The Fast-Growing Meat Goat You Won’t Ever Have To Feed

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The Fast-Growing Meat Goat You Won’t Ever Have To Feed

Image source: Turkey Nob Goat Farm

We homesteaders usually go for the Boers, Nubians and Spanish breeds when choosing the type of meat goats to raise. These varieties deliver the bulk and poundage we want when it’s time to sell them or use for our own consumption.

But we also know the challenges of keeping them healthy. Rising feed prices and veterinary costs, the need for green pastures, plus the special care required during kidding season – these all add up to the daily demands of keeping our herds happy.

The past decade in America, though, saw the increasing popularity of a lesser-known breed: the Kikos.

Kiko goats are originally from New Zealand, bred in the late 1970s by Garrick and Anne Batten. The Battens cross-bred feral does with domesticated dairy bucks of Anglo-Nubian, Saanen and Toggenburg varieties. They wanted to develop indigenous goats that were more muscular and productive, for purposes of commercial meat production. They aimed for four key qualities:   hardiness, survivability, rapid growth rate and minimum input from growers. After four generations of controlled breeding and rigorous culling, they established the Kiko breed in the late 80s. The breed came to be known as the “go anywhere, eat anything” goat because of its exceptional ability to thrive in less-than-ideal environments. In 1995, Kikos were brought to the United States and have since elicited a growing interest among goat enthusiasts and meat producers.

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Kikos are large-framed goats, lean but athletic in appearance. They’re usually all white or cream in color, but also can come in darker colors of camel, brown and black. They have short, slick hair in warm, sunny climate, but can grow thick flowing hair when ranged at high altitudes in the winter. They have erect ears and the bucks grow long, narrow horns if not disbudded.

If you’re looking to expand your livestock with little or no additional expense, Kikos would be your best choice. They can grow alongside cows and sheep without competing for pasture. That’s because Kikos are foragers — they will go for weeds on brush and ignore your cattle’s preferred grass. That’s what makes them excellent brush cleaners. With plenty of acreage, they will thrive and basically take care of themselves if there’s a good variety of plants. The American Kiko Goat Association (AKGA) says many ranchers note an increase in available grasses for their cattle after two to three years of running Kikos on their operations, because most of the undesirable and invasive plant species have been mowed. [1]

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While I totally adore the sweet, docile temperament of my Boers, I’m wary of and constantly having to address their susceptibility to disease. In our warm, humid climate, I have to annually battle the threat of parasitic infestation, respiratory problems and hoof rot, particularly during the rainy season. (Had I learned about Kikos earlier, and if they were easily available in our area, I would’ve chosen them first.)

Terry Hankins, who raises Kikos at Egypt Creek Ranch in Mississippi, says the breed thrives best in the Southeast, Midwest and the Deep South where there’s up to 50-60 inches of rain annually. Not surprising, since Kikos were developed in New Zealand, where annual rainfall can run up to 100 inches. [2] Whereas Boers were developed in South Africa, where no more than 20 inches of rain is experienced.

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Richard Johnson and Mia Nelson of Lookout Point Ranch in Lowell, Ore., give their Kikos only minimal supervision beyond the basic record-keeping. They provide no barns, no supplemental feed, no hoof trimming, no worming, not even any vaccinations. They supply only mineral supplements and protection from predators.

But the defining characteristic of Kikos, say enthusiasts, is their impressive growth rate. Although the breed doesn’t grow as large as other meat goats, they are known to grow and reach market weight faster than their counterparts.

Another outstanding quality is their kids’ survivability. Dams are not only prolific – able to produce at least twins each year – but they also have excellent maternal instincts. They deliver without assistance and quickly clean their newborns, staying by their side for the first 24 to 48 hours. Kids are known to be active and vigorous at birth. They’re normally up and suckling within 10 minutes of birth.

In 2004, a study conducted at Tennessee State University showed that Kikos weaned more pounds of kid per doe as compared with Boers. [3] Nevertheless, Boers are still preferred by buyers at many barn sales. Size, looks and gentleness still seem to matter most to them, I guess.  For this purpose, many breeders opt to cross a Boer buck with Kiko does. The resulting hybrids are vigorous and show the best characteristics of both breeds.

[1] http://www.kikogoats.com/index.php/why-kikos/
[2]  egyptcreekranch.com/pdf/articles/Kikos%20vs%20Boers.pdf
[3]  https://articles.extension.org/pages/19288/goat-breeds-kiko

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Best Goat Breeds For Your Homesteading Needs

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Best Goat Breeds For Your Homesteading Needs Animals can be a key part of the homesteading lifestyle. And few animals are as versatile as the goat. But which breed of goat can become a tricky question. Your needs are what drives your decision. If your primary need is milk production, for example, breeds like the …

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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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Getting Goats? Here’s 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

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“Dear Aunt Kathy,” my niece wrote, “my husband and I are readying ourselves to get some goats.  Can you help me come up with a list of basic supplies we need before we bring them home?”

