Did you know that a herd of goats can actually make great coworkers for a landscaper? It may seem counterintuitive, but goats would rather eat weeds than grass. These cloven-hooved clowns have gained popularity as pets in recent years, and their natural browsing instinct makes them a perfect fit for property owners looking for an animal that is both fun and useful in eating away unwanted greenery.
Setting goats loose on an overgrown area has many benefits. You can avoid using Roundup and other toxic chemicals. These farm animals can quickly get rid of invasive plants much more easily than humans can remove them. Plus, the goats will be more than happy to munch on brush.
However, while goats offer an environmentally friendly way to rid land of unwanted brush, there are a few points to remember in order to get the best results.
The number of goats you will need to control your brush depends on the size of the area, but no matter what, you will want a mixture of larger and smaller goats so the herd is eating from, and clearing the brush from, all levels.
What Goats Will Eat
One of the best things about goats is that they can eat most poisonous plants, even ones that are poisonous to people, like poison ivy and poison oak. Be forewarned though: if you let your goat eat poison ivy or poison oak, you run the risk of contracting it from the goat if you pet your goat or drink its milk for a short period afterward.
Plants to Avoid
While goats can eat poison oak, there are a few things that they cannot eat. Bracken fern, buttercup, common milkweed, foxglove, and poison hemlock are a few of the plants that are toxic to goats, and you will want to make sure that none of these plants are in your goats' grazing area before turning them loose.
For the safety of your goats, you should avoid using pesticides in these areas as well.
One of the biggest challenges for any goat owner is keeping the herd where you want it, and this is no less challenging with brush goats. For the goats to be effective they must be kept in the area until all unwanted plants are eliminated, so excellent fencing is a must. It's a bonus if the fence can not only keep goats in, but can also keep predators out. Electric fences are easy to move around for management, but goats can sometimes escape them, too.
Remember, if you do manage to keep your goats in the same pasture for a long period of time, a regular worming schedule becomes especially important.
It may seem like a lot of preparation, but the goats will make it worth it in the end. And they'll look exceptionally cute along the way.
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