Goats at Work

What does a goat do best?
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It eats.
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Our friend George E. just sent us an item about weed-clearing goats. “Look!” he said. “Is this a great idea, or what!” And, coincidentally, last evening I drove past a crew of goats earning their keep in just that way.
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It’s called targeted grazing, and it’s been going on around here for a while now. I first noticed a flock at work about 5 years ago. As an alternative to herbicidal sprays and heavy machinery, it’s brilliant in its elegance and simplicity. Where you have weeds, feed goats.
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Here is the flock I passed this week, working on the blackberries choking an old orchard ground:
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Click for a slightly bigger image.
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Goats on the job are not necessarily cheap. But figure, here is a crew of a couple hundred weed pickers working about 12 hours a day inside portable electric fencing to keep them out of the roadway or adjacent properties. They’ll clear 2 acres of blackberries in 4 or 5 days. The wrangler has an investment in his stock and in his expertise, and he’s making a living with them. Local cities and county agencies have found, in appropriate areas, hiring a flock at $800 to $1,000 a day is a better deal than trying to control undesirable vegetation with sprays and bulldozers.

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If you’re thinking of running out to get a goat, do keep in mind that the goat is a living thing, not a weed whacker. Goat wranglers survey the ground before bringing the flock in, to make sure nothing on the menu is toxic to the animals. Livestock needs to be cared for, provided water, given a balanced diet (they can’t live on sticks alone), given health checks, kept safe and contained. They’re not a free pass to a luxury lawn. And while they’re more than happy to nibble down the invasive plants, y’know, they’re not all that discriminating and will digest rare native plants just as gaily.
This browsing goat, below, reminds me so much of the one I cited back in March, I just have to include the link again here. I knew there was a reason that image rang my bell. You remind me, George, there is no new thing under the sun.
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Probably any goat will get to the job without a lot of fuss, but Boer goats in particular are noted for their vegetation clearing expertise. In South Africa where they originated, they were bred particularly to control growth in areas of difficult access. This flock looks to me like mostly Boers or Boer crosses. I’m not a goat breed expert, however it would make sense to me, if I were hiring, to go looking for specialists.
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A goat hard at work

A goat hard at work

They seem happy in their work.

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Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 8:40 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. We used goats and browsing cattle to clear some of our land nine years ago and kept it open with them for seven years total. It worked very well for us. I look at the new growth in the last almost two years and wonder if I should borrow wethers next year to clean it out again.


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