10 November 2008

A Goat's Economy

This is what we get these days. We no longer get showers. When it rains, it really rains. Twice we have gotten a wheelbarrow of water in 24 hours, at least 5 inches of rain, only ten days apart. The Climate Change models for our area are proving true. I am not sure how much this would be, if it were snow instead of rain! But the forecast both times predicted 1/2 to 1 inch of rain, not 5 inches, which is I think, the result of funding cuts to local weather stations.

This kind of rain keeps me pretty close to the house, and I have been reading up on goats. Our goat-tending neighbor down the road dropped off his goat library, five titles in all, touching on all issues related to goat care and farming. One book in particular has caught my interest, Goat Husbandry by David Mackenzie. In the first few chapters he details the reasons why goats have never fit well with industrialized farming. Goats have always been the cornerstone of subsistence farming, especially those pushed to marginal farmland. I was amazed to read our story echoed in his pages, a story centuries old, of subsistence farmers who tried to raise a family milk cow on marginal land, as a way to try and feed the family as well as raise a supplemental income. More often than not, the needs of the cow would push them into debt, and the needs of milk on the table and cream for income, would deprive the calf of the only protein rich food available, stunting the calf, and further jeprodizing the family's ability to get out of debt.

So I am exploring what it means to be a subsistence farmer, and how subsistence farming works within a community. Our ideals of farming have changed dramatically since we began our adventure. We used to think of our ideal farmstock as consisting of cows, pigs and chickens, with heavy draft horse breeds providing for the extensive amount of grain cultivation and hay necessary to maintain the stock. These animals in particular fit well into industrial or market economies. We are now transitioning to goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks, using only standard horse breeds or possibly draft ponies for the relatively small grain and cultivation needs. Goats, rabbits and ducks (with the exception of sheep), have never fit well into the traditional market farm economy, but are relics of a still older, and perhaps more stable, subsistence farm economy.


Susy said...

Very interesting. Mr Chiot's and I are considering getting a few ducks next year. I would love to have a goat, perhaps instead of a dog next time we'll get a goat.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Have you seen Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby? (An older lady with natural insight to mineralization.) Her Horse and Cow Care books are similar, and all a good read.

Anonymous said...

I need to brush up on my goaty knowledge this winter as well. Hey, did you get your message from me last week over at FG? I sent it right as they were switching over, so I wasn't sure whether you actually rec'd it or not.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

susy, yes we are looking forward to raising ducks as well. I kept the feathers when we helped a neighbor butcher some ducks, not quite enough to make a pillow yet.

trapper creak, yes I have seen her books. The other books include detailed information about mineral and nutrition needs. Do Pat Coleby`s books include information on herbal or homeopathic remedies?

Hi farmmom, yeah I got it, everything is so different over there!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Pat Coleby advocates getting the minerals in balance more than recommending any homeopathic or herbal remedies. Any book on homeopathy would give good insight since the remedies are the same for animal of any type or human. Edgar Schaefer DVM writes a good monthly column in Acres, and usually touches on several species as well as human health. His articles usually present case histories which are interesting and make using the remedies seem more doable.

Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli-Levy can be helpful too in some situations.

Jeff S. said...

Could you point me to a website that shows predictions for climate change for different geographical locations?


Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Jeff, here are two sites:

There is a Vital Signs Widget you can download on this site.

Our region, NE North America, has been studied because of the oceanic "hot spot" south of Greenland. So we have an idea of the climate change prediction from many different sites, interviews, docs, etc.