Given the choice between a tin can and a mass of leafy weeds, your goat will almost always opt for the weeds. According to Gail Damerow, author of “Your Goats,” goats are browsers, which simply means that they prefer to consume the leafy portions of weeds and brush rather than lush pasture grasses. This dietary preference that goats demonstrate makes the goat an ideal species for you to raise for brush and weed control. In order to successfully raise goats to control the weed and brush overgrowth on your property, your primary concern should be to contain them with a secure fence.
Things You'll Need
- Goat fence
- Goats (females and wethers)
- Free-choice goat minerals
- Hay and grain (optional)
Check the fence surrounding your brush- and weed-filled problem area to ensure that it is secure enough to contain your goats. Forty-two-inch-tall woven wire topped with a strand of barbed wire provides one of the most effective fencing styles for goat containment. Supplement existing barbed wire fences around old pastures overgrown by weeds with two or more offset strands of electric fence to provide further insurance that your goats won’t escape. Construct a six- to eight-strand electric fence if you need a fast, inexpensive way to contain your goats in a weed-choked area that has never been fenced.
Release goats of all ages within the enclosure that surrounds the weedy, brush-filled area. Limit your herd of weed control goats to females and wethers (castrated male goats) to eliminate your chances of accidental breedings. Opt for low-maintenance goat breeds, such as Boers and Kikos, which don’t need to be milked every day like dairy goat breeds, such as Nubians, Saanens and French Alpines, which were bred to produce more milk than their offspring can consume.
Provide three to ten goats per acre, depending upon how quickly you want the goats to consume the excess brush and weeds. Opt for as few as three goats per acre if you want your goats to be survive on the weedy pasture for up to one or two months. Use up to ten goats per acre if you desire rapid brush and weed removal, a practice you might consider using if you’re clearing someone else’s pastures for them.
Give your goats access to water and supplemental minerals. Provide a free-choice mineral ration in a mineral feeder box for your goats to consume on an as-needed basis; use a loose mineral powder formulated specifically for goats to ensure that you provide adequate quantities of the various vitamins and minerals, especially copper. Remember to give your goats 24-hour access to fresh water to minimize dehydration, especially during hot weather. Limit your goats' access to supplemental hay and grain to encourage them to eat the weeds and underbrush.
Assess the condition of each fenced area to determine when to move your goats to the next available weed-filled location. Look for an absence of weeds and check to see if your goats have started consuming the grass in the pasture. Visually inspect your goats (especially the kid goats) to ensure that they don’t get thin, a sign that they're running out of weeds and brush to eat. If you notice excessive thinness, start to supplement with hay and grain or move your goats to another fenced area of weeds.
Tips & Warnings
- Consider running your goats with a herd of cows so the goats can keep the weed population down while the cattle consume the grass. Start by adding one goat for every cow in your pasture. Adjust the goat population based upon how quickly they consume the weeds within the pasture area.
- Avoid letting your goats consume short pasture grass; doing so increases their chances of getting severe worm infestations, which could slow growth and cause severe anemia, if left untreated.
- “Your Goats”; Gail Damerow; 1993
- University of Nebraska: Using Goats to Control Pasture Weeds
- Langston University: Goats for Vegetation Management
- Photo Credit goats image by matko from Fotolia.com
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