When we started our farm, I knew I wanted everything to be mobile. Joel Salatin talks about pasture management in some of his books, but mostly I just wanted to be able to rotate the animals to new pasture so they would have fresh things to eat.
Our goat shelter is mobile, and we move it and the electronet fencing every 2-3 weeks (excluding winter). In this photo we had just moved it, which is why there is a vehicle in my back yard. The chickens move a little less often, unless they are on a “job” tilling the garden like they are now.
Each time we move them, it makes my heart happy to see them run into the new pasture and happily begin munching, scratching, and exploring. I knew it made the animals happy, too. Rotating pastures has many benefits. Not only do the animals have fresh goodies to eat, but it is also better for them and easier on the land. The constant trample from hooves and feet, along with eating the greens too low to the ground isn’t good for the pasture itself. When goats eat a pasture too low, and they are on the same area for long periods of time, parasites have a chance to complete their lifecycle. Some of the most common illnesses (and causes of death) to goats are parasites.
When you are constantly rotating pastures, not allowing the animals back on the same area for at least 3-4 weeks, the parasites do not have a chance to get back into the goat after hatching on the ground, therefore the animals parasite load can be way less. Less parasites means less worming and chemicals in the animals body – and that means more productive time making milk that is drinkable. Most dewormers have a withdrawal period where you shouldn’t consume the milk. So far in the 9 months we have had them, we have only had to worm the goats once. That was when we first brought them home. Recent fecal results have shown very few eggs, not enough to warrant deworming.
I knew all these things, but one unexpected benefit we found while moving the goats from a spent pasture to a new one, is increased milk production.
The jar on the left is from a milking the morning we moved the goats from a spent pasture to a fresh one. They had not yet moved when I milked. The middle jar is after being on the new pasture for about half a days worth of grazing. The jar on the right is where the goats had been on the fresh pasture for 1.5 days. It may not seem like much, but getting that much more milk every day adds up!
It does take more time and effort to move shelters and fences around versus a stationary barn with permanent fencing. Healthier animals, healthier pastures, healthier (and more!) milk and eggs are worth it to us. We are excited to find ways to improve our pasture management system and to share what we learn.