Portable Grazing System for Goats on Invasive Weeds and Brush

Final report for FNC16-1038

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $4,047.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Holthaus Farm
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Jody Holthaus
Meadowlark Extension District
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Project Information

Summary:

Goats off Grid Presentation

WORK ACTIVITIES

I visited with a satellite wireless fence company about my idea; they charge several thousands of dollars for a yard fence.  Because my wireless fence was going to be moved over and over, they could not help me.  But the representative I spoke with had experience training goats to a wireless fence, so that was helpful.

I acquired the wireless fencer with two training collars, the solar panel and generator. The solar panel took some special power cords that I had to special order.

I had a builder make the housing shed, large enough for four goats.  A solar panel was purchased and attached to the roof.  A solar generator was purchased to store energy and use as a backup.  I bought two aged wether goats for the subjects of this project and an aged mini burro for protection.

After all the supplies and goats were purchased, training the goats began. The rainy spring weather hampered the training.

I thought tethering the goats together would make training easier.  That did not work; when one of the goats passed the perimeter and got shocked, it would drag the other goat and away they went, and almost knocked me over with the tether.   I then decided to tie one of the goats to the shed, and let the other one train.   If it did go past the perimeter and received a shock, it would run back to the other goat, not to the house. This worked good, and that is how I trained each goat.

After sufficient time in training the goats were moved out into the waterway in our hayfield.  There was sufficient growth of grass and weeds for them to thrive.

RESULTS

I need to dedicate more time to the training process in the starting location, instead of closer to the house.  I think I will try nanny goats next year, to see if they catch on quicker.

A week of cloudy weather did not charge the generator and the goats ended up at my house.  Since then I have purchased a timer, so that the fencer will only be powered during daylight hours.  This will give the generator some recharging time.

The batteries on the collars are only good for three months. I did not know this, and the goats were at the house, trying to get in the patio door!  I had to special order the batteries and it took several weeks for them to arrive.  I now have extra batteries on hand, and I will have to pay closer attention to the calendar, so they are always charged.

I did not feel confident enough in the system or the goats, to move this very far from my house.  Hopefully, next year we can get an earlier start in the pasture season and get the goats moved out to the pasture sooner in the year.

Another problem that I will have to address is the other livestock in the pasture rubbing on and messing around with the housing shelter.

Predators were not a problem; the goats were large enough to protect themselves as well as the burro in the pasture with the goats.

WORK PLAN FOR 2017

Since all of the equipment is in place, I will purchase more goats in late March, start training in April and early May, and get them moved out in mid-May to the pasture.  To discourage the cattle or horses in the pasture from messing with the shelter, I may try to elevate it, or use a trailer to get it up and away from curious animals. The worst case scenario is using an electric fence to keep them away, but that would only add more stress on my solar system.

OUTREACH

I write a weekly news column for my job.  I wrote about the project two times.  This is circulated to five newspapers in three counties and a regional farm paper.  I also was on the program of a Livestock Producer Workshop sponsored by the Delaware Valley WRAPS, Jackson County Conservation District and the Meadowlark Extension District.  I presented a power point program of the SARE project (virtual tour).  There were 65 people in attendance.  I also presented this program at our District Extension board meeting.

For 2017, I will provide updates on the project with my weekly news columns and another possible presentation to livestock producers.

Cooperators

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  • David Hallauer

Research

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
3 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

110 Farmers
12 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

As a Livestock Extension agent, I report monthly to our Executive board.  I also write a weekly news column and Goats Off Grid was discussed several times.  I participated in a Cover Crops workshop in 2016 and presented a slide show on the first year of my project.  This was a group of 65 farmers, ranchers and agency personnel. 

I presented the Goats Off Grid project to the Eastern Kansas Grazing school the fall of 2017.  This was again a group of farmers/ranchers and agency personnel.

I presented the SARE Goats Off Grid to the statewide conference of the Kansas Rural Center, as a way to promote the Farmer/Rancher SARE grant program.  This was a mixed audience of farmers/ranchers and urban folks.

Learning Outcomes

85 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

I learned that goats can indeed, be trained to the wireless fencing.  However, the training time is dependent on the age of the animal.  The younger goats were far easier to train.  I did overcome the need for permanent fencing, however, I found this small system was too unreliable to feel safe about moving it too far from home, in fear the system would fail and the goats would be lost.

The advantage is the use of goats grazing to control Sericea Lespedeza without the cost, time and labor to install "goat proof" fencing. The disadvantage of this system, was the unreliability of the solar powered fencer. 

I considered doing this on a much larger scale.  I looked into using the Satelite GPS systems and working with two or three farmers/ranchers in the rangelands to purchase this system.  However, the technology isn't working for us, as the collars for these systems need to be changed daily.  I didn't think that would be feasible.  In that large of a rangeland, it would be very time consuming to locate the goats each day, catch them and then charge the collars and then put them back on the goats.  If a more long term battery operated collar would be available, I think we could work towards this solution.

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
Recommendations:

I considered applying for a larger grant to work cooperatively with 3-4 other ranchers, to try this on a larger scale, using the Satelite fencing system.  However, further research revealed that the satelite fence collars, need to be recharged daily.  This just wouldn't be feasible, cost wise and time wise.

If the collars have longer use batteries, then this could be a future project.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.