Did you know that a herd of goats can actually make great coworkers for a landscaper?
Goats are fabulous for brush control. These adorable grazers make for the perfect brush clearing partners. It may seem counterintuitive, but goats would rather eat weeds than grass. These cloven-hooved clowns have gained popularity as pets in recent years. 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.
Goats For Brush Control
Setting goats loose on an overgrown area has many benefits. First, 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 the land of unwanted brush, there are a few points to remember to get the best results.
Goat Herd Size
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.
Since all goats eat brush, there really is no perfect breed type for your brush clearing herd. You can use everything from meat goats to dairy goats, though you want to be careful where dairy goats are grazing since they will need to be milked, and you do not want their wethers getting injured in thorns or heavy brush. Nubian, Spanish goats, Boer goats, and Angora goats also clear brush very well.
The USDA recommends a stocking rate of 8-12 goats per acre. So to achieve the desired brush control, affect multiple the number of acres you want to be covered by 8-12, and you will get the number of goats you will need to cut down on your brush successfully. Remember, no matter what goat breed they are, they cannot clear out mature bushes and tall plants. They are much better at clearing out regrowth and younger, shorter plants.
Clearing Brush For Fire Prevention
Goats are so effective at reducing brush cover that they often are used for fire prevention. One of the best things about goats is they are perfect for weed control. Brush control goats can be used to clean up multiflora rose, honeysuckle, wildflowers, briars, thistle, brambles, sumac, blackberry bushes, and other plant species.
Homeowners can rent a goat herd during the growing season or right after to nibble away all of their brush. Since there are such prolific eaters, goat grazing is useful for taming regrowth and vegetation management.
Goat rental is a common practice in many areas. Even municipalities rent goat herds for brush eradication in hard-to-reach areas and other parts of city property. They truly are the best way to prep for fire season and create fire breaks.
Can Goats Eat Poison Ivy?
They can eat most poisonous plants, even poisonous ones 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.
How To Contain Goats
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 necessary. Wire fence is most often used to contain goats.
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. Electric fencing can also deter predators.
Remember, if you manage to keep your goats in the same pasture for a long 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. The fire breaks they can efficiently create can save your home from a wildfire. And they'll look exceptionally cute while doing it.
Have you used goats for fire prevention? Let us know on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.