Monday, July 23, 2012


I like to save resources on the farm by reusing things or reducing waste. Here are some things I do:

I have two male goats who live outside in a pen all the time. They have two hay mangers and two nice dog houses to sleep in. I take any uneaten hay from the hay mangers daily and spread it in their dog houses for fresh bedding.

The male goats waste a lot of hay by pulling it out of the mangers and not eating it. Every week I rake this fairly clean hay up and put it in the chicken yard. The chickens love to dig through it for seeds and bugs. If I throw 1 cup of scratch grains on this hay, the chickens really tear into it!

My does go into the barn at night where they have individual hay mangers in their pens. My oldest doe and my youngest does are picky and won't always eat all of their hay each day. I take this clean hay out of their mangers and put it in the mangers of my two middle does. They will eat just about anything so they don't mind getting clean leftovers from the other goats.

Any spilled hay gets raked up in the barn and distributed in the goat pens for fresh bedding. This helps to keep the pens fresh and eliminates the need for me to buy hay or straw just for bedding.

My goats love fresh, clean water. After two days they will not drink any water if it is stale. I take this stale but clean water and use it to water the chickens and the lettuce plants by the barn. Any poopy water goes to water the flower pots and seedling trees.

When I rinse my water buckets out I always dump the rinse water on my flower pots. I never dump it on the ground.

All of my dirty goat bedding goes directly on the garden for mulch. This works great during the fall and spring to cover the empty space and renew the soil. During the summer I put the dirty bedding in the compost pile for later use as topsoil. The chicken manure goes in the compost pile.

My husband owns a wood chipper for his business. Any wood chips that people don't want, he brings home and puts in a big pile. I use these as a base for my goat pens and for covering muddy spots in the goat yard. I also use them for the chickens.

I unplug the electric fence at night. I bring the goats in the barn at night so no one is out on the pasture anyway.

When I prune the maple trees or raspberry bushes I give these cuttings to the goats. They love them! I also cut raspberry canes in the fall before the leaves fall off and bundle them for drying in the hay loft for the winter. The goats love to eat these when they are in labor and right after giving birth. It's a nice treat and raspberry is supposed to help with labor and delivery.

I rake all my maple leaves up in the fall and bag them for the winter. The goats love getting a few handfuls of these every few days as a treat. Just be sure that they are very dry before bagging so they don't mold during storage.

I never mow my lawn. I use portable electric netting fence to move the goat pasture all around. It takes only 20 minutes to move and I move it every 3 days to give the goats fresh forage and to keep the lawn cut short. The goats do a good job at cutting the grass and they fertilize as they go. I have gotten pretty creative with moving the fence so the goats get to all parts of the lawn.

My chickens get any melon rinds, corn cobs, leftover pasta and vegetables from the house. I compost the rest of the food waste. The goats get any stale cookies or crackers.

All cardboard and paper from the house go into the compost pile. It composts fairly well and is cheaper than paying a dump fee to dump it in someone else's hole in the ground. In the winter we use it to start fires in our two wood stoves to heat the house.

I use rolled up feed bags as insulation in the eaves of my hen house for the winter. The eaves are open for ventilation so I plug them with feed bags for the cold weather.

I use an old lid off of a large tote bin as a rain cover for my electric fence charger. It covers the charger and the power cord so they don't get wet. I also have a solar fence charger that I can move around for spots where the plug-in can't reach.

All of my milk that I don't need for my house goes into buckets for the neighbor's pigs. The neighbor's drop off buckets with lids once a week and I fill them up with goat milk. The pigs don't mind if the milk is a little fermented by the time they get it, they love it!!

That's some of the things that I do. How do you farmcycle?

Friday, July 20, 2012


 Time for some pictures to prove I actually do have animals here somewhere. Up there is Daisy looking out of the barn.

 Here's Figaro the Angora wether. Quite fluffy and quite wonderful!

 Here's Miss Primrose. She is also quite nice. Her and Daisy live together and are future milk/kid producers.

Here's Brun. He's the buck for this year. He'll be bred to Lucy. He's got a buddy, Bro, the wether who keeps him company.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Things I have learned so far....

