Jodi Pennington, Ph.D. Region Small Ruminant Educator, Lincoln University, Newton County Extension Center, Neosho, Mo., shared his thoughts regarding limited vs. intensive grazing systems for goats with Ozarks Farm & Neighbor.
Jodie said there are many factors to consider with regard to grazing forage for goats. Goats are adaptable on both small and large farms but especially small farms because of the ability to work with limited facilities and they are easier and safer to handle than larger animals. They can also utilize forage and other vegetation on farms that would otherwise be considered problematic.
Jodie pointed out that feed typically accounts for 50 to 65 percent of costs in all livestock production, including ruminants. Forages would be the cheapest sources of nutrients for goats and pasture would be the best and most cost effective method of harvesting those forages. With feed costs at an all time high, managing pastures is becoming more and more critical. Most small farms cannot afford the cost of planting and harvesting forage, so being able to utilize forage by multi-species grazing or alone is important.
Having nutritional forage, nutrients for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation is of the utmost importance. It is surprising to some that leaves of browse (bushes, trees, vines, shrubs, etc) can be of high nutritive value.
Jodie said that the dietary preference for goats is as follows: grass, 20 percent; weeds, 20 percent and browse, 60 percent.
Issues to consider with grazing of goats are: parasite and predator control, fencing to limit the movement of the naturally inquisitive animals and labor which can be more of an issue due to movement of the animals if rotational grazing is undertaken. Goats of course require significantly additional fencing to keep them confined, but equally important is to keep predators out.
With the management intensive grazing systems, the results are greater production per acre, but require more management, labor and fencing than continuous grazing systems. One important issue with the rotational grazing systems is that animals can be examined more frequently and easily as they are being moved and any additional forage could be harvested as hay.
Electric fences work well as quick and easy fences for subdividing pastures, either permanent or temporary. Many producers are using the high-tensile electric wire fencing.
Jodie reiterated that any well planned grazing systems can help reduce the cost of purchased feeds that are utilized by small ruminants. Forages are available in southern Missouri most of the year and can supply many of the nutritional needs of small ruminants, with minimal supplementation with grain or grain by-products. Continuous grazing systems are more common than management intensive grazing systems for goats here in Missouri.


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