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Goat farming resources 
New Hampshire Dairy Goat Association 
facebook.com/NHDGA
NHDGA holds monthly meetings with educational discussions (open to the public) and a show every spring. Contact Mary Fox at danielfox14@comcast.net for more information. 
 
New Hampshire 4-H 
extension.unh.edu/4-H-Youth-Family/4-H-Youth-Development
NH 4-H offers youth programs for raising dairy goats, raising goats for meat production and training working goats. 
 
New Hampshire Farm & Forest Expo 
nhfarmandforestexpo.org
Goat farming is a well-represented topic in seminars and exhibits. The 2017 expo is set for Feb. 17 and Feb. 18. 
 
American Dairy Goat Association 
adga.org
See website for general information about dairy goats and related events around the country.
 
More on fowl
2016 Backyard Chicken Basics Workshop: Thursday, May 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Plaistow Public Library, 85 Main St., Plaistow, free, online registration encouraged; visit extension.unh.edu. 
UNH Cooperative Extension can help with care and husbandry questions. Call 1-877-398-4769. Email answers@unh.edu.
 
Why keep bees?
There are two main benefits to keeping bees besides the enjoyment beekeepers get out of the hobby: your plants get pollinated and you can keep the excess honey bees produce.
Booth cautions anyone against thinking they’ll have honey to eat in the first year or two a new hive is put to work because the bees need to eat a certain amount of their own honey during the winter in order to survive. 
Still, Booth says a successful beekeeper can eventually harvest as much as 50 to 75 pounds of excess honey from a well-managed and productive hive. 
Pollination is a critical process for plant reproduction (producing fruits, vegetables and nuts), and bees perform that vital service simply by bobbing from flower to flower and collecting pollen. If you have apple trees or tomato crops, these little critters will ensure your plants are bountiful. But Booth says bees may not always go to small plants near the hive. They tend to go for the most efficient food source, which means if they find a whole orchard in their radius, they’ll report back to the hive and send hundreds to forage from the same place at once.
 
Shopping list
A 3-pound bee colony of 3,000 to 9,000 bees: $125
Hive structure: $200
Beekeeper jumpsuit: $75
Smoker (to pacify bees when opening a hive): $35
Other assorted tools: $30
Initial batch of sugar for feed: $50 
Source: Wendy Booth. All prices are approximate.
 

 





Backyard farming
Why your neighbor is raising goats, chickens, alpacas and other useful creatures

04/28/16
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com, Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com, Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



Get goating

How to start raising dairy goats

You don’t need to be part of a large farm or a 4-H program to have dairy goats. In fact, raising goats is viable for just about anyone with the commitment and a backyard. The president of the New Hampshire Dairy Goat Association, Mary Fox, talked about the benefits of raising dairy goats, what caring for a goat entails, the startup process and how to decide if goat ownership is right for you.
The perks 
There are numerous benefits of raising dairy goats, the most obvious being goat milk. According to the American Dairy Goat Association, most goats in their prime produce three to four quarts of milk daily during a 10-month lactation period. The fat globules and curd in goat milk are soft and small, meaning it doesn’t require the mechanical homogenization process used for cow milk, which can have negative health effects. This also means goat milk is more easily digested, making it a popular alternative for people who have trouble with cow milk. Many products can be made with goat milk too, like cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, candy, soap and other body products. 
When considering the perks of having goats, goat droppings may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but they’re very useful as an organic fertilizer for gardens. 
Raising goats also has its nonmaterial benefits. 
“Goats are social by nature, so they make wonderful pets, too,” Fox said. “It’s a great project for the whole family to get involved with.” 
 
