Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

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Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

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Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) is one of our most distinctive weeds, with its broad hairy leaves, tall flower stalks and deep taproots. It’s also one of the most persistent. Many varieties don’t spread by seed, but they do spread laterally in clumps. Their tough leaves effectively squash out competition. It’s practically impossible to pull their deep roots up in their entirety, and any fragment of root left in the ground is likely to regrow.

Fortunately, comfrey also has many useful properties for the homesteader, including its leaves being used as livestock feed, soil conditioners and preventers of plant disease. All these uses derive from the fact that comfrey’s deep taproots reach down into the subsoil and bring up minerals and nutrients to a level where they’re available to us.

Feeding Comfrey

Comfrey has been used traditionally as a feed for various kinds of livestock, including horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. Comfrey leaves, cut early before the plant flowers, are as protein-rich as clover and alfalfa, and their mineral-rich quality also provides many micronutrients that can improve animal health.

In recent years, studies have come out showing that comfrey contains compounds which may cause cancer or damage the liver. This has understandably left people worried about either taking it as an internal medicine themselves or feeding it to their livestock.

However, the studies that show these results have focused either on feeding comfrey as a very large percentage of the total diet or on taking a concentrated distillation of comfrey. Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats (2010) also recommends comfrey as goat-safe, according to extensive anecdotal evidence rather than a formal study. I have heard from many homesteaders who offer comfrey to their animals along with a wide variety of other feeds; their animals eat it and show no ill-effects. This mostly matches my experience.

Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

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Some of our pigs have been enthusiastic eaters of comfrey, which is supposed to be an appetite stimulant for them as well as a nutritious feed. So have some of our goats and all of our chickens. We’ve never offered them comfrey only; it’s always been part of a wide range of options. We’ve offered comfrey to our rabbits, but they usually refuse to eat it. I have read that animals are more willing to eat comfrey after it has “wilted” for a day. This seems to work for some farmers; our animals either eat it fresh or don’t eat it at all. I have also read that comfrey can be dried and fed, but none of our animals have been willing to eat dried comfrey, although they’re happy to tear into dried burdock.

Comfrey for Soil-Building and Weed-Stopping

Comfrey’s high nutrient and mineral content also make it an excellent garden or orchard soil-builder, and so far this use remains non-controversial. Incorporated into your compost pile, comfrey leaves will break down quickly and add generous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and other minerals. (For quicker breakdown, add the leaves under a layer of other wet materials so that they start to decompose quickly instead of air-drying.) Undecomposed comfrey leaves can be buried in planting holes along with seedlings to provide a quick localized nutrient boost.

Comfrey leaves also make good organic mulch. They’re broad, thick and tough, presenting a good barrier to weeds, and their high nutrient profile means they’ll enrich your bed as they break down. As with other green mulches, don’t pile them much more than an inch deep, lest they should rot and turn slimy. A British gardener reports that slugs are drawn to decomposing comfrey leaves, which distracts them from eating actual growing vegetable plants. I don’t have much of a slug problem, so I’ve had no chance to verify this.

Some sources suggest being selective about which plants you use fresh comfrey on. One specific website says that comfrey, because of its high potassium content, is especially beneficial for flowers, fruits and fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and cukes. Other sources recommend planting comfrey in orchards, partly for this reason (also, perhaps, partly because it outcompetes grass so effectively).

Leafy greens or root crops mulched with comfrey may go to seed prematurely. I think this must apply only to true root crops—carrots, parsnips, beets, etc.—and not to tuber crops. Some people bury comfrey leaves along with potatoes to reduce the incidence of scab. I have done this for the last two years and have had much less trouble with scab.

What’s your experience with comfrey—in your garden, your orchard, or the diets of your animals? Share your thoughts in the comment section below:

Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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According to many recent books on animal husbandry, livestock feeding has become much easier and better with the advent of commercially prepared feed mixes. These mixes are scientifically formulated to provide everything your animal needs, and you don’t have to bother with thinking about them.

I followed this advice for my first few years of farming, and then I began to think and to see some of the disadvantages that come with this convenience.

