Sunday, January 11, 2009

ECHO Global Farm Goat House

It's taken me a while to post more of our pics from the ECHO test farm tour. Their test farm is amazing and approximates several different types of climates in order to develop multi-purpose crops using low-tech sustainable methods to be used in developing countries. Many of the planting techniques and actual under-utilized plants Jack and I've been interested knowing more about are featured there...it was exciting seeing so many all in one place!

This was their goat house. There was so much to fit into the tour, and we didn't get unlimited time to poke around and measure and fiddle to our hearts' content, but here's what we were able to gather at the time...

The structure was made as a solution to many third world farmers' dilemma...how to raise goats on small land parcels without sustaining damage to crops. Goats are an important animal in many cultures, useful for milk, meat, skins, bartering, and sometimes fiber.

ECHO's goat house was their working solution: an elevated structure made of found materials or available wood. It is large enough to comfortably accomodate several small to medium-sized goats, and the wooden slats are substantial enough to be strong, and are spaced to allow for air circulation on all sides...but to keep predators out. There was a feeding trough along one side, and the slats were spaced to allow goats to extend their heads to the trough for eating forage, but not enough to allow the goats to escape.

Beneath the troughs, trimmed limbs and forage leaves/plants were piled. As the goats finished what was in the troughs, the trimmings could be easily rotated upward to refill the troughs.

It's hard to tell in these pictures, but the building was positioned raised above a dirt slope. Animal droppings fall through the floor slats to the ground below, and are raked down the underneath slope into the open to be collected and used for fertilizer. Any uneaten twigs and branches from the fodder are put into the compost pile.

We've never had goats, but know enough about them from others to know they're talented escape artists. We weren't able to study the structure to see how they're prevented from getting out, but it's obvious this structure works well and has been used successfully for some time. The goats did not seem crowded, seemed to enjoy being higher up off the ground and in the shade rather than direct sunlight. And there was no way they'd ever be standing on wet ground.

Several forages are used for them...one is moringa, a multi-use tree good for animals and humans. Here is a stand of moringa, harvested 7 times a year (if memory serves) by what seems to be a coppicing method (or is it a pollarding one?) since the tree trunks are cut at regular intervals after harvesting their quick-growing branches. These can be fed to animals such as the goats, for fodder, harvested for human consumption (leaves), or for low-tech water purification (leaves again). Here is a stand of coppiced moringa trees. The trunks are 2 to 3 feet high and the branch growth was about waist high or so.


Here is a mature moringa, a different variety than the above. This one stores water in its trunk and can endure punishing drought.





That's all for now...we enjoyed seeing their solution to the goat dilemma. Goats can easily decimate a garden, yet this goat house situated in close proximity to surrounding gardens kept the cycle beneficial to not only humans, but supplied the goats with fodder that otherwise would have been a plant waste. In eating them, the goats gained nutrition, produced fertilizer and milk, and the garden benefitted again, continuing the circle.

More ECHO fun to come, as I have time to post!

8 comments:

Annette said...

so the goats did not roam the property, they just live in this house? How are the feces handled -drops through the floor??

I'd love to know more!

Killi said...

Coppicing is cutting the trunk down low, almost at ground level; pollarding is cutting the trunk at shoulder height. That's the rough difference as I understand it. (There could be a lot more to it than that!) Pollarding is used a lot on the willows in Somerset. Do they have duck & goose houses, too? I need ideas for those...

Robbyn said...

Annette, when we go back out there, I'd like to have the time to see the interior. The best I could tell from this tour, the boards they walk on have separations between boards and the droppings fall to the ground. I'll be asking them next time if theyhave to regularly sweep the boards off and if we can have a peek inside to see if there are any other feed troughs, etc.

Killi, these were cut off about 2 feet from the ground, so I wasn't sure what to call it :) Yes, they had a goose pen that was just a basic large wire-covered cage of sorts, plenty of room. The duck cage was more of a "house" and was build on supports at the edge of a low area that had been turned into a Tilapia pond. The duck house had fairly small mesh wire bottom, but big enough for the poop to go through, and it was directly over the water. Somehow it stimulates algae growth which then is eaten by the fish. The ducks are loose on the property in the daytime adn at night are penned, with food and water dishes in the pen. I'll post pics soon, though I only got a couple this time around.

Killi said...

I want to put the ducks in with the goats because that field has a boggy area & I've got a water supply rigged up already, so I could move the big tin bath in with them to swim in ~ I don't think they'll be able to get into the bath with the drinking water, so that will stay relatively clean. I haven't yet decided where I want the geese ~ running loose in the yard, with the ducks, with the feather-legs where they should get grass...

Killi said...

I want to put the ducks in with the goats because that field has a boggy area & I've got a water supply rigged up already, so I could move the big tin bath in with them to swim in ~ I don't think they'll be able to get into the bath with the drinking water, so that will stay relatively clean. I haven't yet decided where I want the geese ~ running loose in the yard, with the ducks, with the feather-legs where they should get grass...

Thanbks for the asnswers to jmy questions

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

That is really neat! Kind of like a permanent "chicken tractor," allowing the goats' owner to utilize them for eating forage and providing manure, but keeping them contained and safe from predators. You can also stake a goat out to browse in specific areas, but that practice does leave them at high risk for predators (most notoriously, dogs).

Christina said...

Just a quick note to say "hi".... I am in sunny (NOT) Florida for a couple of days watching the grandbabies while my dear daughter is out of town.... what a lucky nana I am! Still.... who took the sun away.... I love reading about the Echo farm....

Robbyn said...

Killi, I have no expertise or experience with these things, but I'm betting if you follow the ECHO link they can answer you and give you plenty of ideas :)

Michelle, yes, we thought it was pretty neat, too! I wouldnt have if they'd seem unhappy or in too small a space, but they were happy as could be, it seemed. It did make us rethink having a few goats, since we'd pushed them further back on the wish list than some other animals... you know, when we have a place we're allowed to KEEP animals :)

Christina!!!!!!!!!! Wow, how'd you get so lucky to pick the COLDEST Florida weekend? Ah well, holding grandbabies is perfect in any weather! So glad to hear you're still alive and well, my friend!