A Fistfull of…

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Tiny Butter and Lola sniffing noses at the bottom of the picture. Too cute.

Poison Oak.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like these little goats. Love them? Maybe. I might even love them. But that doesn’t mean I will happily feed them alfalfa (at $20 a bale these days) morning and night while they turn their tiny noses up at the poison oak that they were specifically hired to eat. It’s their JOB. These two boys anyway, were brought to our lovely home, given a luxurious barn, spacious accommodations of the highest quality, and all we asked in exchange was that they eat poison oak. Their alternative fates could have been much worse.  An 8 year old 4-H er, dragging them around to goat shows? Someone with a taste for milk-fed kid goat? Who knows? The options for male dairy goats are few. But we took them in, with one simple request: Please eat our poison oak. We know they CAN. We know other goats consider it a delicacy in fact. But no. They refuse. Hay hay hay. All they want is hay.

It’s hard because the only advice we’ve gotten is to feed them a lot less hay, and they’ll get so hungry they’ll start eating other things. Well, we’ve been doing that, but it hasn’t worked, and they seem STARVING everytime we feed them. They aren’t actually starving. They’re very healthy, but they are growing babies after all. It seems rather harsh to restrict their food to the point where they’re panicking about it. Am I being too soft?

Paul came up with a great idea. Put a bunch of PO leaves in with the hay in the feeder. They’ve got to eat some of it that way, especially the with the way they wolf down their food. And then that way they’ll get a taste for it, and then they’ll start eating it in their pen, and then we can start putting them in the portable pen and…and…

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Eating around the poison oak

Sigh. Ok blogosphere, I need your help. How do I get my goats to start browsing and stop relying exclusively on hay?  I’m getting desperate here!

One thought on “A Fistfull of…

  1. So I posted my quandary on the wonderful blog http://lifeatmennageriefarm.blogspot.com/
    and this was her response (for those who might have been curious)

    A. Oooh, good question, Domesteading! That’s a toughy to deal with, especially if the goats were bought specifically for brush eating… But I do have good news for you: It will come. Your goats are still young; only 16 weeks (well, I suppose they’re about 17 weeks by now). Without an adult goat around to teach/show them how to browse, it’s going to take them a bit longer to figure the whole brush eating thing themselves. I know it’s probably frustrating to watch them eat up all the expensive alfalfa hay, while the poison oak, blackberries and thistles grow rampantly during this weather; but your goaties probably need a few more months before their rumens grow enough that they start foraging on their own. From what I gather on your blog, you’ve started putting some of the brush in the manger with their hay. They may be eating around it right now, but if you have the patience to keep on putting it in and pulling the old stuff out, I would keep on doing that. It will take time, but hopefully by high summer their little brains will have put two and two together about what all the plants in the pasture are for. ;) One thing you could always try is only giving them the alfalfa early in the morning, and the again late at night. During the day, offer them some good quality grass hay. That way, they have an option of hay (which their developing rumens need) but it’s not so yummy as alfalfa. I don’t know very many goats who would choose browse when there’s top notch alfalfa sitting at nose level in their comfy quarters. Offering the grass hay might make them reconsider lazing about, versus getting acquainted with the local blackberries… :)

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