Those are excellent questions for anyone preparing to acquire goats, and I immediately began compiling a list of supplies I would recommend for new and prospective goat owners.  Here is what I came up with. All total, it is 17 items to consider.

As with any livestock or pet, infrastructure is a key component to the safety, comfort, protection and ease of operation. You will need a shelter, fencing and gates. The importance of adequate infrastructure cannot be overstated—so much so that each of those three areas is a stand-alone topic. For purposes of this list, I will proceed upon the assumption that you will have already set up adequate ways to provide these crucial basics.

Next in line of importance is veterinary care. It is a wise idea to get set up with a veterinarian ahead of time. Many areas of the country have a shortage of livestock veterinarians. Goats are pretty hardy and you may not ever need to call the vet, but an emergency situation is no time to be calling around and reaching only dead ends that are not accepting new patients.

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Make sure they are a 24-hour practice and will come out to the farm when you need them. If your goat is in crisis at 2 in the morning, it might be too late by the time the office opens at 8.

Large animal veterinarians in my area charge around $50 to pull into the driveway and about a dollar for each minute thereafter. Avoid sticker shock by asking beforehand. It is a good idea to find a vet who will work in a partnership for your goats’ health and is willing to teach you best practices along the way. Look for someone who will treat your animals with care, explain what you need to know, show you the best ways to treat and prevent future problems, and have an honest conversation about the prognosis.

Getting Goats? Here's 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

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Once the big picture essentials are taken care of, it is time to move on to the smaller stuff. First, I recommend a milk stand. It is a big investment, but one good quality stand will probably last your goats’ lifetime and beyond, and will save you countless headaches and frustration. You can either buy a heavy-duty metal model, or build a wooden one yourself using directions you can find online. Even if you know for sure that your goats will never be dairy animals, a milk stand enables one person working alone to sufficiently control a goat in order to prevent injury to either party. Trimming hooves, grooming coats, administering shots or medications, or examining for injuries or illness is much easier with the animal secured on a platform.

You will need to provide your goats with water, hay, grain and supplements. Honestly, you can get by with a dog dish for daily grain rations and an old drywall spackling bucket for water, shared between five kid goats. But a few proper supplies will make your goat-owning life a lot easier:

  • Hook-over wall feeders. Square feeders with backs that lop over and hang on a horizontal 2×4; they are great for feed and supplements. They can be easily moved around, gathered up between feedings to keep them clean, and given an occasional scrubbing. They can be found at most farm supply stores in two or three sizes. The smallest one is just right for goat rations.
  • Flat back water buckets and special hooks designed for hanging buckets are great. They can be hung on the wall high enough to minimize mess, and are hard for the goats to knock over and empty. Farm supply stores and catalogs offer them in a variety of sizes and fun colors.
  • Hay feeders are a big plus. Feeding hay from the floor is never a good idea, as it can introduce parasites, and goats do not like it anyway. They will nibble at the choicest morsels and make a mess of the rest, and will absolutely not eat hay which has been soiled. An investment in one or two good quality metal hook-over hay feeders will save you aggravation and money.

Other hay feeder possibilities include homemade wooden types, customized plastic barrels, and other clever contraptions. Whatever your design, ensure that the goats can get into it enough to nose around and grab the perfect bites, will not get their head or horns stuck in it, and cannot jump in and either hurt themselves or ruin the hay.

You will need some supplies for hoof trimming. Scissors or trimmers and a rasp are all you need. The former is available from goat supply retailers, and the latter can be found at any hardware store.

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Grooming needs are basic, but you may need to try more than one type of tool before you find just the right one for your goat’s coat. Some breeds do well with an inexpensive rubber tack brush designed for horses, and others have undercoats which are well-served with brushes designed for long-haired dogs.

Getting Goats? Here's 17 Items You Better Consider Buying

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You will need to keep a goat medicine cabinet available. There are a few items you should have right at the start, and always keep on hand. If your goat is sick, a call to the vet or an online search will likely direct you to one or more of these items.

  • Rectal thermometer. As with humans, body temperature is often an indicator of something wrong. Use lubricant to make the event easier on everyone—either a tube of specialty stuff for goat birthing, or whatever you have on hand. Household petroleum jelly is fine, but just make sure to scoop some out before using it on goats, to avoid the risk of double-dipping. Use disposable gloves if it makes you feel better.
  • Goat bloat treatment. Goat stomachs can go a little crazy on a sudden change of diet, and a bloat situation can become a crisis very quickly. Have a bottle of remedy on hand just in case, sold commercially at goat supply stores everywhere. Pepto-Bismol or baking soda are often recommended for goat belly aches, too.
  • Pro-biotic paste. This is a gel packed with vitamins and nutrients, and is a great pick-me-up for multiple maladies. It comes in a tube with clear directions on the label, is inexpensive, and found just about everywhere goat supplies are found.
  • Other medications will inevitably creep into your cabinet as time passes. As afflictions occur, you will purchase supplies to combat parasites, injuries and illnesses.
  • If you plan to administer goat shots yourself, you will need syringes and needles. Farm stores and catalog retailers sell them inexpensively enough that it makes sense to keep a handful in stock. Needle sizes vary, but 20 gauge or 22 gauge work well for most goat vaccines.
  • The most frequently used maintenance vaccine for goats is something called CD/T. You can find it at your farm store without a prescription, but it should be kept in the refrigerator, so you may have to ask for it. This guards against an overeating disease and tetanus.

