critters for an orchard

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by ninny, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. ninny

    ninny Songster

    Jul 1, 2007
    IL side of the QCA
    I have about an acre im turning into an orchard. I would like some small (mini) critters to help mow it and maybe give me milk or fiber in return. I have 4 acres total but i do not want to fence it all in. Instead i would have portable fencing that i would use so they can graze that as well. I also have several family members that would like to have my critters mow some hard to do places on their land. My trees are all dwarf or semi dwarf.
    I was thinking of goats, sheep, alpacas, geese. Id like a mixture of critters if possible. Should i get all fixed boys? Or females and do AI with them?
    I have a 25 x 25 foot shed they will have for housing. I gonna take some of that space for storage. I have chickens in this setup as well.
    This is in front of my house so i need fencing options that look nice. If i have to go with t post and welded wire. Im going to spray paint it white. And plant climbing flowers all over it.


    (I posted this on backyardherds 2 so id get lots of info)
  2. miss_thenorth

    miss_thenorth Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    SW Ont, Canada
    Well, I would think that goats would be out of the question, since they would eat your trees. Sheep would be a good option, and the fencing used for this is not terribly invasive looking. Four strands of electric wire that doesn't stand too tall, or you could use pagewire, which could look quite rustic if you dolled it up with vines etc.
  3. 3goodeggs

    3goodeggs pays attention sporadically

    May 22, 2009
    North Central Florida
    My sheep stood on their back legs to eat leaves. kept the trees trimmed.
  4. miss_thenorth

    miss_thenorth Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    SW Ont, Canada
    Oh, also ducks and geese are good in pasture areas too, but you need to provide a pond or kiddie pool for them.
  5. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Songster

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    Small suggestion: Don't add anything until the trees are well established (think a year or 2 here) or your critters may eat/girdle the saplings before they have a chance to really get going.


  6. Wolf-Kim

    Wolf-Kim Songster

    Jan 25, 2008
    Quote:Since I plan to have an orchard in the future, I'll share my plans with you.

    My first and foremost suggestion? STAY AWAY FROM GOATS. Many people like to view them as live lawnmowers this is simply FALSE. They are live hedgeclippers! Vines, trees, bushes, they prefer anything but grass. They will dance on their hind feet and eat all the branches they can off of trees. While goats are delightful creatures in the correct environment, the orchard is the worst possible place for these guys. The only way they would be even remotely compatible with your orchard is if they can't get at the trees period. This means that you would have to fence the trunk of the tree in such a way that the goats can't scratch themselves on it or nibble at the trunk(they can and will strip bark off a tree) and that all branches remain out of their reach year round(even when heavy and drooping with fruit.

    Haven't dealt with alpacas, they are taller than goats, so if they get a hankering for fruit trees, they are at a conveniant height. LOL

    Sheep are an excellent option for an orchard. They prefer grass over everything else and will keep your orchard grasses low, IF they run out of grass, they may very well go after leaves. I would stick to sheep, over alpacas and goats for an orchard. Although, management is going to be the key here. You want them to mow the grass and weeds, but you do not want them to kill the grass, churn the soil/possibly causing damage to roots, or rubbing/scratching on the trees to the extent of damaging trunks. So a moveable fence system is great for this.

    Geese are wonderful for an orchard. I plan to keep many in my future orchard. They love grass, but aren't usually tall enough or show enough interest to damage the trees or grapes. While they can over graze and kill the grass, they don't have sharp hooves that can in effect till the land. They are not large enough to rub and damage trees if they wish to do so, personally, I've never seen my geese rub up against anything other than themselves.

    Geese are usually happiest in pairs, 1 male to 1 female. I have 4 pairs that run together. With the sheep, I would prefer to have a small flock of females. That way I would simply breed them to an outside ram and then sale the young. By breeding to an outside ram, you don't have to deal with any aggressive tendencies of a ram, and you don't have to feed/house a ram that is sole purpose is to breed your 4-5 females once or twice a year. While wethers are even tempered, usually large friendly animals, there is little more you can do with them. They make good pets and meat. There are sheep that are bred to be milked, again, another choice to go with females instead of wethers. I personally think that even though you will more likely pay more for an ewe than a wether, at least the ewe will pay herself off many times over by producing young, milk and fiber(not saying you can't get fiber from a wether).

    So that's just my opinion. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2009
  7. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Geese are pretty good at grazing and keeping the yard trimmed if you have a small flock of them. They also provide lots of fertilizer and they are great watch dogs. Some people have issues with nasty geese, but I've never had that problem. Mine hiss sometimes, but mostly they are just big babies who want food LOL. They actually don't need a lake, pond, or swimming pool, but you have to provide a trough or bucket deep enough for them to stick their heads in. Also, during the spring, summer, and part of the fall, you won't need to spend much money on food, as they will get most of their food from free ranging. I still give mine layer pellets when they are out, but sometimes they hardly touch it and it lasts much longer.

    Goats would eat the bark and leaves off of trees, but you could always fence around the trees to prevent this. They may still be able to get at the leaves, but eating a few leaves here and there shouldn't hurt them. However, if you are just going to fence around the trees, then I would say goats are your best bet. They don't need much space, they are relatively easy to care for, and they give milk.

    Mini cows are neat too. I don't have much experience with them, but I don't think they would touch your trees as much as goats would. The problem is that they are considerably more expensive.

    Sheep are nice too, but you would have to shear them (Unless you get hair sheep) and most people do not milk sheep. I've seen it done a few times, but goats are definitely a lot easier as far as milk goes.
  8. Wolf-Kim

    Wolf-Kim Songster

    Jan 25, 2008
    Quote:I imagine that mini cows are just like their standard counterparts. Cows, like goats, will eat branches and leaves they can reach. My father in law, used to use a small herd of Black angus to keep the forest cleared out. He said they do a beautiful job of it because everything will be cleared out 6' high and down. Just know that cows like other livestock like to rub and can and will inadvertantly destroy trees, as my motherinlaw will willingly confess loosing her favorite and precious dogwood trees, crepe myrtles, and young pecan trees to a certain black angus bull that would decide that there wasn't enough in the pasture and get out and rub on her landscaping. My mother in law hated those cows. She said she was standing in the house, when she sent her sons out to get that bull, and before they could get in the yard she watched it snap her pecan tree right in two with one head scratch, killing the tree she planted a few years prior. She HATED those cows. LOL
  9. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    Just something else to keep in mind when starting your orchard....deer. An older man purchased 5 acres of land on our road to grow trees as a retirement project. He isn't going to farm or sell them. He just wants to grow them as a way of giving back to the enviroment. He has been at it for 3 years and the deer have come along every winter and destroyed most of them.
    Hopefully you won't have this problem.
  10. synoviaus

    synoviaus Songster

    Apr 30, 2009
    Blountsville, ALabama
    I would recommend geese or guineas. The geese would keep the weeds down and the guineas would eat all the bugs. Good luck with your orchard. If you like baking apples try a Wolf River apple. They make great pies and baking apples plus they're HUGE! Amy

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