There are some things that I have learned in my journey with raising livestock. 

1. Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched: There’s a reason this saying is about animals and not something more predictable, like the weather. Animals will always surprise you. That little doeling goat who shows potential may be a 2 gallon-a-day milker when she grows up, or she might get coccidiosis and kick the bucket next week. Don’t start planning on things that you can’t control. This isn’t to say you should never make plans, but don’t act surprised when your best laid plans are made into manure by your animals. 

2. Do what you can with what you got: Sure, a brand new wood paneled, welded bar horse stall looks pretty, but guess what? Your animals don’t care what it looks like. The only thing most farm animals care about is if their surroundings are safe, sturdy, and tasty. A horse isn’t going to be any happier living in a fancy new barn than living in an old run-in shed. As long as the roof doesn’t leak, there’s plenty of food available, and it is a calm place to live with happy interactions, the horse will be as happy as can be. An old horse trough makes a great new duck pond, a leaking water bucket is a new grain bucket, and an empty feed sack makes great barn insulation. Look around at what you have and make it work for you.

3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Farming is a constant learning experience and everyone has a different way of doing things. Be careful, though, about changing things that work well in the first place. Animals tend to be resistant to change. Some people might have great luck with putting their goat kids on a strict CAE, coccidiosis, and deworming schedule starting at birth. The schedule might sound perfect and might be the key to keeping your kids as healthy as possible. But it might also be the key to killing your kids with kindness by changing too much of what you know already works. I killed three kids this year by changing too much too soon. I thought what worked for someone else should work great for me. Big mistake! In all the changes I forgot to keep the same some very key elements that I already knew worked, like using probiotics after using antibiotics and the dangers of feeding too much grain. I should have stuck with my old program and only changed one thing at a time. 

3. Don’t go overboard: I jumped in when I first started by buying up all the goats I could find. I got old ones and young ones and pregnant ones and sick ones. If it was free or cheap, that was music to my ears. I have found that this isn’t worth it in the end. Take your time and research what you really want and what you want to do with it. Don’t just jump at the next Craigslist ad you see. Ask questions, talk to people in your area and on the internet, and look at a lot of animals before deciding what to bring home. Keep in mind that chickens can live from 4-8 years, goats live 10-15 years and horses can live to be 40. Getting animals is a long term commitment. If you get 15 goats and then decide next year that you don’t like goats, what are you going to do them? Have that figured out before you bring animals home. 

4. Breed within your means: This goes along with #3. Baby animals are super cute but they eventually grow up to be bigger, eat more, poop more, and get into trouble. It’s your job as the caretaker for your animals to consider what happens to what you will produce. Is there a market for baby goats in your area? What if they are all males? Are you willing to do what it takes to care for that situation (ie: slaughter them or sell them for slaughter)? I have had a lot of neutered male goats come back to me over the years. This is because people bought them as cute little babies and then realized after 5 years that their cute baby is a large, unruly, food-consuming machine. I have now decided that all of my extra male baby goats will be used as food for my table. I feel this is a much more humane endpoint than being used as coyote bait (that happened last year), or bounced around from home to home (yep, one of my boys got that treatment) or just straight up neglected (seen that, too). 

4. Be willing to go the distance: There are ways to farm that are easier and cheaper than others, but you still have to be willing to do what it takes and spend what it takes to keep your animals happy and healthy. Farming is a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and can cost a lot of money. Be prepared for that before you start. Are you willing to take a day off of your off-farm job to wait for a vet to come and charge you $300 to help your sheep? Are you able to stay up all night long to wait for your cow to give birth? Can you imagine putting down your horse that got pneumonia suddenly and is very sick? If you aren’t ready for this stuff, you might want to reconsider getting livestock.

5. Have fun with it! Farming and raising livestock can be a lot of fun. Animals are amazing to work and live with. Don’t be afraid to change something that isn’t making you happy. If your llama is a pain in the butt and he makes you dread doing chores, perhaps it’s time that llama found a new home. Farming will be a lot of work but it should be a lot of fun too!