Your goats will need bedding—straw is best, but they like wooden platforms as well—along with hay and grain to eat. Free-choice minerals and any other supplements recommended by the goat seller are good to have on hand as well.

Miscellaneous collars, leads and harnesses are fun and useful, but not essential. Breakaway collars—the type made of plastic chains that will break if the goat gets stuck somewhere—are often preferred for goats who are allowed a lot of free-range browse area.

If you intend to use a specific kind of training—such as clicker training, for example—have the training aids you need to begin on day one.

Insect control is important in some situations. Spray-on treatment from your farm store, or food-grade diatomaceous earth, can often make a difference.

Acquiring this list of basic supplies before your goats come home will help make the transition go smoothly and minimize stress for all involved, and can get you set up to enjoy your goats for years to come.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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The verdict is in, and you have decided to keep goats. Or raise pigs. Or cattle, or other livestock. You have considered all the factors that must be taken into account, such as your amount of space, quality and quantity of infrastructure, and climate. You have thought about your own needs, too, and how your animals will mesh with your already-existing schedule.

Those are wise considerations. But there are additional questions you will need to ask, both before you get started and as you go. Following are a few of those questions, and some pros and cons of each which might help you with your own decision-making process.

1. Will You Keep Heritage Breeds?

These are the breeds that are not kept by large-scale commercial farmers and are far fewer in number.

Pros: Often the reason these breeds have fallen from favor is because they are less conducive to factory farming, but they can be stronger, smarter, better tasting, or easier hand-milkers than their standard counterparts.

By keeping heritage breeds, you will help preserve an alternative choice. If a disease comes along which can decimate the more common breeds, genetic diversity is a real plus.

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If you are raising animals for profit, heritage breeds have top dollar potential. Many chefs and foodies are willing to pay a little extra for the flavors of meat and cheeses from these breeds. In addition, other farmers expect to pay more for live animals.

Cons: It can be difficult to find adequate breeding stock. And when you do find it, you are apt to pay more. When I kept Oberhasli goats — listed as “recovering” by The Livestock Conservancy — it was difficult for me to find a sufficiently unrelated male in my area.

Some heritage breeds might be more or less prone to certain diseases or parasites, potentially causing certain very rare breeds to be problematic for veterinary care.

2. Miniature vs. Full Size?

Cows, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs and even chickens usually come in two size ranges — standard and mini.

Pros of Miniatures: They require a smaller browsing and grazing area and need less barn space, enabling them to be kept on smaller homesteads. It costs less to feed smaller animals, and some minis have a higher percentage of yield per dollar spent.

The reason many people choose miniature animals for meat and dairy is for the reduced output which is often more suitable for a modest household. Too much milk every day or more than a freezer full of meat can be wasteful.

Smaller animals can be less intimidating choices for farmers with less experience or of smaller stature. In addition, miniature livestock are high on the cute-o-meter, making them more popular and resulting in higher sales.

6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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Miniature goats breed year-round instead of only during a certain season, which might be either bad or good depending upon one’s specific needs.

Cons: Consider how the breed was developed. When I was searching for a miniature milk cow, one breeder warned me that they are sometimes crossed with half-wild smaller breeds, yielding the size I wanted but not the temperament.

DNA is not yet fully understood. The genes that create a smaller animal can have unintended side effects on factors such as disease resistance, intelligence and longevity.

Miniature milking animals — particularly goats — usually have miniature teats, making them harder and more tedious to milk.

3. Registered or Not?

The lineage of registered animals is recorded on a publicly accessible data base and maintained by an association specific to that species and type. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the American Dairy Goat Association.

Pros of Registering: Keeping registered livestock will enable you to study the lineage of both parents before breeding, in order to predict genetics and manage inbreeding. A national registry simplifies sales and networking among breeders. When I listed some of my Oberhasli for sale, prospective buyers half a continent away could easily examine their lineage online.

While it is debatable whether a registered animal is of higher quality, some people say that it is the owners of registered animals who are more desirable. People who invest in pedigreed livestock may be less likely to tie them to a leaky doghouse out back and abandon them.

Cons: Then again, people going for reputation and prize money may push their animals beyond their comfort limits. Registered animals with minor aesthetic flaws are unmarketable as breeding animals and usually go for meat — not an inherent con, but a fact to consider.

Crossing two breeds can create what some people refer to as “hybrid vigor,” which is harder to achieve within a registered herd.

