Oak Hill was made for goats! While “dry,” “rocky,” “forested,” “brushy,” and “hilly” are not usually flattering terms for farmland, they describe ideal goat habitat. Goats are upland creatures and would be unhappy and bored senseless on the open, flat, grassy bottomland that is prime for cultivated annual crops and cow pasture. They would head straight for the nearest rock outcropping to climb and romp, or the nearest wood’s edge, where, like deer, they prefer to browse on brambles, brush, saplings, and broadleaf herbs, perhaps nibbling some grass as a condiment.
Besides the several acres of pasture they can access daily, our gals (and their one or two suitors we keep) get much of their nutritional needs from the surrounding woods and woods edges on guided goat walks. They get to express their true goat-ness, rollicking on boulders and stone walls and selecting the choicest of leaves (often just out of reach…)
This browsing behavior is also a natural defense against one of the greatest challenges to raising goats organically: internal parasites, picked up from low, wet vegetation. We help the goats avoid these through woods browsing and careful pasture rotation, without any synthetic medication whatsoever. We promote health through excellent nutrition, an array of free-choice minerals, lots of herbs, heaps of garlic, homeopathics, fresh air, clean water, and sunshine. Our ladies get a bit of organic grain at milking time, but we do not pump them up with it to push milk production. During inclement weather and through the winter, we feed excellent organic 2nd cut hay from Oaklands Farm in Gardiner (remember that prime rich bottomland…?) When the snowpack is shallow enough, we still take them on woodsy walks, where they eat pine bark and needles and relish hemlock greenery. When the snow gets too deep, we clear a place outside in the sun for them, and bring the forest to them: pine and hemlock boughs delivered to their doorstep.
Consider the nutrition that the goats receive from their woodsy browse: those shrubs and especially trees have powerful roots that tap deep into the soil and subsoil and accumulate great stores of minerals. While grasses can provide good nutrition, they can never match the strength of woody plants to delve deep into the earth. This becomes available to us as one of the healthiest (and most delicious!) substances that we know of: goat milk, and through the alchemy of fermentation, yogurt and cheese. Drink up! Eat up! Long live goats and long live you!