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Old 05-20-2008, 12:29 PM
Yllaria is offline
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What's the best animal lawn mower?


It's sad to be motivated by laziness. I occasionally find myself wondering if it would be easier to have, say a small goat to eat the grass in the back yard. A friend recommended a few chickens in a movable pen. Someone mentioned that a turtle will also reduce the lawn. I'm not seeing the turtle as keeping up with the growth, though.

What do you guys think? Is there another animal that would make a good captive lawn mower?

I realize that a living being would have needs. There would be the expense and routine of feeding, watering, cleaning, etc. And there would be vet bills. Fortunately, I am motivated by laziness and am therefore unlikely to act on any conclusions reached by this thread.

But it sure is nice to contemplate. Someone once told me that sheep manure was a perfect fertilizer. I'm not at all sure that they weren't full of it, but obviously manure quality should be a factor.

Any suggestions? It can be practical or exotic.
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Old 05-20-2008, 12:37 PM
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Cow
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Old 05-20-2008, 12:46 PM
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A few vineyards in this area are training different species of sheep to weed as they attempt to move their vineyards to either sustainable, organic, or holistically managed.. Baby doll sheep are the ones I've seen, but I know there are at least 2 others that are being used, I just can't recall the names at the moment.

Wooly Weeders

And a news article about 'mutton mowers.'
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:04 PM
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A determining factor is whether you intend to be walking barefoot on said back lawn. Critters poop. Keep that in mind.

Sheep are grazers. They do a pretty good job with the grass, and will eat some of the weeds, too. They tend not to be overly destructive of landscaping. Unfortunately, they're dumber than bricks. I've seen them get stuck in their own shed, and I had to pull a 220-pound sheep out of my swimming pool once (that was fun).

Goats are browsers. They'll eat some grass if they have to, but they'll be much happier working on your bushes, shrubs, and trees. Big plusses for goats: they'll eat most weeds (including poison ivy, thistles, stinging nettle, and thorny berry vines), if you leave their horns on you can stake them out in a field using just a collar and a rope, they have distinct personalities, they're smart, and they're fairly friendly. IF YOU GET A MALE GOAT, NEUTER IT. Bucks stink. Wethers (neutered males) don't. Downsides: they climb. If you don't have them properly fenced, you'll find them sleeping on the roof of your car.

Unless your back yard is huge, forget cattle. Ditto horses. They'll churn a small yard into mud.

If you have specific questions about any of those four, just ask. I don't have personal experience with any other lawnmower species. Except my iguana. He eats clover. Does that help?
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Last edited by Gary Robson; 05-20-2008 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:06 PM
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I had two miniature goats in my pasture to keep the grass down. They were sufficient two keep a 3/4 pasture nice and neat. Keep in mind that goats are extremely destructive to any tasty plants, especially small trees. I was constantly trying to find fool-proof ways to keep them away from my fruit trees. They would beat against the chainlink fence with their heads until they could get at the trees. Still, they were fun to have around.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:16 PM
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I don't know if he still does it, but a friend of ours in Vermont who has a herd of sheep used to rent them out to groom ski runs during the summer.

In the Bay area they sometimes use goats to thin the brush in hard to reach areas. They do seem to prefer brush to grass.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Yllaria
I realize that a living being would have needs.
Another reason to get a sheep! Oh, you mean the animal's needs.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:24 PM
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How about a few geese? They are good grazers and make superb "watch-dogs", both for making a noise when anyone approaches your property, and for being as aggressive as a dog.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:33 PM
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How about a few geese? They are good grazers and make superb "watch-dogs", both for making a noise when anyone approaches your property, and for being as aggressive as a dog.
Just so you're aware that a full-grown goose can produce two pounds of messy, foul-smelling goose poop per day. They don't produce nice neat pellets like the goats do!
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Old 05-20-2008, 02:24 PM
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My friends use a donkey. But they have a hobby farm. Municipal bylaws nix "livestock" in my city, so my fiancee and I gotta mow.
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Old 05-20-2008, 02:35 PM
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Sheep are the best for even mowing. However, as noted, they are incredibly stupid animals. If you make the mistake of looking them straight in the eye, they can suck 10 IQ points out of you instantly. Goats will eat lots of weird crap but they are fun to have around.
  #12  
Old 05-20-2008, 03:57 PM
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Guinea pigs - they will trim the grass down like a putting green - and their small, dry, elongated droppings typicallly dry out and crumble into the soil in quite a short time. Unlike rabbits, they won't dig holes in the turf.

They're small though - so a secure and tight perimeter fence would be necessary (around just the bit you want grazed) - and if you were employing a small herd of them openly in the garden, you would probably lose a few to predators, even if you only left them out in the daytime.

I have a couple of them and I put them out on the lawn in a 4 by 3 foot wire and timber pen - when they've nibbled the grass down, I move it along a bit - two GPs are capable of keeping our 10ft radius circular lawn well trimmed - except when it is growing fastest in the middle of summer, and they can't keep up.

They need more than just grass - we feed them a dry mix and hay too - and of course, in winter, when the grass is hardly growing, they need more of the supplemental food.

Last edited by Mangetout; 05-20-2008 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 05-20-2008, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout
Guinea pigs - they will trim the grass down like a putting green - and their small, dry, elongated droppings typicallly dry out and crumble into the soil in quite a short time. Unlike rabbits, they won't dig holes in the turf.