And don’t forget—by registering your animals, you put information about them on the Internet. If you would rather keep your livestock information private, registration might not work for you.

4. Horns or no Horns?

This is a tough one for some people. Horns can be problematic, but the idea of removing them can be off-putting. The easiest option is to choose breeds which are naturally polled, meaning that the breed or strain has been developed without horns.  That isn’t possible or practical for all species, however. Animals such as Texas Longhorn cattle and Jacob sheep are popular because of their horns, so polled varieties are not going to be found. In goats, polled varieties are not achievable because breeding polled-to-polled yields undesirable side effects.

Pros of Removing Them: There will be more options available for the animal long term. If you have ever tried to re-home a full-grown animal with horns, you know it can be difficult. For many species and breeds, horned animals are less desirable. There are also strict rules within some registries and sanctioned shows regarding horns.

Horned animals can injure humans, one another and themselves. They can get their horns stuck in fences and in one another’s collars.

Cons: Horns can act as built-in handles, allowing a human to steer and control the animal. They are natural air-conditioners, too.

The process of cutting off horns or burning horn buds is hard for soft-hearted folks like me. Animals feel pain, and removing horns is painful no matter how it is done.

When choosing between keeping horns or removing them, allow me to offer this word of caution: It is inadvisable to mix them. Animals are acutely aware of the presence of horns on both themselves and others, and those with them can bully those without.

5. Preventative Parasite Control

6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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The traditional method has been to administer parasite control to every individual whether they needed it or not, but current wisdom is leaning toward the philosophy of less is more.

Pros of Prevention: Regular worming, dips and topical applications can free you from worry and require less monitoring. Many buyers require an animal to be up to date on worming, and lots of veterinarians continue to recommend it.

Avoiding preventative worming requires diligent observation practices, such as hands-on inspections, fecal exams and a keen eye for subtle changes. If something slips by the farmer, it can spiral out of control quickly.

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Cons: Overtreatment can cultivate superbugs. Worming kills off only the parasites that are easy to kill, leaving the rest to mutate into medication-resistant strains.

Allowing an animal to encounter and fight off an infestation on its own builds up parasite resistance on the farm. By treating only the sick animals, the overall herd health is improved. Most veterinarians I have spoken with are strongly in favor of using anti-parasitic treatments only as needed.

6. Keeping a Breeding Male

Let’s face it, the boys can be a handful. And around the farm, they really only have one function while they are living.

Pros of Breeding: Finding a breeding male can be challenging — research for the right genetics, make arrangements for a rental, and worry about transportation of either him or your females. You might have to watch your stock carefully for signs of estrus, and then be ready to skip a day of work to load up your livestock trailer and make your way through a thunderstorm snowstorm.

Cons: They chase the girls, smell up the barnyard, negatively affect the taste of goat’s milk, are often hard to handle and can occasionally even be dangerous. Keeping your own breeding stock means separate living quarters, which around my house includes shoveling an extra path and lugging extra water all winter and setting up extra fencing all summer.

You can choose artificial insemination instead, which has its own set of challenges.

There is little doubt that the practice of keeping livestock can be complicated. Along with work and responsibility, it comes with new questions which must be asked and answered every day. If you are among those who have decided to raise livestock of your own, be encouraged. The work is achievable and the answers are attainable, and the rewards are worth it all.

What advice would you add on buying livestock? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Overlooked Way You Can Make THOUSANDS Of Dollars With Goats

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The Overlooked Way You Can Make THOUSANDS Of Dollars With Goats

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Goats are awesome animals. They provide milk and meat for our tables, fertilizer for our soil, and hours of entertainment for us to enjoy. Another benefit they provide, which many people don’t realize or take for granted, is to serve as natural, alternative mowers.

When allowed to graze, goats will scout and sample a variety of wild edibles: weeds, flowers, twigs, vines, tree leaves, shoots — even the barks of young trees.

They’re so good at clearing brush that not a few enterprising farmers have made it their business to rent out goats – an enterprise that’s taken off this past decade. Though goat-grazing weed control dates back hundreds of years, it has lately become a growing movement for sustainability in landscape maintenance.

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Private land owners rent goats for weed control of their yards, woodlots and organic farms. Government agencies and environmental groups contract them for vegetation management of municipal lots, parks, forests and wetlands. Goat grazing also helps with the restoration of native habitats.

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In many states, the public works and transportation departments deploy goats to open up access roads and utility easements, clear railroads and roadsides, and simply reclaim places overrun with succession plants and invasive species. In drought-prone California, towns use goats for fire mitigation.

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Eco-friendly and Economical

Goats don’t use power tools that burn fossil fuel, spew out toxic fumes and make a lot of noise. They work quietly and do little to disturb the soil, leaving a very low carbon “hoofprint.” They don’t use chemical herbicides, nor create a massive mess of brush for landowners to rake, burn or haul to the landfill afterward. Instead, they gift them with rich, organic fertilizer – improving the soil for free. Plus, goats can get into areas hard to reach by man or machine, like slippery slopes and rocky terrain.

