Lately Iíve noticed a new buzz word over the internet about goats - mob grazing. Well, not only concerning goats, but using cattle or sheep or even chickens or a combination of all of them for mob grazing. These people are very excited over their new word and are telling everyone what they have invented, both word and deed. I got so tickled I had to go out and tell the girls in the herd about it. What a good laugh we all had.
Lee thought this up over ten years ago and Iím sure people had been doing it long before this. I mean really, who likes to brush hog, buying the equipment, taking the time, trying to find special tires for their equipment so the long thorns do not keep making continuous flats, and then what a waste of roughage. Iíve even seen people thinking bulldozers are the way to go to clear off land and sure it does, but it takes the top soil off too. And, then you have to figure out how to get anything good to grow on the land you just used a dozer on.
Now, I bet you are getting what Iím talking about, grazing with goats or combination of livestock to clear an area out. No, itís not rotational grazing. This is quite different. This is extreme grazing. You pick a small area of land and put a mob of goats on it for a few hours to half a day, then move them on to the next small area of land that needs clearing off. We use 80-100 adult does, but you could even do this with ten or twelve, just make the area smaller.
You have to remember that in mob grazing, your are striving for happy, healthy, fat goats. They are getting fat on browse and/or grass, brush, weeds. People call goats browsers, supposedly they like to eat anything that is shoulder high to them, but I know our goats like variety. They will graze on grasses and then they get bored and look for weeds, brush, tree leaves, etc. So, they can take care of grass pastures, not just browse. When other mob grazers use cattle, they remind others to throw in a few goats with those cows, because cows will not eat weeds or brush, unless youíve starved them and that is not what mob grazing is about, never starve an animal into eating the area you want ate down.
You have to know what the goats will and will not eat. Iíve seen people put a bunch of goats on a small place to be ate down and the goats refuse, because what the people had chosen was poisonous to the goat, so they refused to eat and the owner actually made them stay there for days trying to force them. They were thin, starved, unhappy animals, and the few who broke down to eat what the goat farmer had put them on, died from the poisonous plants. So, know what your livestock can safely eat before you mob graze and do not force them to stay in an area they arenít clearing to your satisfaction. They are the wise ones here, listen to them.
Another thing we mob graze is our backyard. Okay, so I donít like to mow. Anyway, remember, if you keep a couple of dogs in the backyard, the goats will not eat where a dog has gone to use the bathroom, so donít force them to stay in there to eat a nasty spot. Now, I have seen goats move dried horse dumplings aside with their noses to graze in that area of the dried dumplings, but never do they want to graze close to dog piles, dried or fresh, so donít force them. Once again, listen to your goats.
We mob graze the individual buck pens. One of our bucks in his big pen cannot keep his place looking neat, so we move him out for an hour or two and put 80-100 does in there and they clean it up real nice. Remember, if they leave things standing, then they werenít suppose to eat it. And, that big of group will trample down anything inedible, so the place looks much better after they have been there and they got to eat stuff that makes them fat and happy.
We are set up with a two strand electric fence in a lot of areas, like around the barnyard, woven wire for the buck pens and baby pens, so the goats can be confined to small places for an hour or two easily and then moved to another place that needs mob grazing. Iíve seen pictures on the internet where the people used cattle panels and made 12X16 foot areas and then put 6-10 adults plus a few baby goats in it and made them stay a couple of days. That is not mob grazing, that is starving. That many should not have stayed in that small of space for more than an hour. The goats did not look healthy at all.
Also remember when your goats like to eat. My goats are leisurely creatures of the morning. They like to laze around in the mornings, maybe pick up a nibble here and there, but mainly enjoy a siesta until about 4 p.m. in the evening, and then they become the mob grazing machine that we love. They will eat until dark and then are ready to go home to bed down.
You say this sounds like a lot of work continuously moving the goats. Well, for us, they are in a big pasture to graze around and when we want a particular place that is getting overgrown, we take our mob and hit those areas, just as I mentioned, the backyard, the barnyard, individual pens. Then we go onto the more serious things of areas filled with iron weed where there should be grass. They get to hit all these different areas for an hour or two and itís wonderful how they can swoop in and quickly clean up a place.
Our Mob Squad are grand olí gals, willing to follow us where ever we want to put them. They know they are in for a treat when we say, ďCome on, girls. Come on babies, itís mob time.Ē