Why Keeping Geese on the Farm is Beneficial
Reasons Why Are Geese Important
More and more homesteads across the United States are incorporating geese into their backyard flocks. It’s no wonder keeping geese on the farm is a strategy that has been employed for hundreds of years — they offer utility and companionship. A goose, depending on its size and breed, can contribute to the homestead with services such as lawn maintenance and flock guardianship. They can provide a food source by offering their eggs and meat. Their soft down can supply us with warmth. There is a myriad of reasons to raise geese and multiple methods they can earn their keep.
The Goose as a Watchdog
One of the most common purposes for incorporating geese into your farm’s portfolio is for their natural ability to protect their flockmates, young, and territory. In fact, it was the Roman goose that honked in the dead of night in 365 BC which alerted the Romans to an invasion of their capital city by the Gauls. Soldier and consul, Marcus Manlius sprang into action at the sound of the goose’s alarm and Rome was saved.
Geese are instinctively very aware of their surroundings and environment and will sound their honk at any unusual activity or disturbance. They will physically attack if needed to protect fellow geese, duck, and chicken flock members from skunks, weasels, hawks, snakes, and raccoons. Though a large predator such as a fox, wolf, or bear will dominate the strength of the goose, these livestock guardians can at least alert the farmer of danger by honking their call.
Lawn and Pasture Maintenance
Many geese breeds have voracious appetites and spend much of their time grazing freely as grass provides the goose with the majority of its diet and nutrition. Their serrated beaks tear off the tender tips of each blade of grass leaving a trail of maintained lawn behind them. Weeder geese is a term widely used to describe geese who are kept for foraging on weeds such as orchard grass, Bermuda grass, Johnson, and nut grasses. In addition to raising geese on pasture, many homesteaders allow their gaggles to freely roam the farm’s vegetable plots and gardens since geese seem to neglect vegetable and fruit crops such as beet greens, tomatoes, asparagus, mint, and strawberries. They instead consume the unwanted growth or fallen fruit between plant rows and help in keeping the garden weeds to a minimum.
As geese actively roam the yard while feeding, they also deposit manure which returns excellent nutrients to the soil. This waste is rich in nitrogen and phosphate. Though comprised mainly of water, these droppings can be too acidic for plants to be directly applied to the garden. It is recommended that goose manure be added to the compost heap and incorporated into your vegetable beds when decomposed.
The Goose as a Food Source
Some homesteads choose the practice of keeping geese on the farm for their nutritious eggs and meat. On average a productive goose will lay approximately 35 eggs per season; geese do not lay all year long as chickens or ducks do. Instead, they lay only during their breeding period which falls in mid-to-late spring. The eggs are rich in protein, vitamins B12 and B6, vitamin A and D, and iron. Additionally, the meat of the goose is covered with a thin layer of fat directly beneath the skin. This fat melts away during the cooking process, resulting in a naturally basted and deeply textured main course. Both goose eggs and meat are less readily available to consumers than those from chickens or ducks, so they often can fetch a higher price at market.
Goose Down Feathers
The crafty homesteader may choose to raise geese for their down feathers; the layer of fine feathers underneath the goose’s large exterior plume. Humane practices can be used to collect these feathers and the goose need not be harmed during harvest. Some farms simply collect naturally shed feathers from nests during and after breeding season. These down feathers can be used as insulation in clothing, blankets, bedding, and other textiles.
As with most livestock animals, specific breeds are more suitable or appropriate than others to serve particular functions. More aggressively minded geese such as the African or Chinese goose are strong candidates for the role of the watchdog. A heavyweight goose, like the Large Dewlap Toulouse, might be the best choice for meat production. Sebastopol geese and their gentle nature are wonderful companion animals. There are many geese breeds in existence to choose from and some can certainly perform more than one occupation. With so many functions, these feathered companions are easily an advantageous and productive addition to any homestead.
For what reasons are you considering adding geese to your farmstead?