Looking for the right companion critters

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Jrose, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've got an acre. About half of it is a grassy area with half a dozen fruiting trees, catalpa trees, willows, walnuts, roses, maples, and a few others. The grass is modestly mixed with plantain and clover. I'd really like to plop a few grazers out there to enjoy the space, and I can enjoy their company. I'm not really looking to make money or substantial use off the animals, I'd like them to graze as much as possible year round, leave the trees alone (some fruit trees are dwarf and semi-dwarf and low to the ground), and generally be pleasant to keep. I have rabbits and chickens already roaming this area.
    I originally wanted goats, but have since learned about their tree-destroying abilities. And I'm not prepared to fence off 10+ trees.
    I started to think about sheep, but I know nothing about them. Are they sociable? Do they enjoy a human's company?
    My neighbor suggested alpacas, but I've read that they're more like cats and aren't overly fond of humans. As I am keeping the animals mostly for pleasure and companionship, I'd like some kind of personal interaction with the critter. Goodness knows I already don't get that with my hens and rabbits!

    Any thoughts on an animal that might fit my wants here?

    And on a side note, I was curious about how large of a pasture area might sustain 2 or 3 small-medium goats, without being trodden to mud (if possible!). I have one 500sq ft. (50x100) area I could use or a 320sq ft. (40x80) area I could use to pen them in.

    Thanks for any input!
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  2. The Farm

    The Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would say goats or sheep and a mini donkey.

    Although goats are browser. and sheep and donks are grazers.
     
  3. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Goats would destroy my little orchard area, I'm certain of it. I just don't think they can be let loose in this large area with trees. I'd have to pen them in one area...

    I have livestock-friendly dogs as well, do donkeys get along with dogs as a general rule? Most horses and mini horses I've met have all been dog stompers. What are the benefits and personality styles of donkeys? I've never thought of them before. If I could have a critter I could take packing in the mountains with me, that would be amazing. I had that plan for goats some day...
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  4. surfingirl

    surfingirl New Egg

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    I'd be wary of sheep, too, if you don't want them to eat your low-growing fruit trees. They WILL eat them. Sheep will not eat off the bark like a goat will (which kills the tree) but sheep can do a lot of damage to a small orchard.

    If you want animals with personality and friendliness, I would suggest goats for sure. They are a lot like dogs -- except they eat plants of course! My goats follow me on walks, come to their names, plus they give us milk and meat and lots of poop for the garden.

    I don't know of any grazing animal that would leave your trees alone... You could always fence them in individually, at least the ones that are small and vulnerable.

    I have some trees in my goat area, I painted the trunks with white paint with a couple of cups of sand in it. The gritty paint protects the tree and the goats will not chew off the bark. Mine only go for bark if they are really hungry, anyway.

    Hope that helps, good luck!

    Emily

    backtothecraft.blogspot.ca
     
  5. The Farm

    The Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    X2 they would destroy every tree in site. I raise donkeys an I don't have any prob they really do get along great! But they will stomp the hell out of other dogs and rodents. As lone as you can find some one with them for sale check and see if they are housed with other animals.
    Mine LOVE to be petted and will follow me every were. Although donks can be shy they all warm up fast. Here are a few pics of mine. They
    are minis!
    [​IMG]My jack

    [​IMG]An my jenny
    [​IMG] Jack and Firecracker the pony
     
  6. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for your input.

    The fruit trees are all clustered to one corner, I'd thought at one point to fence that corner off, but that still leaves very large, mature trees (maple, willow, catalpa, walnut, etc) that I still don't want to have destroyed. The open area is fenced off to the south around a carport, and I also don't want anything chewing on that structure, which I've heard goats will do.

    I'd never heard of painting the trees, it doesn't hurt the tree at all? Do some goats seem to not be as destructive as others? Is it a mix of breed tendencies and appetite/boredom?
     
  7. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

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    I would think sheep would leave the larger trees alone but I would think the smaller ones might be a problem as they may eat some of the leaves off. Sheep are also gentle on the grass and have a tendency not to turn everything to mud with a large enough area. I recommend getting sheep young and taming them. They can be quite friendly that way.

    Equids in my opinion just seem to destroy the ground and turn everything to dirt and mud. Ours leave the trees alone and have a fairly large pasture, but it is still all dirt except for some weeds they don't like.
     
  8. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    If you fence off the fruit tree's your larger, mature tree's should be ok with goats or sheep. I've kept goats in a small 1/2 acre pasture with a couple of medium sized almond tree's in it and the tree's were fine. Yes, the goats did trim all the branches they could reach, both from the ground and as high up as they could climb. Which turns out to be well over my head! But they didn't bother the bark at all. There may be some tree's that they are more prone the chew the bark on, I don't know. Mine were more interested in the branches and browsing in the pasture then chewing bark.
     
  9. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A docile mini sheep like a Southdown babydoll won't eat your big trees. Bottle feed or buy from someone who spends time with the lambs for an affectionate animal. I'd get 2-3. Alternatively, if your pasture/feed bill can support one, look into mini cattle such as mini Jerseys or zebu. Another option is tamed English lop rabbits...ours actively seek out cuddling time with us and groom us. Hands down the most docile and loving breed I've owned.

    If you invest a good deal of time bonding strongly with your animals at the start, that bond will last with less and less maintenance needed as time goes on. :). I can't stress enough that animals like rabbits and sheep are completely different in their attitude towards you if you buy them from someone who socialized them when young versus someone who didn't!
     
  10. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great input, thank you everyone!

    Do sheep do well in just 2 or 3? I'd thought about the barbados black belly, because they don't need sheering. I haven't read about any minis that don't carry wool. It IS possible for me to sheer, I have family that spins, but it's not hugely appealing to me.

    For goats, I shied away from the idea of minis for two reasons; I've heard they're far more agile and escape more regularly, and I'd like to pack goats- a pygmy might not be much help there! On the other hand, the appeal of being able to load a miniature goat into my Subaru is enticing....
    I have a 4' welded wire fence ( 2"x4", not horse-grade) on T-posts for fencing, and there's nothing to climb on near the fences. My worry with goats is that it's all grass, there's not much in the way of woody browsing for them. Do goats do well on grasses?

    The non-fruiting trees are 20+ years old, their lowest branches are 10' or more off the ground. I've heard black walnut will kill horses. Is this true for sheep or goats? I have a black walnut in this area.

    I definitely don't want the ground trodden to mush. The shelter area is in a corner of mostly stickweeds and is a bit rocky. The actual lawn, well, I'd like to keep it a lawn. Not a mud hole. I can see where having miniature critters would spare wear and tear!

    I would, no doubt, love the opportunity to raise the animals myself. I'm aware of the bond it can create. I'm not chomping at the bit to jump into this, I want to make an educated decision and avoid as many blunders as possible with choosing an animal.
     

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