Are goats right for you?
It’s important to conduct an honest assessment of yourself and your lifestyle before jumping into goat ownership. First, determine whether your yard is suitable. ADGA recommends at least 15 square feet of sheltered bedding area and 25 square 
 
How to start raising dairy goats 
By Angie Sykeny 
asykeny@hippopress.com 
 
You don’t need to be part of a large farm or a 4-H program to have dairy goats. In fact, raising goats is viable for just about anyone with the commitment and a backyard. The president of the New Hampshire Dairy Goat Association, Mary Fox, talked about the benefits of raising dairy goats, what caring for a goat entails, the startup process and how to decide if goat ownership is right for you.
The perks 
There are numerous benefits of raising dairy goats, the most obvious being goat milk. According to the American Dairy Goat Association, most goats in their prime produce three to four quarts of milk daily during a 10-month lactation period. The fat globules and curd in goat milk are soft and small, meaning it doesn’t require the mechanical homogenization process used for cow milk, which can have negative health effects. This also means goat milk is more easily digested, making it a popular alternative for people who have trouble with cow milk. Many products can be made with goat milk too, like cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, candy, soap and other body products. 
When considering the perks of having goats, goat droppings may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but they’re very useful as an organic fertilizer for gardens. 
Raising goats also has its nonmaterial benefits. 
“Goats are social by nature, so they make wonderful pets, too,” Fox said. “It’s a great project for the whole family to get involved with.” 
 
Are goats right for you?
It’s important to conduct an honest assessment of yourself and your lifestyle before jumping into goat ownership. First, determine whether your yard is suitable. ADGA recommends at least 15 square feet of sheltered bedding area and 25 square feet of fenced outdoor space per goat. While it’s perfectly feasible to raise goats while working full-time, you must commit to checking on them twice daily to feed and water them and milk them if necessary, and to cleaning their shelter weekly. If you travel a lot, take that into consideration and make sure you know someone who can care for your goats while you’re away. Finally, ask yourself why you want goats. If material gain is your only interest, you may want to reconsider. 
“You definitely have to have a love for animals to get into something like this,” Fox said. “It’s not that it takes up a lot of time. The average person with two goats can get their chores done within a half hour. But you should want to spend time with the animals and give them love and affection. That’s why you have them.” 
 
Preparing & caring 
Before you start purchasing supplies, take some time to think about what kind of goat owner you want to be. 
“There’s a lot of different methods,” Fox said. “I always suggest to beginners that they visit some goat farms first and figure out what they want their own management style to be, then find a good mentor, someone who is raising goats in the same manner that they would like to, who they can always go to if they have questions.” 
The shelter must be dry, well-ventilated and able to withstand the elements. For the outdoor section, choose an area that has sunny and shady spots. Goats prefer grazing on brush and weeds as opposed to grass. Bear in mind, goats are curious animals that love to explore new territories and taste-test unfamiliar plants. These tendencies are extremely dangerous for them since many common plants are toxic to goats, and wild predators are quick to attack a free-roaming animal, so having sturdy fencing around the goats’ pasture area is important. 
Goats are very finicky about the cleanliness of their food, so you’ll need an elevated trough to feed them their hay. Other essentials include water buckets, a rake and shovel and milking supplies.  
 
Buying goats 
The first rule of buying goats is to never buy less than two.
“One goat is a lonely goat,” Fox said. “It’s not fair to keep them alone. They’re a herd animal, so they need a companion.” 
Once you decide the breed, type and number of goats you want, start shopping around and talking to breeders. There are several contagious diseases that affect goats, so it’s important to do your research and closely examine the goats before agreeing to a purchase. Fox urges people to especially stay away from auctions, which she says are more likely to sell diseased animals. 
“[Buying at auctions] is the biggest mistake people make,” she said. “The second biggest mistake is not checking out the health of the animal and the reputation of the breeder you’re buying from. If you get an unhealthy animal and you have to put it down, it’s very discouraging, so don’t make those mistakes.” 
 
Fowl 101
What to know before you build your coop
The backyard fowl trend is booming in New Hampshire.
UNH Cooperative Extension Food and Agriculture Field Specialist Daimon Meeh said his three regular backyard chicken workshops on the Seacoast have been jam-packed with people in recent years.
“I was getting a lot of phone calls from backyard chicken owners who had questions, or people who were looking how to raise chickens. And so these courses sort of evolved out of that demand,” Meeh said. “I think people are wanting a connection to their food. Then there are a lot of people who think of it as a fun project with their kids.”
And, said James Czack of Elevage de Volailles in Rye, raising birds is a relatively easy way to do that.
“Poultry take up much less space than livestock. And they’re generally easier to maintain,” Czack said.
 
