on the compost heap, or us chopping up the tree branches so they fit in the garbage bin (don't need that much fire wood as we have a gas fire place)

Meredith said...

Seems like a good idea to me! I love how this will provide them with a nice variety of plant matter even in the off season... I'll have to give this a try myself!

tpals said...

My chickens display the same seasonal tastes; something that merits a 'meh' in summertime is a feast in the winter. :)

I think your approach to weeding is intelligent.

Dawn said...

I am seriously thinking of a few goats, but not this year, I like your idea of using up weeds to supplement there feed

Donna OShaughnessy said...

We work much the same way for our animals. Cutting grass with the mower and then emptying bags of grass into pig pens and calf feeders. What we mow for our own ease-lawn- gets less and less as we look at grass as something to sustain life rather than support what? A badminton game we don't play? Your goats are so fortunate to have you !

Sandy Livesay said...


This makes a lot of sense to me.
How do you keep the goats out of your clippings while they dehydrate?
Have any of your goats attempted to get at the special treats before mixing in their food?

Leigh said...

Fern, that's a great idea about the blackberry. You sound like me in trying to figure out how to dry and store it all. It's definitely a motivator to build that barn!

Renee, that's exactly right. If we bagged all this and took it to the landfill, sheesh! We'd have an over-flowing truck load full!

Meredith, goats love their weeds. In the past we've bought pure grass "horse" hay and weedy "cow" hay. The goats definitely prefer the weedy stuff! And I figure my weeds are probably healthier than most folks' hay.

Tpals, animals are funny like that aren't they? More choices in summer so they can be pickier!

Dawn, this is actually healthier for them than pelleted goat feed or even grain. Goats need roughage to keep their digestion healthy. A lot of emphasis is placed on protein, but without roughage, they'll have problems for sure.

Donna, you know, I can't drive by a place anymore without looking at acres of lawn and thinking, "that could feed somebody!" Great idea about the clippings for the pigs. I think my two would love that.

Sandy, if the goats see me taking a wheelbarrow load my cuttings anywhere, they holler and beg for it! I often toss things over the fence for them, but this stuff I dry out of range for all goats. :)

Su Ba said...

I like your tarp idea. Helps get stuff dried faster. Like you, I believe every little bit helps.

Bill said...

This is such a great idea. I've never considered trying to preserve goat-friendly weeds for winter. We need to learn more about goat nutrition. We have two pastures and both are lush, green and seemingly healthy. But in one the goats are always fat and healthy and in the other they tend to be thinner and more prone to sickness. The problem isn't intestinal worms. It must be something in pasture one that is beneficial or pasture two that is harmful. Or maybe pasture one is providing some mineral that pasture two doesn't have (even with the minerals we provide). Anyway, I like your idea of saving the good weeds and making mineral supplements (or hay) out of them!

DFW said...

Great information as always. Thank you.

Leigh said...

Su Ba, especially because I can cover it at night to keep the dew off. Or get it out of the rain!

Bill, seems some goats just do better keeping weight on that others. I'm constantly puzzling over one doe in particular, who always seems to have problems while the others are fine. I think the weeds will help, and they're free but for a little labor!

DFW, thanks!

Ellen and Adrian said...

I was wondering about berry canes and about nettle as well - can they simply be dried and fed? I was worrying about the thorns/stinging and how it might affect the mouth.

Leigh said...

Ellen and Adrian, my goats eat blackberry leaves, thorns and all, with no problem. They've cleared out most of the wild ones growing in their one field. They eat saw briars the same way. We don't have stinging nettles, so I looked that one up. There was a good discussion on the DairyGoatInfo forum; apparently most goats won't touch them but some folks dry it for hay.