Saturday, May 21, 2011

May goatwalking

Today's goatwalking was really pleasant.  We're getting into the routine now and having our normal May walks on all the dry days.

We live on a 160-acre District Lot that was subdivided in the 1970's into roughly 10-acre lots.  Only a few of these have full-time residents; most are vacation properties and some are undeveloped.  We have permission to range on them all, as well as on an adjacent field.  This gives us a wide variety of terrain: yards, fields, stream banks, a swamp, rocky hillsides, brush, forest.  May's cold nights keep the mosquitoes from hatching, so we take this opportunity to spend lots of time in the forest.

Twinberry leaves opening
Not much is growing on the ground yet, but the leaves are coming out on the shrubs.  Today, I noticed lots of green buds and some unfurling leaves on the rose, twinberry, willow, and saskatoon bushes.  The Balm of Gilead poplars have big, sticky buds with an incredible fragrance.  All of these are enjoyed by both sheep and goats, who bite off the whole twigs.  (I do some grazing myself, but only on the leaves.  I also pick the Balm of Gilead buds to steep in oil for a winter skin lotion.)

Balm of Gilead buds - moose have trimmed this tree, and all the other bushes around it, to about 5 feet.
The goat has a strong digestive system that can use even the tough bark and pith of these twigs.  There are two things that wreak havoc with this digestive system, to the point of killing the goat.  These are: an abrupt change in diet, especially to a rich food, and overeating on a rich food like grain.

One of the important functions of our goatwalking is to avoid the abrupt change I just mentionned.  Instead of going from dry hay straight to a lush pasture, my herd transitions through the shrubs, which combine fresh greens with roughage and include plenty of minerals.

No comments:

Post a Comment