One is freshness. Commercial mixes have been finely ground, blended and reformulated. They decay faster than whole grains. It can be hard to tell just how long your bag of feed has been sitting around or whether it’s still safe to feed. Back when I gave our goats commercial premix, I occasionally got bags that the goats absolutely refused to eat. I couldn’t see or smell anything wrong, but apparently they could. By the time we started raising rabbits I had stopped using commercial feeds for most of our animals, but I heard from other rabbit growers who lost many animals to bags of spoiled feed.

Another concern is provenance. Some feed bag tags tell you how much fat, protein and fiber are in the feed but aren’t specific about the ingredients. Sometimes when ingredients are listed, they seem inappropriate for the animals in question. For instance, feeds for rabbits and goats, which are naturally vegetarian, sometimes contain animal fats.

The factor which first got my attention was genetic modification. Many experts tell us that there is no health risk in GMO foods, but some of us have doubts. And most commercial feeds are based on soybeans, corn and alfalfa — commercial production of which is dominated by GM varieties.

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You can buy certified non-GM feed with appropriate ingredients listed. This feed is often prohibitively expensive, and freshness still may be a concern.

There is another option, and it’s more health-conscious than buying standard commercial feed, cheaper than buying certified GMO-free feed, and more shelf-stable, too. This is mixing your own ration from recognizable, whole, non-GMO ingredients. This approach requires more attention and flexibility than buying prepackaged rations, but in the long run it may be better for your health and your pocketbook.

Feed Components: Grain and Seeds

Most of the calories in concentrate rations come from grains and seeds. While corn and soy are likely to be GM unless certified otherwise, many grains have not yet had GM varieties approved for commercial production. You can buy these fairly cheap and be sure that they’re GMO-free.

Non-GMO grains include wheat, oats, barley, millet and triticale. (Rye is also GM-free, but it’s highly susceptible to a fungus called ergot which can sicken or kill animals, so most resources I’ve read recommend avoiding it.) These are a little less energy-dense than corn, but also a little higher in protein. Some studies say that beef cattle fed on these grains instead of corn eat less and gain weight a bit more slowly and show greater feed conversion efficiency. In place of soybeans you can use such non-GMO legumes as peas, lentils and broad beans or fava beans. Sunflower seeds are rich in protein and vitamins and also high in fats; a little fat in your ration is helpful, but too much may not be healthy for your animals.

There are plenty of online information sources that describe the energy, protein and fat content, as well as the palatability and other relevant information about different grains. Feedipedia.org has detailed crop-by-crop information. GMO-Compass.org has information on which crops are genetically modified. Brief introductions to different feed grains are available here and here.

Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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You’ll also want to read up on the livestock species you have. Find out what they need in terms of energy, protein, fat and vitamins or minerals. Also find out how readily they can digest whole grains and what their particular food intolerances might be.

Also, learn which seeds are available locally. Our local feed mill only offers wheat, oats and sunflower seeds from the list above, so we feed our chickens, rabbits and goats with those grains. Each type of animal gets a somewhat different mix. The chickens thrive on a higher percentage of fats than the goats, so they get a higher proportion of sunflower seed (and would get even more if it was less expensive.) The rabbits do better on a low-fat diet and only get sunflower seeds when they are lactating. Our mix is lower in protein than I would like, so we supplement protein in other ways. There’s more about that in the next section.

Feed Components: Supplements

Whole grain-based feed rations may need to be supplemented with extra protein, vitamins and minerals. There are several ways to approach this.

Pigs and chickens can thrive on animal-based protein. Ours get extra milk, broken eggs, whey, and cheeses that don’t turn out right. The chickens also get bugs picked from our garden and scraps from our rabbit butchering. (We don’t give raw meat to our pigs, lest it should give them ideas, as they are large and have powerful jaws.)

Herbivores, of course, need plant-based protein. That’s easy during the growing season. Most new green growth is reasonably high in protein, and you can collect and feed them especially high-protein plants. In our area, these include willow, mulberry, clover, dandelions, comfrey, redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus; some other plants commonly called pigweed have poor feed value), chicory and purslane. Ask your local extension about high-protein weeds in your area. Some of these weeds dry well for winter feeding. You also can increase the protein content of grains by sprouting them. (Read more about that here.)

