My Management System for a Holistic Goat Herd – Part 1

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Management systems – they are so incredibly different.

Let me preface this series by saying that:

  • I am not a vet, this is just what I have learned from hours of research. None of the following statements in this series have been reviewed by vets or any government body.
  • No one management system is going to work for everyone.
  • My management system for a holistic goat herd is what works for me. It may or may not work for you.

Let’s start with a definition:

According to Dictionary.com, holistic is defined as:

Incorporating the concept of holism, or the idea that the whole is more than merely the sum of its parts, in theory or practice: holistic psychology.

dictionary.com

Holism is defined as:

Philosophy. The theory that whole entities, as fundamental components of reality, have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts.

dictionary.com

In light of that, my basic definition of a holistic goat herd is:

  • a herd that uses natural means for health; such as essential oils, herbs, minerals, and homeopathy.
  • a breeder who is focused on building immune systems through rotational grazing, selective breeding, and natural health alternatives.
  • a breeder who does not rely on chemicals, vaccinations, and conventional dewormers.

Does that mean I’ll never call a vet or refuse to use an antibiotic if required?

No. Absolutely not.

It means that I use natural remedies first. Often the problem clears up without needing anything else.

My goal is to prevent problems before they even arise. I do this by using high-quality minerals, rotational grazing, and selective breeding.


My main goal – before weight gains or milk production – is to have goats with extremely strong immune systems and worm resistance.


The interesting thing is, in hitting those goals the other goals fall into place. once. Un-thrifty goats do not gain weight or produce milk well.

Enough philosophy, onto the nitty-gritty


Daily Routine – late spring to early fall

The summer routine lasts for around 5-6 months. In mid-late May the grass is ready for the herd. By late October everything is pretty much dead, and the herd moves into their winter quarters.

I move the herd every 12-24 hours. Frequent moving is crucial to reducing parasite loads and preventing the goats from getting bored. (bored goats = escapees)

A parasite’s life cycle is 3-5 days from egg to the larvae that climb the grass to get your goat.

By moving the goats away from that before the egg can even hatch, the pest cycle is successfully broken. Running chickens behind makes this even more successful, as chickens love those little critters.

Freshwater is available all the time.

Offering fresh minerals was a challenge I didn’t solve until early last year. The herd doesn’t go back to a permanent building during the summer. (another thing that breaks that pesky parasite cycle) This made it difficult to offer free-choice minerals while keeping them clean, dry, and easy to move.

Meet the mineral shelter

You won’t find plans for this anywhere online. Honest, I looked. This is a conglomeration of around 4-5 different mineral shelters I came across.

And to be completely honest, I am VERY surprised with how well it works. It keeps the minerals dry, doesn’t tip over, and it’s light enough I can easily carry it from pen to pen.

There are four compartments in it and it holds kelp, mineral, Redmond salt, and either cobalt salt or diatomaceous earth.

The kids are weaned late June/early July

They get their own rotational pens, mineral shelter, and water. I move them even more frequently than the does to keep them on fresh, new browse.

While I expect the does to clean up their pens fairly well, I don’t expect that from the kids. If I expected that of the kids, they would lose weight instead of gaining.

The kids do not get a ration or grain at weaning. Straight browse/pasture only.

At this time I also start milking; stopping when I have enough to last the rest of the year for making soap.

By August I’ve picked who to keep and who to sell. The keeper doelings go back with the does while the bucks get their own pens.

A day during the summer looks like this:

Check everyone – milk – move – fill minerals – fill water – repeat.

my management system for a holistic goat herd

Daily Routine – late fall to early spring

The winter routine brings with it relief. While I look forward to moving the goats in the spring, and I also look forward to not moving them in the fall.

By late October the browse and grass have died back, and it’s time to move the herd into their winter quarters.

Here is zone 4/5, we often get 6-7 months of winter. This past year (2018-2019 winter) we had 8 months. Craziness.

October also brings with it breeding season. I keep playing around with the timing of it, and it can range from early October to late November and even into December.

The goat herd winters in our greenhouse on a deep bedding pack.

kiko goat herd

Their pen is made up of 8ft long, 5ft tall wooden panels with hay feeders hanging on the outside.

Winter food consists of hay, minerals, fresh water and molasses water with herbs.

Breeding Season

For the Kikos, I expect everyone to get bred within 32 days. Most of the time they are all bred within the first 14 days of putting the buck in.

I am a bit more lenient with the Nigerian Dwarfs.

At what age I breed first time does depend on their weight. Some Kikos I’ll breed to kid at 1 year old. Some I wait and breed them to kid at 2yrs old. Nigerians must be at least 40lbs.

After everyone is bred, the bucks are taken out and get their own pen and all the does go into one pen.

Kidding

Admittedly my favourite time of the year! I try to keep track of due dates for everyone, it takes the guesswork out of kidding season. The does get kidding pens once I see signs of impending kidding. I leave them and their kids in the kidding pens for about 3 days if possible.

While I keep an eye on everyone during kidding season, I expect the does to kid and clean the kids by themselves. Again, I am more lenient on the Nigerians and first-time does.

The kidding season is generally mid-March to mid-late April. Foodstuffs do not change for pregnant or lactating does.

A day in the winter looks like this:

Bring molasses water – check everyone – feed hay – fill water buckets – fill minerals – repeat.

my management system for a holistic goat herd part 1

There you have it! An overview of how I raise my herd.

Questions? Comment below and ask! Interested in learning more? Let me know! 🙂


Over the next few months I’ll be talking more in-depth about:

  • worming with herbs & essential oils
  • my health care of the herd
  • rotational grazing & worms
  • data management

Enjoy! 🙂

Megan


My Management System for a Holistic Goat Herd – Part 1

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