Ruminants

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Goats1.jpg
To convert grasses, broadleaf, and misc vegetation to food we need ruminants, but which ones? This page intends to explore the common ruminants of goats, cattle, sheep and come up with an optimal grazing strategy for given landscapes.

See also: Rabbits

http://www.caf.wvu.edu/avs/sheep/PDF/Newsletters/NLSPRING05.pdf This study here suggests that given cattle's strong preference for grass and goat's ability to munch a grass and other vegetation that a mixed grazing system may be optimal. Sheep also can be thrown in the mix particularly if wool is desired. These could all be raised on the same pasture by rotating them through cells (see below).

Wanted: Some organic farmers are interested in unconventional, locally-adapted ruminants like buffalo, deer, antelope etc. Some discussion of this would be cool

Goats[edit]

Land Requirement[edit]

US Dairy Statistics indicate a total milk production of 287 kg (633 lb) per person, which is then used for direct consumption as fluid, and for making dairy products such as cheese. An average Saanen dairy goat produces 3.8 kg (1 gallon) of milk per day [1], thus requiring 0.2 producing goats per person. For a community of 200, therefore 41 milking goats are needed on a year-round average basis if goats are the sole ruminant. The adult goat to milking goat ratio is 5:4, giving a total adult herd size of 50, plus kids, which are a byproduct of the milk production. Standard lactation length for milking dairy does is 305 days, however does may be milked longer. Does milked continuously without re-breeding for two or more years will drop production by about 50% in the winter but return to normal production in the spring.

For temperate regions with good soil, you can stock approximately 12 goats/ha (5/acre), thus giving a required pasture area of [TBD] for a community of 200. The following additional factors should be considered in order to fit goats/livestock into a community project:

  • Mixed Land Use - For example, hosting other species to more fully use what the pasture grows, or mixing timber with goats to graze the underbrush to get dual use of the land.
  • Long Term Fertility - depletion/additions from animal wastes and how that affects the net requirement for soil inputs to maintain fertility.
  • By Products - Besides milk, livestock produce meat, leather, and slaughter wastes.
  • Surplus for Income - Possibly raising a surplus of products to sell, in order to purchase items the community cannot make on their own.
  • Legal Requirements - Obviously you want the products to be safe to use, but consider the options of sole proprietor vs community ownership of the herd, and internal use only vs sale of products, and how that affects legal overhead and qualifications of staff doing the work.
  • Bootstrapping - Smallest starting herd would be 1 goat, but obviously you need at least two to breed, and a rational expansion plan to go from a minimal starting point to an efficient herd size, after which you replicate the herd and facilities as needed.

Facility and Equipment Requirement[edit]

  • Shelter - Approx 1 square meter (10 sq ft) per animal during bad weather.
  • Milking & Creamery - Size, Layout, and detailed equipment TBD. Equipment is needed to milk the animals, possibly slaughter them, store and bottle milk and produce cheese and other products from it.

*** Need references to existing facility and equipment designs here ***

Breeds[edit]

Dairy Breeds

Alpine

Guernsey

LaMancha

Nubian

Oberhasli

Saanen

Sable

Toggenburg

Meat Breeds

Boer

Genemaster

Kiko

Myatonic

Savannah

Spanish

Fiber Breeds

Angora

Cashmere

Dual Purpose Breeds

  • http://www.kindergoats.com/ - Most people are not aware of a small meat/dairy goat called the Kinder [spoken "Kin-dur".] It was developed over 30 years ago and has gained great success in competing against its larger cousins. This little goat will produce a gallon of milk a day, is much more feed efficient than other breeds, is small so easy to handle (especially the bucks) and is stocky so makes for better meat than the other dairy breeds. Another advantage over other breeds is that the Kinder will breed all year long so you can rotate your milking does and always have plenty of milk. The milk is also higher in protein and butterfat so better for making cheese. This little goat was developed for the small farmstead. The primary lady behind this breed is a long time prepper and has always believed the Kinder will get the job done when other goats fail. For further information, see KinderGoat.com or contact Pat Showalter, primary founder and president of the Kinder Goat Breeder's Association at [email protected]

Miniature Breeds

Nigerian Dwarf

Pygmy

Miniaturized Standard breeds

Mob-grazing / cell-grazing[edit]

In the wild, herbivores gather together in tight groups for protection from predators. They graze a small area of pasture intensively, then move on to a different spot. By contrast, most farmers stock ruminants sparsely and rarely move them. Natural grazing is intensive; artificial grazing is extensive.

The form of grazing championed by The Savory Institute and Polyface Farms aims to replicate the natural grazing patterns of ruminants. The pasture is divided up into small cells by electric fencing connected to batteries. This fencing is very light and easy to rearrange. The entire herd is corralled into one cell at a very high density (e.g. 100 cows in a half-acre cell) and allowed to graze there for one day before being moved to the next cell. The livestock do their rounds of the pasture, one cell at a time. Each cell is grazed only a few days a year, and spends the rest of the time regrowing vegetation. (Permaculturalists will notice that this is the same method as the 'chicken tractor'; corralling livestock onto a small area for short periods of time to graze and improve the soil with manure and trampling/scratching.) You must observe how long it takes the vegetation to regrow; return the livestock to the cell when the vegetation has just finished its growth spurt and is entering maturity. 50-100 days is a typical regrowth time.

The animals improve the soil by trampling and cultivating it, and with their manure. And when they mow down the forage, it drops its roots into the soil, where they rot and improve the soil further. The livestock do not just eat plain grass, but a whole range of grasses, groundcovers and weeds. This varied diet results in healthier animals, lower veterinary costs, and tastier meat. The key to the whole system is good soil, which allows forage to grow faster. Apart from the natural soil-improving effect of mob-grazing, amending the soil with compost, worms, biochar and nitrogen-fixing trees will further increase productivity. Ultimately, farming livestock comes down to farming forage. Cell-grazing on optimized soil allows for much higher stocking densities than would otherwise be possible; Polyface Farms stock about one cow per 1.5 acres and The Rodale Institute have one cow per 1.8 acres, compared to one cow per 18 acres for extensive pastures.

Silvopasture[edit]

Silvopasture refers to growing trees in pasture. This provides shade and forage for the animals, and improves the soil.

Using ponds in pasture[edit]

Reeds on the edge of water grow much faster than land-based forage can - see aquaculture. You can use this to grow extra forage - and therefore produce more meat - by letting ruminants graze along the edge of a pond. The edge of the pond should be crinkly, not straight, to maximize the edge area in which reeds can grow.