Vitamins and minerals can be provided through commercial salt-mineral mixes or through feeding a wide variety of foods. Our goats and rabbits have free-choice access to mineral and salt mixes. We also see that they have access to a wide variety of grasses, forbs and woody plants, which tend to concentrate different vitamins and minerals.

Our chickens get oyster shell as a calcium supplement; the rest of their vitamin and mineral intake comes from the wide variety of animal and vegetable foods they eat. We’re still feeding our pigs a commercial ration now, trying to figure out how to transition.

The Ongoing Experiment

Statistics about the nutritional content of weeds or grains can be a useful jumping-off point, but they don’t provide the last word. The nutritional content of plants depends somewhat on the content of the soils in which they grow, the time at which they’re harvested, and many other factors.

You can try to formulate a ration that seems, on paper, to meet the needs of your livestock. The next step is to feed it and see how your animals respond. Do they eat what you offer? Do they keep producing well? Do they lose or gain weight? What do you notice about their overall health? Keep paying attention and making adjustments. You are the expert on what works for your animals, in your circumstances.

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Raising Meat Chickens

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Raising Meat Chickens Host: Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! Should you raise meat chickens on your homestead? Chickens are commonly called the “Gateway Animal”, and so it makes sense that Chickens are a great way to get started with raising your own meat. But raising meat birds is not the same as … Continue reading Raising Meat Chickens

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8 Reasons Chickens Nearly Always Pay For Themselves (And Then Some)

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The Easy Livestock That Pays For Itself – And Then Some

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A recent egg customer noted the thick stack of bills in the worn red canvas pencil case I use for egg money, and remarked that sales must be going well these days.

I replied that they were indeed doing nicely. The pullets are all up and running, and the older hens have bounced back from their molts and resumed laying again.

“The girls ought to be getting their own wi-fi and spa treatments,” my friend said, laughing.

It is true that my backyard chickens deserve to be treated well, and they are. The great thing about raising laying hens is that a few egg sales can pay for not only all the birds’ needs but can pad the pockets of farmers a bit, too.

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I have raised a variety of other livestock, and each animal was rewarding in its own way. However, none have been so consistently self-supporting as chickens. Following are some ways my backyard birds pay for themselves.

1. Eggs. I have an endless supply of fresh organic free-range eggs, which are said to be lower in cholesterol than factory-farmed eggs. Around my house, there is no shortage of omelets, fried egg sandwiches, frittatas and egg-rich baked goods — made with eggs that go for premium prices if I were to buy them retail.

2. Sales. My surplus eggs sell for a reasonable amount, often the same price as weeks-old factory-farmed eggs in the grocery store. Even though they could easily fetch far more, I choose to keep mine affordable. Even so, my egg income easily covers the cost of everything the birds need.

3. Inexpensive to feed. My hens get top-of-the-line all-organic grain and scratch, and there is still plenty of egg money left over after I buy them food and supplies. In my particular situation, it helps that the birds have access to ample pasture and woods where they can scratch for their food of choice. Grain is always their last choice. But even in wintertime when they eat mostly grain and are not able to forage, I break even on feed costs.

4. Easy to house. My chickens have a cozy coop which is well-insulated against the winter cold, in addition to optional shelters from sun and rain where they can spend time during the day. According to my calculations, they paid for their own Taj Mahal in three or four years of egg-laying.

8 Reasons Chickens Nearly Always Pay For Themselves (And Then Some)

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5. Can be treated humanely with minimal effort and costs. Chickens have few needs — food, clean water, shelter and protection from predation — and thrive well on very little. Homesteaders who are concerned with compassionate care for animals can easily attain such a goal.

6. Help with kitchen and garden cleanup. My chickens love all manner of food nobody else wants to eat. They will gladly snap up vegetable trimmings, past-prime produce, home-canned jellies and chutneys that have been sitting on the larder shelf too long, and stale bread, all of which saves space in the compost bin and saves on chicken feed costs. Chickens are omnivores, too, so they will eat by-products from meat and dairy which would otherwise go into the trash.