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Best of all, they’re cheap. In 2014, rental costs ranged from $500-$1,500 per acre. Some outfits charged $250 per day for less than a dozen goats, while others charged as low as $2 a day per goat regardless of land area. Pricing really depends on several factors: location, brush density, established trails and topographical challenges in setting up a fence. Some operators say it takes 8-12 full-sized goats to clear an acre, while others claim they can get the job done with just three to four. Ultimately, it depends on how fast the owner wants his land cleared.

Food Fare

Lest you think the goats get the shorter end of the bargain here, think again. They get free meals consisting of the richest and tastiest wild forage.

Goats are voracious eaters. They’ll eat 8-10 pounds of salad a day, or about 5-15 percent of their body weight. Some of the invasive species they like to feast on are poison ivy, poison oak, blackberries, buckthorn, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, burdock or sticky bobs, yellow star thistle, scotch broom, leafy spurge, wisteria, privet and the ubiquitous kudzu.

Although there are some plants that are said to be potentially toxic to goats — like iris, rhododendron, buttercup and rhubarb — these animals are very picky and seem to be able to detect and avoid them on their own. They usually eat whatever has the highest level of nutrition in an area, and that varies according to what’s available, the time of season, and their familiarity with the species.

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“Targeted grazing” is what they call the deployment of goats in specific areas that are most infested with noxious, unsightly weeds. This raises the chance for native flora to thrive, while reducing the growth of unwanted ones. It’s a huge benefit to ranchers, who depend on native grasses and local forage for their cattle.

And, unlike horses and cattle, goats don’t spread seeds through their droppings. Their complex digestive systems are able to break down seeds, thus preventing these from growing.

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Even though goats don’t remove plant roots, they like stripping the bark of saplings down to the cane, which dry out and eventually die. Depending on what’s growing in an area and what’s being planned for it the next season, the goats are likely needed back once or twice to keep particularly stubborn, hardy species from re-growing.

A word of caution: Goats like the green bark of young trees and can debark full-sized ones and kill them — especially if they’re confined in a small, overgrazed area. If you’re going to graze your goats, make sure you protect trees that you don’t want eaten.

How to Goat-Graze

If you’re keeping goats in confinement but would like to use them for clearing brush, then start by introducing them to the invasive species in your area, and get them used to eating those. Initially, you can cut and carry the plants to their corral, and when the goats (and you) are ready, let them out more often to pasture and wooded areas. For a sizeable herd, you may want to get a guard or herd dog to ward off potential predators like coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions.

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If you’re going to target-graze, then make sure you have fencing that goats can’t easily break. A temporary electric fence or netting works best. There are solar-powered portable ones that are easy to assemble and move around so that you can strip-graze or divide up a large pasture into smaller, more manageable sections.

It’s a good idea to have a mix of different sizes of goats. Large ones can rise on their hind legs, reach for high branches and bear down on them with their weight, while the smaller ones can feast on lower branches and plants. Any variety of goats would do, but if you’ve got the budget and inclination to go for the pure breeds, rental operators like to use the Boer, Kiko and parasite-resistant Spanish breeds. Just make sure to purchase from a dealer that has similar brush types as you do. Also, don’t buy from a breeder that has high-maintenance goats. Pampered goats that have only been fed grass, hay or grain will take a lot of time and effort to get accustomed to wild forage.

Got goats? Rent Them Out

And if you’re thinking of turning this into an enterprise yourself, you may be in for a promising venture. So many invasive plants have made their way into the U.S. from Asia and Europe, that there won’t be a dearth of properties needing weed control.

Do you have any advice for using goats as weed control, or to make money? 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.

Learn What A Rewarding Experience Raising Goats Can Be!

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.

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

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:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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When it comes to choosing livestock for the homestead, everyone will have a different opinion about what type you should get started with. Here are three types of livestock best suited for the new homesteader or someone without much experience with raising animals.

1. Chickens

Hands down, chickens are the ultimate livestock for the homestead. These birds have a lot going for them.

  • Eggs: If you’ve never had farm-fresh eggs from happy hens, then you are going to be amazed at the color and texture compared to typical eggs from the grocery store.
  • Meat: You can raise your own meat breed of chicken or raise layers and cull the roosters for meat. Chickens are easy to process and don’t require the help of another person.
  • Pest control: Have a problem with insects? Chickens will take care of them. This is a great way to control bad bugs without resorting to pesticides.
  • Gardening: Tilling a garden is made easy with chickens. Just put up some electric netting around the area you need tilled and let them go to work. As a bonus, they will fertilize while they till. Chickens are also amazing at preparing land for a garden. They will quickly scratch out brush and grasses, leaving you with bare ground.
  • Composting: Using chickens for composting is a brilliant idea. The hens will quickly scratch up brown and green materials so you don’t have to worry about shredding. They will add in their own manure and leave you with rich compost — with hardly any effort on your part.
The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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There really aren’t any disadvantages to keeping chickens. They are easy to care for, and many heritage breeds are quite independent and hardy. Chickens are very entertaining and you will find that they each have their own personalities.