Can you handle chickens?
There are things to consider before buying chickens and setting up a coop. Most importantly, are you willing to take on the responsibility, good times and bad?
“There’s all the fun stuff involved, but if it gets sick or injured by a predator or by other chickens, there can be issues,” Meeh said. “It’s one of the more common calls I get — the chicken is sick, what do I do?”
And do you have the time? Meeh suggested you ensure you have time to check on your chickens at least twice a day for food, water and egg-collecting, though they can be left alone for eight hours if you work a regular full-time job.
You also need to look at your own space — is it sufficient for a flock of birds? — and your town’s planning and zoning ordinances, as some places limit the amount of livestock you can keep. Chicken coops need at least three to four square feet of floor space per bird, plus plenty of linear roost space for nights. If you want your chickens to have the capacity to run around, Meeh advised at least 10 square feet of grass space per bird.
“Lots of people let the birds out and let them free range, and that’s OK to do, but I wouldn’t do that if you’re not home,” Meeh said. “And having them free range does expose them to the potential of picking up illness.”
If you’re going to invest in chickens, he advised getting at least three because chickens are social animals.
“Each hen will probably produce about an egg a day or, on a weekly basis, five to six eggs per week. So three or four birds would probably be good enough in terms of providing eggs for a family of four,” Meeh said.
 
What about ducks?
The duck is the second-most common backyard fowl in New Hampshire. (Turkeys and geese are not beginners’ birds, Czack said; they require more maintenance and knowledge.) Czack thinks it’s under-utilized.
“There are a lot of myths that need to be dispelled about waterfowl. One is that you have to have a pond on your property, which is not true,” Czack said. 
He said waterfowl just need some sort of water source to dunk their heads in so they don’t develop respiratory diseases. Most important is getting their nostrils and eyes clean. For his own ducks, Czack uses rubber buckets in the winter, kiddie pools in the summer.
Ducks are hearty and don’t mind snow, and in Czack’s case, they outweigh his chickens in egg production. They’re also helpful for pest management.
“A chicken will get insects at the top of the soil. Ducks are designed to burrow into the soil to get the grubs. I do not have a grub on my property,” Czack said. “And there’s nothing better for fly control than ducks.”
He referenced a Canadian study in which farmers found ducks were able to remove flies from an enclosed area 30 times faster than fly traps or other devices. 
Just as with chickens, it’s better if you have a small flock, as they’re social animals.
“Water fowl are very affectionate when they feel they’re part of your flock,” Czack said. 
 
Food and disease
If you’re going to go all out and invest in many different fowl, you’ll need separate coops and areas for each. They don’t mix well, and all domestic birds are at risk of Avian Influenza, which is spread by wild birds. Cleanliness is key.
“If you follow biosecurity issues, you can limit exposure and the spreading of the disease if you just follow basic security measures,” Czack said.
For any animal, it’s important to invest in the right nutrition. Diet will affect not only a bird’s health but also the taste of the eggs it produces. As such, saving money shouldn’t be on your agenda in raising fowl.
“It’s not a cheap way to get eggs, when you compare [costs] to egg prices in the supermarkets,” Meeh said.
Czack agreed.
“People always look for the cheapest avenue to feed their livestock and that doesn’t always equal the best route,” Czack said. “It’s a myth that free range means they’re just out there and making it on their own. You have to have the grain. Chicken or duck or even geese who are essentially lawn mowers need supplement in their diet.”
If you’re creative, you might find a local venue where you can get free, healthy feed; Rob North of Great North Aleworks said there are area farmers who visit the brewery regularly because its spent grains, though no longer useful to the company, are a healthy supplement for farm animals. 
 
