Self-sufficiency is on the minds of many folks these days. Victory gardens and chicken tractors were/are in the toolboxes of many families looking to harvest sustenance off their land. Back in 1918, public service flyers touted raising your own food and helping others with this tagline: “In time of peace a profitable recreation–In time of war a patriotic duty.”
According to numerous reports seed sales, baby chick, piglet and small ruminant sales are through the roof as spring arrives, welcoming many novices into the world of local agriculture. On the livestock side, I have witnessed countless examples, via books or YouTube videos, of chicken tractors, movable pig and rabbit pens and portable fencing setups that allow animals to forage every margin of a property. My granddaughter, Hadley and I, have another concept for burgeoning agriculturists —-The Goat Tractor.
This idea was born out of a few concerns when you have a youngster around. We needed to come up with an easier way for a small child, less than 5 years old, to manage a couple of baby goats. Electric fence, labor ease, forage allocation, shelter, security, portability and the behavior of goats were all challenges to work around. Some would say, and have said, “Just tether them to a post or cement block and they’ll be fine.” I can only imagine explaining to my granddaughter, how her kid got shredded by a neighborhood dog or choked to death from wrapping around a post. I’d rather quit right now!
The magical answer to our queries was, wait for it……..
a dog pen.
Sorry it’s not a more exciting idea, but when an opportunity presents itself you make it work. And as an entrepreneurial-minded, seasoned farmer, you share what works so others can prosper in an agricultural venture. The now, dog-goat tractor was purchased locally from a friend for 50 bucks, because it outlived its dog. The beauty of this 10’x10’ self-contained, non-electric gem was it was chain link, lightweight, and had a door and a tarped roof. When I did my 3 kid (2 does and 1 Hadley) grazing plan, the pasture allocation of 100 square feet of 10 inch grass, moved DAILY, fed the animals and microbes well. I could also measure my area and see in 40 days that I could start my mini grazing rotation over again.
The “tractor” worked really well. Problem is “kids” grow up and become more rambunctious. They loved leaning and spring-boarding off the sides which in turn spilled the water pail. We made the mistake of giving them a tiny bit of grain which made Hadley really happy and engaged, but every time they saw us they would charge the door and create stress for the people and latches. Moving a dog-goat tractor daily is also tough on the bottom part of the chain-link and the joints of the frame, requiring some maintenance now and then. Bigger goats and wind resulted in tent stakes to keep the structure in place.
Modifications I would consider include adding skids to the bottom for ease of dragging, reinforcing corner brackets and door latches, adding a tow rope, using a modified waterer instead of a pail, and having some metal ties around to fix the chain. I like the idea of using it for other livestock but the bottom edge is always a concern. Many vermin like what you’re raising and try to dig their way to a free meal. As with everything, follow a recipe that works for your situation.
All in all, the dog-goat tractor was a great success. It taught a youngster about animal husbandry, raised healthy “kids” and will provide a family with homegrown, nutritious dairy products. It also reminds us how resilient we can be if we try to look at the world as an opportunity not a challenge.
“Happiness is making the most of what you have and riches are making the most of what you got.”
~ Rosamunde Pilcher
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