7. They love bugs and other pests. Mine eat ticks, flying insects, beetles and other garden menaces. It is good for them, provides them ample entertainment, and reduces my pest population. This results in better vegetable yields and less need for pesticides.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

8. Meat and stock. My laying hens stay around the henhouse until they die of natural causes. Even when they stop laying, or when what few eggs they lay have paper-thin shells and break when they land in the nest box, the old girls stay. That is not the way everyone does it, but homesteaders need to do what feels right to them.

However, my homestead does sometimes raise chickens specifically for meat. The result is clean organic meat and stock at a significant savings over the same product purchased elsewhere, and is yet another example of how keeping chickens is an endeavor which pays for itself.

There is not much that can be had for free in today’s world, and there are not many endeavors which truly pay for themselves. In many cases, chickens are one of those rarities. By laying eggs, paying for their own upkeep, keeping other homestead costs down by taking care of scraps and bugs, and providing affordable high-quality meat, keeping chickens is very much a worthwhile activity.

Do you agree that chickens pay for themselves? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

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7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

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When people think of dairy, they automatically think of cows. Sure, dairy cows are a nice luxury and will keep any family well-supplied with milk.

However, many people simply cannot have a cow on their land. There is another option for your dairy needs: goats. Goats are an excellent choice for supplying you with the milk you need to keep your family healthy and fed. In fact, goat milk is better for you than cow’s milk. It has lower lactose levels, which means even those who are lactose intolerant likely will be able to drink and eat cheese made with goat’s milk.

Still not convinced? Check out these seven reasons goats are a better choice than cows for your homestead.

1. Goats are a fraction of the cost. A doeling will cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the breed and whether or not she is papered. A dairy cow will cost you anywhere from $700 to $3000. You can buy females in milk for around $200 to $400.

2. Goats are exceptionally cheaper. If you have land, your goats can free-range quite a bit with some minor supplements. A 50-pound bag of “goat chow” will run you around $15, and a bale of hay about $20.

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That will last a single goat a month or more. A dairy cow will run you around $200 a month to feed the basics.

3. Goats require a fraction of the space. You can own a goat or several goats on a fairly small parcel of land and still be in good shape. Some people will have two goats on less than a half acre, which seems to work. A cow will need her own acre to stay healthy and fed. This can be problematic if you have a small area and need to raise other livestock and grow a large garden. The more pasture you have, the better.

7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

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4. Goats are easy. It is not hard at all to manage their diet, considering they can eat just about anything and be OK. A goat that eats too much, though, can get bloat. Bloat, when caught early enough, is easy to cure without worrying about hiring a vet. A little baking soda is generally enough to solve the problem. Dairy cows are prone to a variety of illnesses, as well, but the fix tends to be very expensive and often requires an experienced vet.

5. Goats tend to be a lot like dogs. They become pets. They will learn your voice, and most of them will come when you call. They are very friendly and you will soon discover they are playful, loving creatures. Watching young kids (baby goats) run and play is entertaining. You won’t see cows jumping, running and acting silly.

6. Breeding is a lot easier with goats. You also will be rewarded with anywhere from one to three kids on average. A cow will usually only have one calf at a time. A cow’s gestational period is about 283 days versus a goat’s gestational period of 150 days. This means you are able to stay “in milk” for most of the year when you have a goat.

7. Goats are smaller. Their size is less intimidating than that of a 1,200-pound cow. For some, it can be a little scary trying to milk a cow that isn’t in the mood. With a goat, the process isn’t nearly as terrifying, and you will be able to have better control of a cranky goat than you would with an irritated cow. There is less fear of being hurt or trampled by a goat.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Keeping your backyard flock happy is pretty simple and is the best way to ensure a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich eggs and plump meat chickens.

Some homesteaders are choosing to grow their own poultry feed in order to cut down on the unnecessary chemicals and fillers added to the commercial feed consumed by their flocks. They also may grow their own livestock feed as a way to become more self-sufficient and as a way to minimize the financial burden of maintaining their chickens. Whether this feed is used to supplement the foraging diet of a free-range flock or as the exclusive diet for a fenced flock, homegrown poultry feed is worth investigating.

Chickens need protein, calcium and carbohydrates in their diet. In most commercial poultry feeds, grains account for the largest percentage of carbohydrates in the feed. Grains, however, take up a lot of land, making them unsuitable for today’s smaller acreage homesteads. Corn is, of course, the most popular of grains for chicken feed, but barley, rye, and hulless oats all work well.

