Goats in the Garden
Gardening and goat keeping for us go hand-in-hand - whilst my dad swore by goat manure for his tomatoes and its benefits to the soil, the garden produce we produce helps to keep our Rare Breed Goats in the peak of health.
While most plants in our garden are good for goats, there are a few things we grow that can be fatal, and so good fencing is essential. Rhubarb stalks are good to eat for both goats and us but the leaves are not. Some commonly grown flowers are deadly: Lily-of-the-Valley which were used in our wedding bouquet, and delphiniums that are a stately, elegant perennial that is a standard in any British garden.
The common potato, along with those wonderful tomatoes, aubergines, and red peppers that are a base of ingredients in our kitchen are all members of the deadly nightshade family. Some parts of the nightshades contain alkaloids in either their fruits or green parts. For this reason, keep the fruits, leaves and vines away from your goats and no matter what the goats tell you don't give them the key to the greenhouse.
Most goats relish comfrey and will eat it either fresh or dried. Comfrey is one of the most famed healing plants. Its remarkable power to heal tissue and bone is due to allantion, a cell-proliferant that promotes the growth of connective tissue, bone and cartilage.
Kale is the leafy member of the cabbage family. Long grown by traditional British goatkeepers for their animals, kale is a storehouse of nutrients.
Waste products from our fruit orchard is a valuable food for our goats, including the leaves, branch trimmings and fruit that hasn't made it to our kitchen. When feeding fruit to goats, do not overfeed, for most fruits tend to have a laxative effect if fed in large amounts. Overfeeding fruits also causes the butterfat in the milk production to drop. We do not feed branches from our cherries and plum trees to our goats because of the possibility of prussic acid poisoning, we don't spray our fruit either so we don't need to worry about poisoning in that way, but if you do spray avoid feeding this produce to your goats.
In our garden each year the delight we get from looking at our Sunflowers is something we can not do without and as this is the holy grail of goat food we know it's a food our goats can't go without to. Sunflowers are extremely rich in phosphorus and have large amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamins A, D, and E, lecithin and are over 25% protein. Sunflower seeds contain a staggering 7.1 mg of vitamin E per 100gm of seed, as well as vitamins B1, B3, and B6. We believe every goat keeper should plant lots of sunflowers, for they are the finest of feeds available. The entire plant is used, the leaves, seeds and the stalk are all edible and greatly relished especially when the seeds are at that early "doughy" stage. We just break the head into pieces and the goats will dive in and fight for them and the stalks too, so make sure you have enough to go around.
Growing some of our animal feed is something we have always done, but for someone starting from scratch it's a goal that is not easy to meet overnight, and is a steep learning curve. It does take time, and can be up to two years before you and your goats reap the rewards,
Above all, realise this is a learning process, so just enjoy the process, and the fruits of your effort and give yourself just another reason to look forward to summer, your goats will ...