If you have an area of scrub land you may have thought of buying goats to keep it down. We did exactly that and went to buy some goats from a local farmer. Although there are specialist breeds one can buy, we just bought what you might call mutts of the goat world. These had no specific thought put to them but they were great at eating.
When we talked to our Brazilian worker about goats, he raised an eyebrow and waved his hand. He told us that goats like to run off. This answered a question I had had. Here in Brazil I have seen goats wearing something akin to a tennis racket press. For those of you who aren't old enough to remember what that is, they were used on wooden tennis rackets to keep them from warping. They are in essence a wooden frame. This is inserted over the goats head and closed making an awkward wooden necklace for the goat. However it prevents them from passing through fencing.
By Belinda Hankins Miller from U.S.A. - The hard part, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3590474
A few words about goats, they will eat what you don't want them to. They are not grazers like sheep, they are browsers like deer and will pretty much sample everything and destroy something which is tasty. I had a tree eaten until it was almost leaf free by our two goats.
With their soft hooves they can climb. Think of a mountain goat perched high atop a cliff. It wasn't airlifted up there you know. They're soft hooves are cloven and grippy and allow them to get to places you wouldn't have thought they could reach.
In the end, we use to stake out our goats on a long cord attached to a dog collar. They seemed quite okay with this arrangement. Our nanny would be eating away in grass up to her belly until she saw my husband and she would begin to cry out for attention.
By Dpsarma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Should you get goats?
Goats hooves are soft and need to be trimmed regularly otherwise this can cause pain for the animal. We are on soft sand so they were never going to wear down. We used a knife and this was quite quick and painless for the animal.
In an area which needs to be cleared of scrub, goats are amazing animals. They are even being used to clear areas to prevent forest and grassland fires This is called conservation grazing!
This means they have more value to you than just on your own farm. Let's examine the usefulness of them and how you could make money from introducing goats on your small farm or homestead.
- Ground clearance of scrub and weeds.
- Renting out your goats to clear other areas.
- Manure: this can be gathered from their shed or pen where they sleep and used on your farm or sold.
- Hair: Depending on which breed you have, you could sell the hair (mohair from Angora goats).
- Milk: Goats milk can be sold as it is, or made into cheese or other products such as yogurt or ice cream. In most countries there will be documentation and licenses required if you plan to sell to the public.
- Breeding: Choose a breed which is sought after either for its robustness or as a specialist breed.
- Sell the goats or the meat.
Earn With Bees
There is so much in the news about the problems surrounding the humble honeybee. The tireless worker who in essence, feeds the world by pollinating all the crops. When I was growing up in the Central Valley of California hives placed in the fields were a common site. So too were crop dusting planes which would fly low and spray pesticides.
Of course back then few people realized the long term risks from pesticides, all we knew was that it either killed insects or kept a farm virtually weed free.
I know there are many suspected reasons for CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) some of which include pesticides and also the fact that the bees are pollinating a mono-culture. I think both of these go hand in hand and yet, town bees seem to be doing better. Why? One reason, I believe is the variety of flowers they visit. If a bee only visits one type of flower, let's say those on almond trees, it is likely to suffer because of it.
Just as we are encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods, the honey bees need a wider range of flowers to visit. I will say, the chemicals do play a part but I know many urban gardeners also use some pretty toxic chemicals and yet the bees are still surviving.
I think the time has come when we need to seriously take a look at agriculture. Everyone wants 'cheap food' and this is in essence binding the farmers into producing foods which may be detrimental to bees.
So what's the answer? Farming isn't going to stop with its large swathes of mono-culture crops. Maybe they don't have to. By planting flower borders or interspersing the crop with flowers, this could create a haven for bees instead of a deathtrap. The last time I visited the Central Valley, I looked at the vast clean rows of orchards and thought, how unnatural this all looked. Every tree had the same number of branches and was virtually a clone of the one in front and behind it.
For a small farm or homestead having hives of bees, which you can take to fields during the pollination time, could be just the thing you are looking for. Bees are in demand like never before. Almond orchards are paying $140-$160 for smaller 6-frame colonies; and between $170 - $200 for larger 8 to 10-frame colonies . Many of these bees are coming from out of state. However do not bring your hives to California in the hopes of getting a contract. Get your contract in place first before bringing your bees. All contracts with almond growers should be in place before July.
The honey gained for the beekeepers is also a valuable commodity however, the honey produced from almond flowers is not palatable and therefore the price to almond farmers is higher. Some beekeepers are also charging a surcharge for research into the problems surrounding CCD.
The inclusion of bee hives is something homesteaders and those with small farms should seriously consider. The stronger the bee population is, the better for everyone.
Besides the rental of the hives, you have the addition of honey which can be sold. I have met very few people in my life who don't like honey. This can be sold locally at farmers markets as there are always customers looking for quality honey.
Locally Produced Honey