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On the homestead you will have several options to choose from if limiting or avoiding grains. Give your chickens the carbohydrates they need through root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes. After harvesting the root vegetables for the flock, add the greens to the mix as well for added nutrition. These root vegetables are easy additions to the garden. Whether grown in a separate area or as a part of your family’s garden, beets and other colorful vegetables provide an array of macro and micronutrients that also will promote good health in your flock.

Take, for example, the Mangel beet. Mangel beets are fairly hardy, reaching 10-12 pounds apiece and providing plenty of nutrition. Homesteaders in ages past used Mangel beets to feed the livestock through long winters, and these beets are slowly becoming a popular feed option for today’s homesteaders.

Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, work well for chickens. Hung in the coop or in another accessible area, chickens will pick and peck at them and not at each other. These vegetables can be planted earlier in the season than most and provide quality nutrition, including some calcium.

Keep your flock cool while in the summer heat by indulging them with a cool treat. Cucumbers provide adequate nutrition, but most importantly help to hydrate individuals due to their high water content. Cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise, are the perfect treat to keep them cool and hydrated on a hot day.

A few leafy plants provide a small amount of protein as well as other essential nutrients. In addition to beans, which are higher in protein, but must be cooked before feeding to your flock, kale provides a small amount of protein with large amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. Kale is easily grown in the cooler spring and fall months and can even withstand frosts.

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A lesser known plant, called duckweed, is also higher in protein than most greens and makes a nice addition to homegrown poultry feed. Duckweed has a higher protein content than the soybeans used liberally in commercially produced feeds. It also provides some additional nutrients. It can be cultivated in small ponds or even in shallow tanks or pools, and although poultry can eat it fresh, most will consume it better when dried. Duckweed needs a nutrient base to thrive, so adding small feeder fish will provide a sufficient base for growth. Some have recommended using graywater from the house or even using some manure from the homestead to feed the duckweed.

Though by no means an exhaustive list, the above mentioned vegetables and greens are worthy of incorporating into any plans for growing poultry feed on your homestead. Add grains if space allows, but don’t allow a lack of space keep you from trying to feed your flock.

What advice would you add on growing chicken feed? Share your tips in the section below:

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Is This The Best Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Livestock You Can Own?

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Is This The Best Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Livestock You Can Own?

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I cannot say enough good things about goats. They are economical, hardy, easy keepers, clean, and likeable. They are my favorite homestead animal, for many reasons. Read on to learn some great details about goats, and you might decide that they are your favorites, too.

This is not to say that other livestock choices are without merit. There is much praise to be sung for a wide variety of animals, from rabbits to emus and everything in between, and for the reasons homesteaders prefer them.

But around my homestead, goats are the greatest.

People have kept goats for centuries, in societies including agrarian and nomadic, from sub-Saharan Africa to the high steppes of Tibet.

The multidimensional quality of goats is probably one of their most attractive features. The way they can be used to fulfill so many different needs is a factor that makes them not only an excellent animal to keep in ordinary times, but also to have on hand as insurance against future hard times.

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Is This The Best Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Livestock You Can Own?

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First, they make excellent dairy animals. All goats can be milked, but some breeds have been specifically developed for this purpose. A good dairy breed, typically a medium-sized animal of European ancestry, produces between a half gallon and a gallon of milk a day. This is just the right amount for a homestead household, and will provide all a family needs for drinking, baking, and cheesemaking.

Another advantage of milking goats is that they can often be “milked through,” which means that they continue lactating for a year or more, instead of for only a short season. Fewer pregnancies means less work and expense for farmers and less stress and risk for animals, and less dry time between lactations.

When they do breed, however, goats tend to give birth easily and to be superb mothers.

A cow often produces four or five times the volume of goats, which can be an overabundance and even a waste for some households. But that’s when she’s milking. Some cows are dry for up to half a year, every year, leaving the homesteader bouncing back and forth between way too much and none. Goats give a smaller supply of milk, with less fluctuation, over a longer time period.

