When I was little I wanted a house of my own, and a dog and a cat. I didn’t realise then that goats and cows and alpacas and chickens and so forth were an option. Now I do.
We’re working on the house part. And we already have three cats, who are the most adorable purr-faces ever, as well as four chickens, and three quail (it used to be four quail, but one of the quail died a couple’ve months ago for no apparent reason). And I do still want a dog. I also want some more chickens, some guinea fowl to control the ticks and grasshoppers, and probably some ducks. Possibly in some sort of duck-ponics system (there will be a future post on that).
At this point, I sound like I’m bird-crazy (especially when I add that I also want to get pigeons, for meat, and some more quail, and maybe a pair of geese). But it isn’t really birds, or not just birds. It’s all the animals. Fur, feathers, whatever.
I already wanted a pair of milking goats – I’m thinking Nigerian Dwarf goats now, since there are now true purebred Nigerian Dwarves in Australia. Apparently Nigerian Dwarf goats have been bred to produce milk which tastes very much like cows milk, without the musky, tangy goat flavour which the swiss breeds produce. It also produces the highest butterfat content of any of the dairy goat breeds, 6% – 10% butterfat, which is good for cheesemaking (my main reason for wanting goats).
And I kinda want a miniature cow, because I quite like cow’s milk, and cream, and butter. There was this small farm fair day a couple’ve weeks ago, which had – amongst other things – a range of animals and people to talk about them. Llamas, alpacas, angora goats, ponies, miniature cattle, all sorts of things. Looking at the dexter cattle there, the the desire to also get a miniature cow has crystalised into a thing. It will probably be a dexter, or perhaps a miniature Galloway.
So I’ve been planning a grazing rotation for the orchard. I think it should be okay to graze my goats and cow (and possible alpaca) under the fruit trees as long as the goats get a copper supplement to discourage them from chewing on the bark of the trees, and the trees get protective cages. My plan involves mobile fence panels which are goat- and cow-proof, and permanently installed support posts along the boundaries of the notional paddocks to attach the fence panels to. Possibly with solar powered LED lanterns on top to provide night time orchard lighting.
It’s surprisingly complex to calculate the right sizes for the paddocks and the appropriate rotation period for a small flock, as well as how I’m going to sort out the milking (afternoon milkings – getting up early to milk before leaving for work in the mornings is just not in my game plan). All the information is for big farms with hundreds of not thousands of stock; all the smallholder info is either out of date or aimed at poverty-stricken regions of Africa. I end up reading vetirinary articles about animal welfare to get basic info such as how much water to expect each animal to need per day, and how to design a shed or shelter that will work for a cow, two goats, and possibly an alpaca.
I’m thinking I’ll put the alpaca (actually two alpacas in that case, so that they don’t get lonely) in with the chickens as rotation group 2, so that they will protect the chickens from foxes and hawks. But planning to rotate the alpacas in after the cow led to a whole day of reading and worrying about bovine pestivirus – which there’s a vaccine for. But it took a almost a day of reading to find that out, since I was heading at it from the effect on alpacas angle. The mroe I learn, the more things I realise that I don’t know. So much planning still to do.
It makes me happy, though. Even if it is months and months until we can start buying livestock or putting in the paddocks. Even if we end up making mistakes, like we did with the rabbits – although I’d rather get over the learning curve on rabbits than on something as expensive as a cow – the planning makes me happy. And distracts me from the (incredibly stressful, so very ready for it to be finished, might be done enough for us to move in towards the end of July) house-building project.
Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons: