Pastured/grass-fed dairy goats - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 27 Old 09-19-2006, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm trying to connect with other dairy goat owners about transitioning to 100% pasture. (Goats are browsers, not grazers, and so "grass-fed" doesn't seem to bethe right description.) The party line is that it can't be done, that dairy goats have been so domesticated that they are not capable of thriving without supplementing their pasture. Our own experience is that their milk production is quite low without some kind of supplement.

If you raise goats or buy your milk from someone who raises their goats this way, please let me know!

Many thanks.
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#2 of 27 Old 09-19-2006, 09:18 PM
 
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Alamama,

I don't raise goats and I don't really have any knowledge for you but maybe you could contact Peaceful Pastures. I believe that they are a 100% pasture operation, including their dairy/meat goats and even their hogs are pastured. They are very helpful when you e-mail them so maybe you could get advice from them.

www.peacefulpastures.com

-Marc
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#3 of 27 Old 09-19-2006, 09:45 PM
 
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Anyone I have talked to has said this is impossible as well, so I would be more interested in hearing about this as well. I think there is a momma her RAF, that has goats, she is also into NT I think she would be good to ask.

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#4 of 27 Old 09-20-2006, 03:15 AM
 
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I've also been told by one goat farmer that it's impossible. But, I was told by one of the folks at another local farm, Hendrick's, that their goats are 100% pastured. Clearly, goats were entirely pastured historically, at least in the middle east when tribes of nomads were following their herds from grazing land to grazing land. Maybe it's a little more difficult in areas where there's, well, winter.

Now, I have heard much about goats being browsers rather than grazers. It might also have to do, then, with the greater amount of land needed for browsing, because they're going to damage all the trees and shrubs in a small area quickly; and because different plants in their diet will produce different flavors, some of which may be very objectionable.

I'd like to know if goats and their milk suffer as much as cows do from grain supplementation. Logic tells me that they may be able to be supplemented to a small degree with little or no problem, just because they're browsers instead of highly restricted grazers. That is, like us humans, their bodies have a much greater tolerance for less than perfect diets. Whereas cows are meant to eat grass and tender herbs, and only grass and tender herbs, and anything else really messes with them.
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#5 of 27 Old 09-20-2006, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd like to know if goats and their milk suffer as much as cows do from grain supplementation.
Yes, I think this is the key question.

The "pasture" would have to include lots of shrubs/trees in order to provide enough to eat.

Thanks, too, for the reminder about peaceful pastures...we actually bought our first goat from them, but if I recall correctly, the goats in the barn did get some feed. Perhaps just hay? Dh might remember better than I.
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#6 of 27 Old 09-15-2008, 09:21 PM
 
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I realise this is an old thread, but I just saw it...

I've done a lot of looking and asking about this too, and still havent' really found enough information. Right now my goats are comepletly pasture fed, but I'm not milking them or anything. I read one persons blog that soaked the grains in acv and water before feeding them to her goats. I also contacted rehoboth ranch about their pastured goats and they replied that they have a lot of high quality browse and pasture for them and a really good mineral supplement system. Their production decreased but the animals were healthier. And that they would not try it without high quality browse for them. I do think it should be a slow transition either way.
I wish I had more time for my goats, I'd like to try bringing home more cut branches/browse type stuff for them and try feeding them more garden produce. Right now they seem pretty healthy without that and in a few more years I should have more time to devote to them.
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#7 of 27 Old 09-15-2008, 09:56 PM
 
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Hi-

My goats free range. Until this year they had been supplemented with grain on the milkstand. Then we found out my dd is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, oats and corn... just to name a few... So we decided to transition all of our animals (dogs, cats, goats and chickens) off of dd's allergens.

Over the course of a month we replaced grain on the milkstand with alfalfa pellets. My goats have done really well with the transition, and are healthy and happy as can be without grain of any kind.

Now with the stresses of an extreme winter, and with birthing, I may decide to further supplement... with millet, black oil sunflower seeds, flax, beets, lentils, salmon meal and kelp... But until then we're sticking to our plan.

So now you know, it has been done... and so far so good.

Lisa

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#8 of 27 Old 09-16-2008, 09:40 PM
 
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I am really glad you got this thread up and going again! We have dairy goats and I have been thinking about this as well. I cut branches for them every week, so they do get some "browse", but because we live in a small town it would take a good deal more than this to fulfill all their needs. There are good areas along the road that are not sprayed that would make really nice browse for them, and I wonder if you could cut and dry places like that and give it to them like hay. It would be so interesting to see how they'd do with free choice cut "browse."
Lets keep the ideas flowing!

Mtn. Mama, do you have a miniature breed? How much do they get of the pellets on the stand?
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#9 of 27 Old 09-17-2008, 12:40 AM
 
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You could also contact the Kefir Lady about her goats:
http://www.kefirlady.com/

I'm not sure what she does with them, but I'm sure she would be happy to help!

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#10 of 27 Old 09-17-2008, 01:03 AM
 
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No. my goats are full size. They get unrestricted pellets on the stand... and probably eat about 4 cups. They're also getting pellets free choice right now, as alot of our leaves have fallen already and its getting cold fast.

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#11 of 27 Old 09-21-2008, 04:15 PM
 
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You have goats, mtn. mama?
You rock!

Wife of Michael , SAHM to Aristotle 09/99 Raphael 06/07 and Marius 05/09 Known only in dreams but never forgotten: Euphrates Decluttering 290/2010
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#12 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 02:06 PM
 
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Stumbled upon this thread and nothing to add but subbing. We have no goats but I would love to have some one day and preferably have them fully pastured.
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#13 of 27 Old 03-28-2009, 11:27 PM
 
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Just found this thru google and am also very interested in pasture raising goats. I have a neighbor with a free 1 day old billy goat that was rejected by it's nanny because it was the 3rd one and I guess they usually only have twins. Anyway, we were looking for milk goats, but if we castrated him he'd be a good companion for a milk goat and we would only have to buy one goat to start with. I'd prefer to start off just milking one and see how we all like it, how much work it is, etc etc.

So I'm considering taking him, but am unsure of having to feed a goat that will never give me milk. I'd be happier to know he can live totally or at least mostly on browse. We have 10 and 1/2 acres and could give him a very large pasture. Mostly it's wooded tho.
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#14 of 27 Old 03-29-2009, 01:00 PM
 
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The label "100% Pastured" is likely misleading. My cow and other animals are "100% pastured" in that they have access to pasture at all times. They also receive any number of supplements depending on their lactation and other factors.

I think that it is unwise to give a lactating animal only pasture. Perhaps when non-lactating, but when an animal is with milk I think that it is not only nearly impossible but almost irresponsible.

When my dairy animals are not producing milk I will pasture them (always giving quality hay free-choice) and keep an eye on their condition. Any time I've had male goats I have fed very little grain (oftentimes giving none). But, again, a producing animal is a horse of a different color.

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#15 of 27 Old 03-30-2009, 12:12 AM
 
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Goats, because they are browsers cannot be sustained on grass only. However, I do not believe that they can't survive without grain. Our meat goats (granted they're young and have not yet been pregnant), are doing just peachy fine on 2.5-3 acres of 'pasture' - maybe one acre of grass, an acrish of woods and an acre-ish of brush (mostly multiflora rose), with only 1 cup of grain a day which is basicly just a treat to convince them to come to the barn at night to be locked up safely There are lots of meat goats that are raised on huge pastures out west and in other countries. I don't see why you couldn't do so with a dairy goat, although you might not get as much milk.

One of the things that I've read about dairy goats and pasture issues is that if you have them on huge pastures with lots of browse (what they need), and because they're bred to have big udders and they tend to get caught up in the brush, and get hurt that way. Also, because of their varied diets of browse/brush they're milk can often have an off flavor. Which is obviously unfavorable!!

But, I have no doubt that its possible to do. Especially if you're feeding high quality hay free choice, and have a nice big area to roam around with lots of brush and browse. Lots of dairy people will tell you that its 'impossible' to raise dairy cows on grass only, but we obviously know thats not true - theres lots and lots of folks doing it, and more and more every year. Indeed scaling up grass-fed cattle/dairy farming is something to strive for, in order to keep grain prices down, save tons of oil (both because of not needing tractors to tend to the grain and not needing the oil to make pesticides/herbicides/fertilzers for their growth), and sequester carbon (vs putting tons of it more into the atmosphere every year). To say that its 'impossible' or 'irresponsible' to only feed a lactating animal what they evolved to eat over thousands of years is a bit crazy, IMO. Its like saying people can't live without sugar, white bread, or other refined foods - of course we can! And so can animals!!
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#16 of 27 Old 03-30-2009, 10:38 AM
 
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To say that its 'impossible' or 'irresponsible' to only feed a lactating animal what they evolved to eat over thousands of years is a bit crazy, IMO. Its like saying people can't live without sugar, white bread, or other refined foods - of course we can! And so can animals!!
We can agree to disagree. : The dairy cow, in particular, of today is a distant relative to the dairy cow of even a hundred years ago. Just as one couldn't buy a piglet from a hog farm and expect it to dig acorns and roots to feed itself, just as I don't expect my dog to hunt for his food (after all, he is a dog and should have some wolflike hunting abilities, even though he's a Sheltie), I look to my animals themselves to see what they need, not what I think they *should* need based on what *should* be.

The fact is the hay/pasture helps them produce milk. The grain helps them maintain a healthy weight to preserve their health. The fact is that a high-producing animal can literally milk itself to death by using up personal reserves to make milk. In a large-scale dairy that might not matter so much. For a family farm with one or two cows or a small herd of goats that could be disasterous. Either way *I* maintain that it is irresponsible not to give an animal the nutrition it needs, particularly because of some kind of ideal against giving it (and I get prejudice. I don't think pigs need the soy-based diet that they're given in factory farm settings. Therefore I make up a different feed for my pigs. But their dietary needs *are* met, which is not the same as giving a goat nothing but pasture and expecting that, against all odds, to sustain her and her milk supply).

I've said before, but I think that some people get a little overly militant with their ideas of what "should" be rather than what is necessary. I think that it is irresponsible to give an animal (that is not a heritage breed) the food that it would have been given a century ago and expect it to thrive. It will have a negative effect on the health of the animal and I, personally, find that to be ethically disturbing in a major way. Perhaps not on par with feedlot conditions but not much better.

With that said, even Pa Ingalls raised grain to feed his dairy cow.

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#17 of 27 Old 03-30-2009, 12:56 PM
 
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To say that its 'impossible' or 'irresponsible' to only feed a lactating animal what they evolved to eat over thousands of years is a bit crazy, IMO. Its like saying people can't live without sugar, white bread, or other refined foods - of course we can! And so can animals!!
Yes, but these animals did not evolve naturally. They were selectively chosen over the past 100 or 200 generations to be high producers, and we expect them to produce for 10 months or even more. So, while it might be possible in the most perfect of circumstances (ie lots of high quality, high protein browse readily available) to not supplement the diet of a goat, I agree that its probably irresponsible, IN MOST CIRCUMSTANCES.

Now, I do know of a family who has 5 producing does, and they supplement with all natural browse material that they harvest throughout the summer by hand and then dry, again by hand. But they still supplement in some form.
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#18 of 27 Old 03-30-2009, 01:07 PM
 
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My mother does not raise milk goats, but she does raise Kiko goats, which are a highly maternal meat breed. They do not feed them anything except what they get in the fields. They have lots of trees. The goats eat the trees/shrubs, and they eat anything else they find green. Otherwise, they buy hay for winter, and I believe once in awhile they do need to give alfalfa when there is nothing green.

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#19 of 27 Old 03-31-2009, 12:47 AM
 
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True, for the past 50-100 years we've been feeding huge amounts of grain, but previously to that? Not so much. Yeah, maybe cows and goats got *some* grain in the winter for example, but it was not in the massive quantities fed to most in this day and age. Grass fed dairy's exist for cows, and I'm sure browse/pasture only goats exist too. Surely, theres dairy goats in Africa, Asia and the Middle East whose owners can't afford grain to feed them!!

Yeah, you aren't going to get show-quality dairy goats that can survive on pasture. But thats OK with most of us, unless I'm quite mistaken. Ask around, enquire about how much grain the previous owners fed/feed them. Find the ones that get fed the least, and start your own breeding program, breeding back to a hardier animal, and in a few years you'll likely have it, assuming you can't find one right now.

ETA: Oh and Chicky2 - we have Kikos too! Just three atm, seeing how they do on our little pasture and figuring out how many we can raise sustainbly on it!
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#20 of 27 Old 03-31-2009, 05:28 PM
 
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I don't know so much about goats, but I sure know a lot of farmers who have healthy beautiful cow(s) living on nothing but pasture and hay in winter. They give beautiful rich creamy milk, birth healthy calves with no problems and live to old age in good health.

I'm surprised on a TF forum to find such animosity toward TF for animals. Many farm animal breeds have not been bred so far away from their origins as some dogs have.

We humans certainly have spent the last several 100 years eating poorly - but still do best on our traditional diets.
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#21 of 27 Old 03-31-2009, 08:55 PM
 
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mamadelbosque, here is my mom's website, if you are interested....

www.shelbyacreskikogoats.homestead.com

Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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#22 of 27 Old 03-31-2009, 09:01 PM
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There are many factors that determine whether a cow or goat can do without grain supplementation during lactation - genetics, the animal's early life, quality of pasture (including the soil it grows on), climate, and maybe more. I know the original question was about goats, which I don't know much about. What I do know is that modern dairy cows are largely descended from animals that have been selectively bred to produce huge amounts of milk, and often will do so at the expense of their own body condition if they do not get the calories needed to support such hyper-lactation. Dairies that successfully do forage-only diets for their cows (pasture and hay) typically have put a great deal of time and effort into selectively breeding animals with 'grass genetics', producing relatively smaller volumes of milk but needing far less input (resulting in higher profit) and maintaining good condition without grain. One can't really expect a random Holstein or Jersey or Guernsey cow in America to stay healthy while lactating if she's eating forage only, because chances are her metabolic predisposition and early life have not set her up for success in forage-only management. Certainly it's possible to do, there are quite a few forage-only dairies, but they are often seasonal and have premium quality pasture to support their carefully bred grassfed cows. Some people are also of the opinion that the feed an animal receives in its early life prior to its first lactation has an influence on later performance, that if they are given large amounts of grain when young then their body gets programmed to need it to maintain their metabolism, but they are more likely to do well with forage only or just small amounts of grain if they are raised on good forage with no grain. I can't confirm or deny that idea, but I can tell you that my Jersey is maintaining good condition in her first lactation with very little grain, she never had more than a handful of grain occasionally as a treat in her early life, and now she gets a couple of pounds per day (in addition to lots of hay and inconsistent amounts of fresh grass). I tried to keep her off grain entirely, but she started to get a little too skinny.

Often heritage breeds or dairy/beef crosses will be much easier to maintain on forage only, but usually they produce much smaller volumes of milk. There is a growing grassfed dairy movement, and people trying to promote some of the other breeds that haven't been selected for so many generations to produce huge volumes of milk at the expense of feed conversion efficiency. I agree with the idea that it's not a given that just any ol' cow will do fine without grain during lactation just because that's the "way it should be", there are too many factors influencing that for it to be so simple.

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#23 of 27 Old 04-01-2009, 12:35 PM
 
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I can see if a cow were given a lot of grain in it's early life that it's system might go into shock if suddenly given only grass - espec if it were pregnant or lactating at that time.

Of course grass fed cows are going to give less milk - they aren't supposed to give so much milk as industrial dairy cows are producing. And of course the best of these farms are going to be seasonal dairies. That just follows the cycle of nature. Cows aren't meant to milk 12 months out of the year and to reproduce at the same time. I actually prefer to get my diary in the spring/summer/fall and freeze it for winter. The milk produced when cows are on fresh, rapidly growing grasses is far more nutritious than that produced in winter on hay. The milkfat is higher; the color is soooo much more yellow. Mmm.... it's beautiful stuff Similiarly, goats getting the food they evolved for 1000's of years to eat (exception being only about 100 years if that), will produce healthier milk and meat.

