Organic gardening with my goats

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Here on the Fruit Fly Farm we sometimes raise wethers. These young 'fixed' male goats are odorless and make wonderful pets, and are useful for gardening in several ways.

The biggest advantage of our wethers is the compost they produce. This is a rich mixture of about 80 percent hay and 20 percent 'nanny berries.' During the winter in climates like ours which can be cold and wet, the best practice is to keep piling up fresh local hay bedding in the goat barn, rather than shoveling it out. This causes heat to be spontaneously generated in the hay under the goats, keeping them warm and dry. It also speeds up the decomposition of the hay and nanny berries. When the bedding is shoveled out in the spring, the bottom layers are already partially composted. The best goat compost has been aged for at least a year before use. We keep it in a pile covered by a tarp to prevent runoff until it is decomposed enough to be used in the garden. When it is ready, it is very light, fluffy and crumbly and has no bad odor.

In my experience, goat compost grows crops better than any store-bought fertilizer! Some of our beets (Detroit Dark Red and Early Wonder) grow to the size of bowling balls in this, but still are tender and sweet, with no tough fibers. I have had Swiss Chard leaves grow to a height of four feet using this stuff, and it's also why I keep having to really struggle to dig out two-foot-long parsnips!

Gardening with the goats is a reciprocal affair. In exchange for the compost they provide, they get to eat all the mature pea vines and lots of other fresh garden produce. They also get to eat tons of weeds and especially blackberries which, due to my recent illness, almost overran the place.

A rather interesting use for wethers which I have not yet tried, is pulling a small plow to help till the garden. This is done, but it's not common, and I have always been curious about how well it actually works. They are very strong animals and I can see them doing this without any trouble. Anyway, this is how our wethers fit into our organic gardening scheme. We love them and I can't imagine gardening without them! :)
 
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Here on the Fruit Fly Farm we sometimes raise wethers. These young 'fixed' male goats are odorless and make wonderful pets, and are useful for gardening in several ways.

The biggest advantage of our wethers is the compost they produce. This is a rich mixture of about 80 percent hay and 20 percent 'nanny berries.' During the winter in climates like ours which can be cold and wet, the best practice is to keep piling up fresh local hay bedding in the goat barn, rather than shoveling it out. This causes heat to be spontaneously generated in the hay under the goats, keeping them warm and dry. It also speeds up the decomposition of the hay and nanny berries. When the bedding is shoveled out in the spring, the bottom layers are already partially composted. The best goat compost has been aged for at least a year before use. We keep it in a pile covered by a tarp to prevent runoff until it is decomposed enough to be used in the garden. When it is ready, it is very light, fluffy and crumbly and has no bad odor.

In my experience, goat compost grows crops better than any store-bought fertilizer! Some of our beets (Detroit Dark Red and Early Wonder) grow to the size of bowling balls in this, but still are tender and sweet, with no tough fibers. I have had Swiss Chard leaves grow to a height of four feet using this stuff, and it's also why I keep having to really struggle to dig out two-foot-long parsnips!

Gardening with the goats is a reciprocal affair. In exchange for the compost they provide, they get to eat all the mature pea vines and lots of other fresh garden produce. They also get to eat tons of weeds and especially blackberries which, due to my recent illness, almost overran the place.

A rather interesting use for wethers which I have not yet tried, is pulling a small plow to help till the garden. This is done, but it's not common, and I have always been curious about how well it actually works. They are very strong animals and I can see them doing this without any trouble. Anyway, this is how our wethers fit into our organic gardening scheme. We love them and I can't imagine gardening without them! :)
And I bet they help keep invasive herbs like mint in check too, which reminds me. I have a friend whose garden was always full of weeds so he goes out and buys 6 weeder geese. He turns them loose and goes to work, comes back home and his entire garden is gone, tomatoes, beans the whole thing including the weeds. The weeds came back. The tomatoes didn't. So I guess the moral of the story is don't let your geese loose in the garden:D
 
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Pardon me but goats are disliked here in our place because they destroy the plants. Goats eat almost anything so when they get loose, expect ruins to follow. One time the goats in the neighborhood numbering more than 10 got loose and attacked our extended garden. When we noticed, there were no more leaves - sweet potato, cassava and all other plants that have leaves were totally devastated.
 
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Fascinating read! I am glad your goats are helpful and that you found the perfect mix to feed your goat and to use as compost. Your farm must be very lovely and wonderful!
 
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Very interesting to hear about them! I'd never heard the term 'wethers' before. I'm intrigued by the idea of them pulling little ploughs!
 
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Corzhens, loose goats are a point that I neglected to mention. Thanks for bringing that up! :) If you look at my photo you will see that I am using livestock panels to keep my goats out of my garden. These panels are made of quarter-inch steel rods welded together, and they will hold almost any kind of animal. They work great for my kids! The panels also make the strongest trellises imaginable. I also used them to fence one of my orchards.

Becky, there actually used to be an Amish manufacturer of goat ploughs back east, but I can't remember his name. His goat-pulled cultivator was featured in one of the goat supply catalogs, along with the necessary harness.
 
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Gardening and animal husbandry can go hand in hand. After you harvest plants, you can use unused plants as fodder for your animal. You can use your animal poop as fertilizer for your plant. Goat poop is high quality fertilizer. However, you should never use fresh poop. Fresh poop may kill your plant.
 
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Awww, these goats are so cute! I've always dreamed about owning one. It could spend time in my parents' garden. There is a lot of grass and weeds there, I bet a goat would love it:)
 
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Oh my goodness, your goats are the cutest things I've ever seen! I grew up with three goats and loved them dearly. They are adorable and super fun to have around. I'm surprised they aren't giving you any trouble with your gardening. My goats always wanted to eat every plant they came in contact with.
 
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Have to agree with others and say that the goats are adorable - and it's fascinating to me that the goat manure works so well!

Weeds seem to be constantly cropping up in my garden, no matter how many hours I'm out there for getting rid of them - perhaps I need to get myself a goat for the weed management side of things!! ;)
 
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What breed of a goat is a wether? The method of composting from your article is an innovative one. It is a type of manure based composting. This is an integrated farming approach in which a self sustaining ecosystem has been established. In my area people rear goats in enclosed pens or on free range. The manure is regularly scooped out and heaped waiting for the planting season. This results in volatility of nitrogen due to exposure to the elements. Goat manure is significantly richer than any manure as goats drink little water making it concentrated.
 

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