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

Chickens are allowed within some city limits (no roosters!) so they are a great way for the urban homesteaders to add some food to their table.

2. Rabbits

Similarly to chickens, rabbits are a great addition to the homestead. Some of their advantages include:

  • Meat: Rabbit meat is delicious! It is very lean and healthy as well as easily digestible. Aside from taste and nutrition, rabbits are super easy to butcher and process. You won’t need to worry about feathers like you would a chicken.
  • Pelts/fiber: You can get pelts for craft use from all rabbits and fiber from certain breeds. If you enjoy crafts or hobbies like knitting, raising rabbits is a great way to contribute. You may even be able to make a little money from selling extra pelts or fiber.
  • Fertilizer: Rabbit manure is an amazing fertilizer and can be used as-is — no composting or maturing necessary (although it’s recommended). Extra manure can be sold to gardeners to help with the cost of raising the rabbits.
  • Green recyclers: Rabbits will gladly eat up grass and other green materials that you don’t want. They’ll also consume scraps from your vegetable garden.

A possible downside of rabbits is that they are cute! Some people can easily get over the idea of rabbits only being pets, but there are individuals who can’t bring themselves to viewing Peter Cottontail that way.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Rabbits are quiet and don’t require a lot of space. They are easy to manage, and a good breeding stock should reproduce without a problem. Rabbits are especially good choices for urban homesteaders who can’t keep/don’t want to chickens or just want variety in addition to their hens.

3. Goats

The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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While goats can be challenging at times, their versatility and the sheer fun of keeping them easily makes them perfect newbie homesteader stock.

  • Dairy: Sure, dairy cows are the ultimate milk machines, but dairy goats are a much better choice for the average new homestead. Their smaller size makes them far more manageable and also decreases feed costs. You won’t need anywhere near as much land, either. A small family can’t drink as much milk as a Jersey cow can produce in a day, so going with a goat or two makes much more sense.
  • Meat: You can raise a meat goat or two every year for the freezer. Again, meat goats are often much easier for the new homesteader to raise than a beef cow. Also, if you keep dairy goats, you may as well breed her to a Boer or some type of meat cross so you can raise her kids for the freezer.
  • Fiber: Fiber breeds offer a third way of getting something back from your goats. There are only a couple breeds of fiber goats and it can be tricky to find a breeder, but it’s worth it if this interests you.
  • Brush Clearing: While sheep are mostly grazers, goats are browsers. Have a wooded lot or brushy area you want cleared? Add some goats! This is a great way of naturally clearing out an area without backbreaking labor on your part.

People sometimes struggle with goats because they lack good fencing. Goats are escape artists and very intelligent. If you have a weakness in your fence or a flimsy-latched gate, it’s safe to say they will find it. Don’t skimp on quality fencing and you will enjoy having a small herd of goats on your property.

Do you keep livestock? Please share your stories or tips for new homesteaders below!

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

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How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

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The nutritional needs of goats will increase dramatically over the next several months, and addressing these needs is paramount for a successful kidding season. But meeting a herd’s nutritional requirements during the winter months can quickly break the bank if you’re not careful. Knowledge (and a little preparation) is key in preparing to meet your goats’ needs for protein, energy, vitamins and minerals and water.

Stockpiling Pastures

One way to cut down on winter feeding costs is to stockpile pasture. “Stockpiling is the practice of saving certain hay or pasture fields for grazing in the fall and winter after forage growth has stopped due to cold weather.” (1)

It isn’t always an option to have a field sit unused for winter grazing, but if you have the land, it can help save you money on winter feed. Additionally, grazing your goats on the pasture, spreading manure, can save you the time of having to manure in the spring. “Perennial grasses such as timothy, tall fescue and bluegrass have been traditionally used for stockpile grazing.” (2)

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

You will need to manage your animals on the stockpiled pastures just like you do on your other fields during the summer. Watch that your herd doesn’t overgraze or trample the field. Maintain a holding area to keep animals in at least part-time when the fields are extremely muddy to prevent them from ruining the field. Or, rotate your animals to other stockpiled fields. Also, keep in mind that the nutrient quality of stockpiled pastures decreases the deeper into winter you get. In snowy regions, stockpiled pastures tend to last until about December, depending on the type of grass grown. Watch your herd and be prepared to begin supplementing as needed.