Seasonal dairies I know of produce more than enough milk and cheese to support the farmers, provide for them and have enough to sell year round.

Actually, giving cows even a small amount of grain lowers the nutritional value of their goods - at least with meat. It totally lowers the % of CLA fats. I would assume the same holds true for goats as well.

Quality of pasture and variety of grasses in it will also be a huge factor in the health of a grassfed animal. For goats, the same holds true - only with browse as well as just grass. Many farmers no longer call themselves "dairy" or "beef" farmers but rather "grass" farmers because they take so much time and energy ensuring the health of their pastures as the foundation for their farm.
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#24 of 27 Old 04-01-2009, 12:38 PM
 
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mamadelbosque, here is my mom's website, if you are interested....

www.shelbyacreskikogoats.homestead.com
Beautiful farm and goats! Love that guard dog doing it's job so well too! Thanks for sharing the link.
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#25 of 27 Old 04-02-2009, 03:14 PM
 
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I'm surprised on a TF forum to find such animosity toward TF for animals. Many farm animal breeds have not been bred so far away from their origins as some dogs have.

We humans certainly have spent the last several 100 years eating poorly - but still do best on our traditional diets.
Dairy animals *have* often been bred that far away from their original origins. : I'm not so much full of animosity towards TF for animals (which I actually strive to do on my little farmstead) but rather turned off by the militant attitude that any grain (and not all grains are created equal) for any dairy animal for any reason = bad.

My cow, and to a lesser extent my goat, is a very valuable animal. Both in terms of monetary investment but also emotional and time. It is my business to make sure that she (they) is (are) in the best health possible. I'm not going to just put her out to eat grass and then scratch my head when she loses condition, telling her that, after all, she is a cow and should be able to live on grass.

I just don't understand the all-or-nothing attitude especially with an animal as valuable as a dairy cow. Just like there is a world of difference between giving my child Coke or water (after all, both are liquids) there are many different grain combinations that can be given to a dairy animal. Not all of those combinations are the equivalent of a McDonald's diet and not every dairy animal can just be tossed out in the pasture and expected to thrive. Feeding dairy cattle, in particular, is an entire science with many variables. Hell, my husband had to do a Pearson square to make sure she was receiving adequate protein.

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#26 of 27 Old 04-02-2009, 04:36 PM
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I can see if a cow were given a lot of grain in it's early life that it's system might go into shock if suddenly given only grass - espec if it were pregnant or lactating at that time.
It's not just a matter of shock when switching suddenly, some people have observed that animals raised with grain appear to develop a persistent metabolic expectation of that source of concentrated calories/starch/protein, and may have more trouble transitioning to even very high quality pasture and hay only later in life and maintaining adequate condition while lactating.

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Actually, giving cows even a small amount of grain lowers the nutritional value of their goods - at least with meat. It totally lowers the % of CLA fats. I would assume the same holds true for goats as well.
There have been studies showing that grain feeding permanently lowers CLA levels of beef, even if the animal is later taken off grain. The studies I've read about also found that more than a few pounds of grain per day significantly lowered the CLA levels of milk, but that those levels recover in the milk when the animal's grain is reduced and green pasture increased. However, (again, according to the studies I've read about) CLA is not totally absent in animals that receive some grain (it's even found in conventional dairy foods in small amounts), it appears to be dose-dependent to some extent (more grain = less CLA), and it is not the only factor to be considered in the nutritional aspects of meat or milk. IMO, it would be wrong to let my cow get too skinny just so her CLA levels are higher, so I supplement her forage with the smallest amount possible of other feed to keep her in healthy condition. I do not give her grain so she will produce more milk, only to keep her at a healthy weight. The nuts and bolts of managing a lactating dairy animal turns out to be more complicated than a lot of people seem to think, as many people who actually dedicate the time to keep a dairy animal find out. Totally grassfed is the ideal to me, but not possible in all situations, with all animals, in all locations.

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#27 of 27 Old 02-23-2014, 11:47 AM
 
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I'm not even sure if you will get this message because it has been so many years since you posted, but I am wondering how your feeding method has been going?  I hope well!  Sounds like a great plan!

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