When we acquired the farm in 2012, it came with about 70 goats. These goats were cashmere X, and pretty feral - they lived on the upper slopes of the tier, and sheltered in our dogwood forest when the weather was gusty and wet. The previous landowner had put the goats on to help combat the blackberry problem, and they'd done (and still do) a marvellous job.
Goats are "browsers" (as opposed to sheep and cattle, which are "grazers"). They eat about 70% of their fodder from trees, shrubs and other plants that are off the ground, and 30% of their diet is grass. The opposite is true for sheep, and while blackberries are a farmer's nightmare (they are so hard to get rid of, with their underground runners as well as seeds spread by birds and other animals), we love them!
We are now in the process of putting in lots of fences so we can manage our blackberries. They make for excellent goat food, and great habitat for native animals, as well as the best jam, especially at this time of year! We also pick and freeze them so we can use them in cooking over the rest of the year (think apple and blackberry crumble... delicious).
We do hate the thistles though, and are trying to control them through organic means: this is much harder work and much more time consuming (it involves a whipper snipper and a volunteer, or the mulcher on the back of the tractor for the less rocky and much flatter terrain). Imagine our surprise and delight when we spotted the girls eating the thistle flower buds - goats as weed managers again! I love the way they pluck these prickly annuals. Their mouths are so elegant - so I have decided to share some footage. I particularly love the way they roll the flower head around in their mouths before they crunch it. And I get so happy thinking about all those seeds that won't develop and then be blown across our paddocks.
What wonderful animals. Here's to the Chinese Year of the Goat!