Supplementing With Hay, Concentrate and Mineral Salt

How To Feed Your Goats During Winter Without Going Broke

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Goats do well on most hays that are considered “horse hay.” As long as the goats are acclimated to them appropriately to avoid stomach upset and founder, “legume hays such as alfalfa, clover, vetch, soybean or lespedeza work very well for kids, as well as pregnant and lactating does.” (3)

When you select hay, open a bale up and look at the color. It should be bright green. Depending on how the hay was stored, it may have turned yellow around the edges, but as long as it’s green in the center, it should be fine. Check for heat, which signals fermentation (not a good thing). Look for extraneous matter like rocks, baling wires or twine, excessive weeds or other items. It’s best to avoid poorer quality hay. Also, be sure to check if there are poisonous weeds in the bale. Avoid hay that shows mold, dust, or discoloration. Don’t buy hay that smells sour or musty. Hay prices continue to rise, but by being selective, you can ensure your herd receives the hay with the highest nutritional quality, a less expensive option in the long run than poorer quality hay and unhealthy animals. If you have to cut corners, save your highest quality hay for your gestating does, as their systems will need the biggest boost.

Learn What A Rewarding Experience Raising Goats Can Be!

A 14 to 18 percent protein concentrate should be fed to lactating does as well. Make sure the feed comes from a clean source and shows no signs of mold or spoilage. Additionally, check your does periodically to ensure they are not too fat or too thin. Being overweight can lead to kidding issues (like pregnancy toxemia). You will also want to offer trace minerals. “In general, the less expensive the mineral, the lower the availability of important trace minerals” (4) There are multiple ways to offer trace minerals to your herd; use a method that keeps the minerals off the ground and preferably protected from excessive rain (so you don’t waste money on minerals washing away).

Ensuring Adequate Water Availability

It is essential that your herd has access to plenty of water. During the winter months, freezing water troughs and pipes can cause quite a headache. I’ve written an article here on a number of great options for keeping water unfrozen and available even during the coldest days of the year.

Culling Your Herd

One way to cut down on feed costs during winter is to downsize your herd before you have to start supplementing with hay. Sell your inferior animals. Cull goats that are more susceptible to worms or other health issues or who struggle with maintaining good body condition. Cull does that don’t kid easily and/or have difficulty providing adequate milk for their offspring. Cull does that struggle with fertility. If you are butchering some of your own stock, choose a date before you have to start supplementing. Keep your best animals through the winter and start your herd out fresh in the spring.

Getting your herd through winter can be challenging at times, but by stockpiling, choosing the highest quality supplements and using them judicially, and by culling surplus stock, you can take good care of your herd without stretching your budget too far.

What advice would you add for taking care of goats during winter? Share your advice in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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Cows Or Goats: What’s Best For Homestead Dairy?

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Cows Or Goats: What’s Best For Homestead Dairy?

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There are many considerations when choosing the right dairy animal for your homestead. To reduce the risk of making the wrong choice, here’s some factors to consider before purchasing a dairy cow or goat for your homestead.

What Size Animal Is Best Suited to Your Facilities?

A dairy goat might weigh 200 pounds. A cow will weigh between 800 and 1,300 pounds. That’s a big difference when it comes to feed consumption and facility requirements, as well as milking and handling the animal.

A dairy cow will require stronger fencing and housing. For instance, a cow pushing on the fence to reach grass on the other side or even to relieve an itch can topple posts and ruin fencing that would easily contain a dairy goat.

However, goats can be escape artists. They require tight fencing and electric fences, and hard fencing can be a good option.

What About Your Budget?

Cows will consume quite a bit more feed than a dairy goat. That’s definitely a consideration when choosing which one is best suited to your budget.

Everything You Need To Know To Keep A Cow Healthy, Happy, And Productive…

Be prepared to see prices of $1,000 and up for a good dairy cow. Goats tend to be lower, coming in at an average of $300, although I have purchased great producers for as little as $150.

Milk Production and Other Factors

Cows will produce much more milk, and depending on your needs that may be a good thing. But remember: You’ll be getting milk every single day that your cow or goat is in production. It can add up quickly. If you’re milking by hand verses using a milking machine, then stripping out a cow is much more work than a goat.

Another factor: Cow’s milk seems to have more cream than goat’s milk. If cream is an important factor in your decision, then a cow will come out on top in the cream department.

Breeding Considerations

When breeding your dairy animal you’ll either have to purchase or borrow a sire, or use artificial insemination. Both are viable options. You can contact other farms and homesteads in your area to locate someone who will sell or loan you a sire. You also can find someone who will perform artificial insemination for you.

The Ultimate Guide To Dairy And Meat Goats

The important thing to remember is that you will need to determine what your plan will be before breeding season rolls around.

As a general rule, dairy goats are seasonal breeders. That means the females will only become interested in breeding as the daylight grows shorter in the fall.

Cows Or Goats: What’s Best For Homestead Dairy?

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Cows are aseasonal breeders, meaning they cycle roughly every 21 days. So you can set up the breeding season with more flexibility to accommodate your budget and schedule.

One final thought when choosing a dairy goat or cow for your homestead: Cows and goats have distinctly different personalities. Visit a few farms to get an idea of which one you like best before making a purchase.

As always, do you your research and make an educated decision on what is best for your operation. In the end, you’ll be happier, the animal will be happier, and even the milk will taste much better!

What is your preference for homestead dairy – cows or goats? Share your thoughts in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Click Here.

