Is anybody out there raising goats or sheep?

I am not sure anyone out there has sheep (for meat, sorry vegeterians out there) or goats (for dairy) as part of their permaculture or sustainable urban farm?  Have question about rotational grazing on small pastures or front lawn and what typpe of grass to encourage as pasture.  Tried rye,barley, wheat mix and animals have trampled it rather than eat it.  Would love to exchange some ideas if anyone out there is raising these larger animals.  Also have chickens as part of this food web, who love the pasture by the way.  Thanks.

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  • We have a neighbor who has flock of boar goats. They're kept on a pasture and allowed in the front yard on occasion, because they do keep the burmuda lawn mowed. Every plant/tree is protected, though, because that would be their preference. We had a Nigerian dwarf who was great at keeping the fruit trees pruned up to a nice height, but like most goats, she wouldn't touch the grass. Our cattle keep the pasture mowed pretty well, but not completely, so after we get our place (1.25 acre) re-fenced, we'll bring in a few sheep to complete the mowing, and some goats for weed control. Each critter contributes a different value to the system!

    • So can 1.25 acres support sheep, goats and cattle?  I did not think my pasture would support a steer.  Although if the goats and sheep are not eating it guess it would.  What do you seed your pasture with??  This last fall I put in annual rye, barley and wheat (a pasture mix). Which looks lovely and the chickens love it but I have to mow because it is not grazed, although the 4 week old lambs seem a little interested.  I did order a hot weather alkaline pasture mix for irrigated pastusres from Peaceful Valley which includes alfalfa, clover, etc., along with some buckwheat that I thought I would try.  But not sure this is going to work in our heat.  I do have bermuda under all this but because I put up several trees the pastures are shaded and the bermuda was dying off.  The trees by the way are Chinese evergreen elm which both the sheep and goats love.  Also have oak and Sisoo (which is also suppose to be a fodder tree but they are not eating it).  So far the Banksia Rose is the most popular.  And it was huge so taking the licking well.

    • Yes, the way our place is set up, we have about 1/2 acre of pasture, plus a large front yard, side yard, and back yard. It's enough to handle a variety pack of herd animals. :)

      We have three cattle (2 dairy and 1 steer) on our pasture. We do have to supplement with alfalfa, but in the summer most of their food comes from the pasture. It's primarily bermuda with some rye and other odds & ends. We don't seed the pasture, so it goes dormant for 2-3 months in the winter and we have to bring in more feed. I started a fodder system last year, but I don't have it running fully. Some day...

      We have a lot of grass in the front, back, and sideyards that I'd like to make productive, so that's where the smaller livestock would be handy. We have plenty to support a couple goats and a couple sheep. Our chickens roam the acre and overlap a little into the neighbors'. They're mostly supported by the land. Next year I'd like to get things set up so we don't need to buy any chicken food.

      We don't have trees in the pasture yet. I was thinking about putting in an elm because of the great shade, but you made a good point. We have a Chinese elm in the front that has caused a bare area in the lawn, and it's not an evergreen variety!  That said, the bare spot is only under the tree and we have enough pasture to handle that. We may do a mesquite also for the pods and some mesquite flour.

      Let us know how your pasture mix goes. It sounds very good!

  • Just an FYI on goats and sheep.  One of the big reasons the cattle/sheep wars started was because of the sheep grazing habit.  They pull the grass up rather than chew it down particularly if they are in restricted grazing areas, which destroyed the cattle grazing areas (or so it was thought).  Goats on the other hand are browsers of sticks and twigs and grass is not as nutritious as the sticks and twigs (or good alfalfa hay).

    An example. Kief Joshua winery in southern AZ uses baby doll sheep in their vineyard.  The sheep keep the grass etc. completely cleared away from the vines.  If they had used goats there would be lots of grass and no vines!

    Cattle and horses tend to be 'chewers' moving from patch to patch, but not necessarily pulling the plants up by the roots as sheep do.

    • Thanks Catherine.  Right now the sheep are not pulling anything up because they do not eat the rye, wheat or barley.  They will hold out for the alfalfa that I feed them in the barn.  And by holding out, I mean they complain loudly until feeding time.  Not a neighborly habit.  I wonder if I could graze them in the orchard like the vineyard.  No that would not work because the chickens have taken care of anything green that pokes its head above the compost/mulch.:)

    • Victoria, I found an interesting link on perfect sheep pasture - maybe some good ideas in there.  Because of my fascination with herbs I did learn over the years about the goats and sheep grazed in Provence and Tuscany that the love all the wild flowers, lavender, and herbs that grow in amongst the native grasses and fodder.  I understand that most grazing animals (not goats) love our wild filaree which grows easily here in the valley ( - a cattle rancher shared that tidbit with me.  Bottom line is a mix of wild grasses and weeds would make the best pasture, but not necessarily a 'lawn'.

    • Thank you Catherine.  I think I have seen some of that filaree when I weeded my one little area for flowers.  Darn it.  These pastures get flood irrigation every other week.  Would lavender grow in that kind of water.  And would love to have wildflowers out there.  Are there any I could seed at this time of year for my animal feed?

  • How large is your property?  We have sheep on a lawn, and they have destroyed it!  We have a mixture of Bermuda and pasture mix, but it struggles.  I have been thinking about trying to grow Sudan grass, but on our small property we will probably always have to feed bailed hay.

    • Hi Kari.  I have actually visited your place on one of the open houses held by VPA.  I am amazed with how much you handle in your yard.  But as to mine...I have an acre but was not into permaculture when designing my layout so too much land is tied up in recreational areas (pool, play area, eating spots, etc. - although this has been great for community culture).  But for animals I have two 70' x 40' pasture/paddocks.  I have a front lawn that I want to fence and utilize which is about 100' x 40'.  I also have two fenced off areas on the driveway to my barn which has a row of animal food forest along side it (pomegrante tree, huge prickly pear, Sisoo trees, weeds, banksia rose (goat and sheep love far more than the pasture mix).  So basically 4 areas I can run the animals.  I could also fence off the pasture/paddocks to smaller areas but do not want bare dirt by making it too small.  I also have chickens that get moved through the paddocks and into my orchard area (which is off limits to goats and sheep.  By the way, my goats and sheep are two Nubian does due to kid this week and one 50% Churro ewe that has twin lambs from a Kahartain ram.  I am not able to run them together (which was my plan) and I will keep trying to do so.  Also, I have bermuda in the pastures but hope to throw out seed of alfalfa and other pasture grasses.  I have flood irrigation also.  If you can help with ideas that would be great.  The rye, barley, wheat mix was not a go for these animals although if I had a horse or cow it might have worked.  Would love to try a pig in this mix also but not sure how.

    • Great, it sounds like you have a good set-up with lots of potential.

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