Using Small Ruminants to Improve Forage Availability in Michigan Equine Pastures

Project Overview

FNC16-1050
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $6,543.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Arbor Meadow
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: goats

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, pasture renovation
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures

    Summary:

    May 12, 2016 the goats arrived at my farm from Nebraska.  All fifteen goats arrived healthy and rested.  May 13, 2016 I began transitioning the herd, all does, to the test areas set up to acclimate them and me to our new adventure.  May 22, 2016 I transitioned the goats to the 3 acre study plot.  The goats grazed and browsed the study plot until mid September.  During that time the goats were weighed every 3 weeks, they received needed vaccinations, their hooves were trimmed and a buck was introduced on June 14 and lived with does until August 3.  September 14, 2016 we held a brief talk on the project and took the 30 participants on a pasture walk to highlight the accomplishments of the project.   The beginning of December the goats started living in their winter paddock and started eating a diet of hay and corn.  They were ultra sounded to confirm if any were pregnant.  None of the does were pregnant.  The buck was brought back in on Jan 3, 2017 and lived with the does until March 1, 2017.  May 2017 through June 2017 22 kids were successfully born to 14 does.  Does with their kids returned to browsing the study area once the kids were about 3-4 weeks old.  The study area had a reduced amount of regrowth to browse and was eaten through in about 30 days.  The does and kids moved on to larger areas on the farm and continued browsing until the end of October 2017.  During this time period they successfully cohabitated with a small group of Shetland ponies.  Beginning in November a selection of kids and does were marketed to the public and sold through through the Michigan Livestock Auction in Manchester, Michigan.  Prices ranged from $1.17 to $2.39 per pound at the auction and $2 – $2.70 a pound sold through private sale.  15 of the 22 kids born were sold.  Four of the original does were sold and one of the original does needed to be euthanized.  The current herd size is 17 and are all does.  The group presented information on the study at five educational talks with agricultural groups in Michigan and Minnesota in 2017.  Several people requested private tours of my farm and were able to walk through the study area.  The goats have been a useful addition to my farming operation and we will continue to use them to control invasive species and clear areas that would be beneficial to my horses.

     

     

    Project objectives:

    1. To increase forage availability in equine pastures by using goats to control undesirable species;
    2. To investigate a biological method for controlling undesirable plant species while protecting natural habitat by avoiding chemical method of control;
    3. To evaluate the possibility of creating a business opportunity in the goat market to diversify farming operation;
    4. Exemplify and expand use of land base resources

    -Goats may play an active role in eliminating the Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose growing in pastures as well as other potential toxic plants known to equine pastures.

    -Improve forage availability in horse pastures to allow for longer grazing season and reduce hay input costs.

    -Obtaining small ruminants to control undesirable plant species on the farm may in turn create a business opportunity in the goat meat industry that will ultimately diversify the operation and expand the use of established land base resources.

    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.