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The 5 Best Meat Goat Breeds For Your Homestead

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The 5 Best Meat Goat Breeds For Your Homestead

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Raising goats for meat can be a fun and even profitable enterprise. Determining what breed is best suited to your homestead should be based on the amount of land available, goals, and the breeds that are available in your region.

Goats require a lot of browsing area; they are not grazers like cows. If you observe a goat you’ll notice that it is mostly looking up for browse – leaves of trees, shrubs and vines — versus looking down for grass.

Many health issues with goats are related to not enough browsing vegetation and high stocking density.

Start out slow with goats until you determine what your land base will support.

If your goal simply is to supply your family with chevon (the proper term for goat meat), then you may find crossbred dairy goats could fit the bill.

Learn What A Rewarding Experience Raising Goats Can Be!

If your plan is to help supply the market with chevon, then you will want to find a breed that is bred for its meat-producing qualities.

Some of the more popular goat breeds for meat are:

1. Boer – Originating in South Africa, these white with reddish brown goats are the most popular goat for meat in the United States. In fact, goats showing the Boer coloring and traits often bring a premium price at auctions, much like a Black Angus steer.

2. Kiko – This goat originated in New Zealand from feral goats. A group of ranchers collected and bred thousands of goats and selected the best ones for meat qualities and hardiness. These goats are tougher than Boers and will typically require less management.

The 5 Best Meat Goat Breeds For Your Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Tennessee Meat Goat – These myotonic goats have been developed at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas for the past 20-plus years. Myotonia is the inherited neuro-muscular condition that causes these goats to stiffen and sometimes fall over when startled. These goats reportedly yield lots of meat and posses good hardiness.

Keep Your Livestock Healthy With ‘God’s Miracle Dust’!

4. Savanna – The Savanna goat, much like the Boer, originated in South Africa. Their appearance is strikingly Boer with the exception of their all-white color. These goats were developed for hardiness and ease of kidding while maintaining a good meat yield.

5. Spanish — Having been in the United States since the 1500s, the Spanish goat is a landrace breed that is hardy and able to take care of itself. These goats come in all shapes and sizes, so you may want to find a herd that has been developed with more meat yield as a goal. The Spanish has become very desirable to cross with Boer and Kiko bucks to produce the self-sufficient vigor needed in these more modern breeds.

In conclusion, remember that just because a goat breed possesses certain characteristics it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have the same experience.

When considering a goat purchase, always make onsite visits when possible and ask lots of questions. Observe the animals and the livestock practices of the farmer or rancher.

If they look similar to how you plan to raise goats, you just might go home with some new additions to the homestead.

Do you raise goats for meat? If so, what breed? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Goats, Axes & Fire!

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Goats, Axes & Fire Ohhh My!

GoatsThis week on the 7 P’s Of Survival Show we will have Chris Gustafson on the show and will be talking all about the life of a Michigan Outdoorsman. We plan to talk about using goats for all things self reliance, collecting fire tinder material and what works best, his two businesses, some axe junkie recommendations for the everyday woodsman and we will talk a little bit about what in my opinion is the best barter/trading page on Social Media “Bushcraft Outdoors/BUY SELL TRADE!!!!!.” Chris runs the Gustafson Hobby Farm HERE, Michigan Wild Fire HERE and is one of the few remaining practicing packgoating in Michigan.

GoatsA lot of people look at goats as annoying animals that are not worth their trouble on the homestead. Chris turns that notion on its head and uses those same goats to clean several trails in Northern Michigan that so many couldn’t get out and enjoy without their help.

His goats are used for trail cleanup as pack goats that pack out all the garbage those who don’t know what leave no trace truly means. Aside from this great use goats can provide entertainment (they are quite funny to watch and listen to at times), milk, cheese, leather, soap, landscaping assistance, security, companionship and wool fiber. We will explore several of the benefits of having a goat on the homestead during the show and hopefully hear a few of your stories.

10-13-15 11745381_1Once we tackle the age old question of to add goats or not to add goat we will move on to fire craft and the Michigan Wildfire Kit. Chris puts out one of the most well rounded tinder kits with some beautifully hand crafted ferro rods. We will talk tinder, fire starting mediums and the best place to procure those items in the wild. We may even venture into the wild world of Chaga and a few other wild medicinal that can be easily procured and used while out in the woods. Speaking of procurement we will talk about axes in this segment and what we both recommend for taking into the woods for the beginner woodsman.
Rounding out the show we will talk buying/selling/trading and bartering for gear. Over the last two years or so I have been part of the Facebook group Bushcraft Outdoors/BUY SELL TRADE!!!!! HERE and have had countless great dealings and trades for excellent kit items. We will talk about safe trading practices, what is often available and how working on this trading skill now could be one of the best skills you could acquire for a society of olden days.
This should be a fun show and we hope to her from you during the show!
7P’s Survival Blog: HERE

Listen to this broadcast “Goats, Axes & Fire” in player below!

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