Fiber Friends
What you need to know about raising sheep, alpacas
If you’re looking to take up a new hobby or if you favor non-traditional pets — and you have at least an acre of land — consider an alpaca or sheep. In most cases no prior experience is needed, just the time and effort that comes with a new project.
 
Why alpacas?
Wendy Lundquist, who owns Snow Pond Farm in Windham with her parents, first got alpacas in 2007.
“Our family went to an alpaca farm in Maine and we thought they were cute,” she said in a phone interview. “We looked into it and decided that is what [we] wanted to do.”
They currently have 28 alpacas: 26 suri (draped, lock-style fleece) and two huacaya (the “fluffy teddy bear looking ones”). Lundquist said they’re fairly self-sufficient animals, they’re friendly and curious, they know their names when you talk to them and they have fiber that can be used or sold to make yarn.
“They don't take a lot of space to raise, they don't eat a lot [and] they are easy to take care of and fun to watch,” she said. 
 
Getting started
Before purchasing alpacas, Lundquist and her family did their research — they attended farm seminars, spoke with alpaca farmers, and read magazines and husbandry books. She recommends finding an alpaca farm near you and volunteering to see if you enjoy working with the alpacas before making a purchase.
“I had no experience, and now I can do their teeth and shots. I’ve helped deliver babies. I can tube-feed an animal,” she said. 
Lundquist said that since they’re herd animals you need to start with three alpacas. Other than that, you have some options.
“You can buy pregnant females or fiber males, which are gelded [castrated] males, which are more laid back,” she said. “Check a variety of different farms and find out who would be the farmer that would work best with you, because they are going to be the people you’re going to contact for advice. Make sure they’re willing to help you.”
 
An alpaca’s domain
Check your town or city zoning ordinances before putting animals on your property. Once you have the go-ahead, put up a fence and barn or three-sided shed for your alpacas. While three is the minimum number, Lundquist has heard that 10 per acre is a good guideline. 
“Our animals, they sleep all together. They are more often than not all together in the group,” she said. 
Well-suited to New Hampshire’s seasonal shifts, she said, they love the cooler weather and do well in the snow, while in the summer you may need to set up a fan or sprinkler to keep them cool. 
“The hardest thing is cutting their toenails,” she said.
Still, even that isn’t a big issue because, like shearing and shots, they only do it once a year.
Daily maintenance and upkeep is just like you would expect with a pet: Keep the water and bucket clean, scoop the poop piles, make sure the hay is good and feed bowls are clean, and know where the nearest large animal vet is.
 
Why sheep?
Lindsey McAllister, farm manager at Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm, helps folks interested in keeping their own animals get started through barnyard basics workshops.
“[It’s] a place for people to come and have questions answered and learn the basics [like] what a quality animal looks like and what it would take to raise their own on their own property,” she said in a phone interview.
People choose to raise sheep for a number of reasons, McAllister said: they’re good companion animals, they provide fiber for knitting and weaving, or they offer a local meat source. 
 
Getting started
While you don’t need formal training to raise sheep, McAllister recommends having a support system, whether it be a nearby vet or another sheep-raiser to float ideas by. Make sure to do research before choosing a sheep or lamb to bring home, and find a breed that suits your goal.
“Different breeds have different personalities,” she said. “Am I going to be raising lambs for market or am I going to be trying to market my fine wool to hand spinners? You want to buy from someone who has a good reputation in the sheep-raising community.” 
It may be hard to find certain breeds in New Hampshire, but McAllister said you’ll have plenty of options within New England.
If you’ve never had sheep before, try a starter year before making the full commitment. McAllister suggests starting with lambs in the spring (get them weaned from a farm so they’re set with vaccines) and grazing them for the summer. 
“It’s kind of like getting your feet wet and you don’t have to get any stock in the winter,” she said. “Get used to managing and handling them and send them to market in the fall.”
When you’re ready, work toward a breeding stock, starting with young ewes that are going to have a few years of productive lambing.  
 