But I don’t like goat’s milk — I hear that pretty often, and I always get a chuckle. Goat’s milk doesn’t have to taste, well, goaty. I call myself the “goat’s milk redeemer,” because I love to encourage people who are sure they hate goat’s milk to give it just one tiny sip. I watch people grimace in trepidation as they slowly lift the cup to their lips and force themselves to allow a few drops in. Suddenly, relief sweeps across their face.

“That tastes just like – like — milk!” they exclaim.

Indeed it does. It’s important to remember that there are many variables that contribute to the taste of any milk. Different breeds, and even different individuals among breeds, can make a difference. Sanitation and milk temperature matter, as does time of the year, as well as the diet and estrus cycle and overall health of the goat. The proximity of an unneutered male goat also can have an effect on the taste of the milk.

Goat’s milk is more agreeable for some human digestive systems, as well. Some who cannot tolerate cow’s milk can drink milk from a goat without side-effects or symptoms.

Goat cheese is delicious, healthy, and easy to make, and the whey left over is wonderful nutrition for chickens and pigs.

Another reason goats make excellent homestead animals is the meat. Some breeds have been developed with meat production in mind, but any goat can be used for food. Oh, I know. Many North Americans balk at the notion of eating goat. But did you know that most cultures consume goat meat, and it is in fact the most-eaten red meat in the world? Sometimes called chevon, goat is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than most of the other meats we eat.

As with any animal used for meat, it is best processed at a young age and with limited testosterone to maintain a mild flavor — think lamb versus mutton, and broilers versus stewing chickens.

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Goats’ coats are useful, as well. Some breeds of goats produce fiber which can be harvested from a live animal, and goat skin can be used in lieu of lightweight leather for clothing and accessories.

Goats can be trained to work as beasts of burden, too. They can carry packs and negotiate rough trails better than many larger but less sure-footed animals, and can pull a cart or wagon.

Is This The Best Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Livestock You Can Own?

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Another important factor about goats is that they are exceptionally economical and easy keepers.   While many livestock species need high-quality pasture, goats prefer scrubby edge habitat and light forest. Goats will eat grass, but they are designed as “mid-level browsers,” meaning that their go-to is leaves and twigs from shrubs and low-hanging trees.

Not only does their browsing reduce feed costs, but it helps with control of brush and weeds, including noxious plants such as poison ivy, which they eat without ill effects.

They don’t need expensive hay, either, and often do better on coarse weedy choices. Grain and supplements are readily available and affordable, and treats are easy. Mine enjoy nibbling on softwood needles, helping dispose of garden scraps like carrot tops and discarded kale leaves, and keeping the maple and dogwood branches trimmed.

Goats are not only inexpensive, but are low maintenance and easy to handle. No calling a farrier for hoof work or hiring a professional shearer for grooming — you can do them yourself. Many goat owners also give shots and administer worming treatments themselves. Goats are small enough to be manageable and are tough and resistant to maladies.

They don’t require much in the way of shelter. In my northeastern location, they need an enclosed barn in winter and shelter from sun and inclement weather in summer. Depending on the breed and your particular geography, you might need more or less than that, but their needs are minimal.

I have heard it said that goats are escape artists and that it is challenging to find a fence that will hold them, but that has not been my experience. A small pen of woven wire, wood planks, or cattle panels suffices in winter, and a large area of portable electric mesh provides them plenty of browse in summer.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Goats are clean, too. Unlike some farm animals, the goats in my barn smell pleasant — unless there is an intact male around to stir up pheromones, but even that odor will dissipate when the male has left the premises. Otherwise, they are generally tidy and sweet-smelling.

If all those factors aren’t enough, here comes the trump card: Goats are a lot of fun. They have delightful personalities. They are charming and personable and make outstanding pets. They enjoy attention, are amiable and clever, and easy to train.

One word of caution about goats is that it’s not advisable to get just one. They are social animals and require the companionship of at least one other.

That said, you may not be able to stop at just one, or even two. Goats are such amazing animals, so useful and rewarding and entertaining to be around, that you will probably have trouble holding back from getting another, and another, and then still more.

Whatever your reason for considering goats, be it for dairy, meat, landscaping, packing or companionship, I hope you agree that they are a terrific choice as a homestead animal. Raise them, keep them, and love them, and goats will bring you joy for years to come.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your advice about goats in the section below:

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