A sheep’s domain
Sheep don’t take up much space. To make sure they have enough grass, three sheep to an acre or four or five lambs to an acre is a good guideline to follow. Beyond that, alterations need to be made based on each setup, whether they’re going to graze in the summer or eat hay year round. 
Two key items to have on the property are fencing and shade. Shade can be a three-sided shelter or even just a treeline, McAllister said, and fencing has myriad options. She said portable systems like what they use on the farm are great because you can move them so the sheep always have fresh grass to graze. There are also semi-permanent electric and nonelectric fencing options.
Whatever you choose, be aware of the financial and time commitment that comes with raising animals.
“This is no different than adopting a dog or a cat and the responsibility that comes along with that,” she said. “They still need vaccines and worming and may have an emergency where you need to call a vet.” 
 
Beekeeping for beginners
How to get into the honey-making hobby
Experienced beekeepers say it doesn’t take much to overcome a fear of honey bees — they’re largely docile and friendly — but they caution anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper that it takes a lot of work and a fair amount of money.
 
Myths
Wendy Booth of Barrington is a longtime beekeeper and the owner of My Bee Buddy, which offers bee school lessons and personal hive inspections. She has an observation hive — a small beehive built with a glass window — in her bedroom. 
“Bees are gentle and friendly to work with. I think a lot of people think that it takes a lot of nerve and gumption; really it just takes a general interest and some time and a good amount of money,” Booth said. “It’s not an inexpensive hobby.”
She said producing honey doesn’t necessarily make you a small business owner, either. 
“We like to say that it’s the most expensive honey you’ll ever buy,” Booth said. 
But the most common myth is that it’s easy.
“People think it’s just bees in a box and that it’s very easy and not a time-consuming hobby. It’s actually the opposite of that. It is a time-consuming hobby,” Booth said. 
She said anyone can have bees, but not everyone can keep them. Truly keeping bees requires regular management and monitoring of the hives.
A beekeeper needs to make sure the bees’ nutritional needs are being met, that they’re not infected by disease or mites, being bothered by nocturnal pests or breeding with undesirable strains of local bees.
 
Moody bees
One of the things Booth looks for when she opens up a hive is its general mood. Bees should be relatively docile, but some things can make them more aggressive.
Animals like skunks and bears, what Booth terms “night marauders,” can harass the hives and cause them to be overly antagonistic. Even heavy-handed beekeepers can trigger aggression if they squish too many bees when inside the hive (though it’s expected that a couple will accidentally die here and there).
Also, when bees swarm (divide the hive when they’ve outgrown a space) they may mate with local bees and introduce certain genes that can be more aggressive. Booth says in cases like these, a beekeeper may have to take drastic action in the form of regime change. In other words, they must kill the queen and replace it with one with a more friendly and reliable genetic heritage. 
 
Getting started
Anyone looking into becoming a beekeeper must first consider the location of potential hives. If you have neighbors, for example, you must consider their potential fears or allergies, and perhaps educate them on its relative safety.
“So it makes it a little bit different from getting a goat or chickens or alpaca because they are going to fly through your neighborhood,” Booth said.
She said bees tend to forage a mile or more away from the hive. 
If safety and neighborly concerns are addressed, Booth says everyone should start by attending a bee school. New Hampshire offers several.
“There are many local clubs run through various counties that will offer an introductory bee school class over the course of six weeks. Most of them are run in February,” Booth said.
They tend to be one evening each week for about $75, whereas Booth’s intensive bee school takes place on two full Saturdays in March for $100.
But the planning process should really begin in January, to ensure that you acquire the hive structures in advance and purchase a bee colony before the inventory runs out around April.
Bee school will equip beginner beekeepers with critical knowledge in understanding bee behavior and how to address complications.
“You’re going to learn bee biology, you’re going to learn equipment necessary, you’re to learn spring and summer management, fall management and overwintering … pests and disease,” Booth said.
Booth says the hardest thing about beekeeping is to understand how bees live.
“It’s not just a physical hobby, it’s a mindful hobby as well,” Booth said.
Ultimately, she recommends new beekeepers develop relationships with other beekeepers who can serve as mentors after bee school is over, because the learning never really stops. 
 

 






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