They're small though - so a secure and tight perimeter fence would be necessary (around just the bit you want grazed) - and if you were employing a small herd of them openly in the garden, you would probably lose a few to predators, even if you only left them out in the daytime.

I have a couple of them and I put them out on the lawn in a 4 by 3 foot wire and timber pen - when they've nibbled the grass down, I move it along a bit - two GPs are capable of keeping our 10ft radius circular lawn well trimmed - except when it is growing fastest in the middle of summer, and they can't keep up.

They need more than just grass - we feed them a dry mix and hay too - and of course, in winter, when the grass is hardly growing, they need more of the supplemental food.
I second this recommendation although I have zero information to support my endorsement other than the gut feeling that a dozen grazing guinea pigs would be as cute as all get out.

A sheep in the pool? 220 lbs before it soaked up 30 gallons of water or after?
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Old 05-20-2008, 04:32 PM
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Have you considered locusts?
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:14 PM
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A sheep in the pool? 220 lbs before it soaked up 30 gallons of water or after?
Before. I'll give you the abbreviated story:

At the time, we had three sheep: two big wethers and a little 4-H lamb. I had let them out of their pen to do a bit of grazing and to eat the apples that had fallen from the trees. Our pool had a floating "bubble wrap" solar pool cover on it, and one of the big guys decided he could walk on it.

Spaz--yep, that was his name even before this incident--stepped out onto the pool cover and fell into the deep end. My daughter howled for me, and I came running. I saw a torn pool cover (them sheeps have sharp hoovsies!) and a thoroughly-panicked critter in the water, and ran to the edge of the pool to pull him out.

Despite being able to get a pretty decent grip on Spaz, I just couldn't haul this thrashing, freaked-out animal up out of the water, so I jumped in with him. Really clever. He tried to climb up on my back (flailing sharp hoovsies and all) and he just wouldn't listen to my calm, rational explanation of why he should just float for a moment and chill out.

I ended up dragging him to an area shallow enough that I could stand up. At that point I picked him up and just carried him up the steps in the shallow end. I put him down, and he just laid there, dripping and panting. When he had caught his breath, he exploded once again in wild-eyed panic and ran (guess where?) straight for the pool. Luckily, I intercepted him in time and figured he needed some nice, quiet alone time in the sheep shed.

Throughout the entire process, the other two sheep just watched and chewed apples. Apples that had been on the ground for a while. Fermenting, as a matter of fact, although I hadn't noticed.

Spiffy. I ended up with one freaked-out soaking-wet sheep and two drunk sheep. *sigh* I've had better days.
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:35 PM
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Before. I'll give you the abbreviated story:
Holy Cow, that's funny...

I think farm animals and pools don't mix.

And speakin go fcows, I had to look this up: Elephant proof
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Old 05-20-2008, 06:10 PM
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You might be able to get your home zoned as a farm....
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Old 05-21-2008, 02:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria
I realize that a living being would have needs.
Another reason to get a sheep! Oh, you mean the animal's needs.
Maybe you confused her for Hal Briston?
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:17 AM
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Holy Cow, that's funny...

I think farm animals and pools don't mix.

And speakin go fcows, I had to look this up: Elephant proof
I remember this story. hehe
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:23 AM
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What's the best animal lawn mower?


"Alex, I'll take 'Questions Fred Flintstone Would Ask' for $600, please."
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Old 05-21-2008, 07:16 AM
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As someone who has spent a lifetime in the livestock industry, I'd say if your motivation is laziness, buy a lawn mower. It will also be a better financial bargain.
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:38 AM
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We have neighbors who have a large pet desert tortoise; they let him out to graze on dandelions. He has little interest in the actual grass. Of course they do not use any chemicals on their lawn. He will come when called if you offer him a carrot.
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Old 05-21-2008, 10:04 AM
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IIRC, sheep eat not only the grass, but the rhizomes as well - effectively killing the grass and not just mowing it. Goats, on the other hand, don't do that.

As to male goats stinking - good God is that right. My grandmother's goat liked to piss in its own beard for some reason.
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Old 05-21-2008, 10:05 AM
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As someone who has spent a lifetime in the livestock industry, I'd say if your motivation is laziness, buy a lawn mower. It will also be a better financial bargain.
Seconded. Animals are a lot of work. Note that there are other alternatives to having a lawn, depending on your zoning laws. I know of one place in Burlington VT that has huge sunflowers growing on the small front lawn. You can also replace lawn with groundcover plants.
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Old 05-21-2008, 10:09 AM
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Guinea pigs - they will trim the grass down like a putting green - and their small, dry, elongated droppings typicallly dry out and crumble into the soil in quite a short time. Unlike rabbits, they won't dig holes in the turf.
The thought of a herd of g-piggies chomping away, wheeking happily just makes me die of absolute cuteness.

If you're going the animal mower route, I suggest sheep. Dumb as a box of hair they are, but cute.
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Old 05-21-2008, 10:57 AM
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As someone who has spent a lifetime in the livestock industry, I'd say if your motivation is laziness, buy a lawn mower. It will also be a better financial bargain.
Yep!!
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Old 05-21-2008, 11:38 AM
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Just invite Hal over and let nature take its course.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:11 PM
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Robo Mowers with Remote Control. Mow your yard and fertilize it at the same time. Works like a charm, until the clover in the yard is gone and the grass in the pasture is more appealing.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:54 PM
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Robo Mowers with Remote Control. Mow your yard and fertilize it at the same time. Works like a charm, until the clover in the yard is gone and the grass in the pasture is more appealing.
Is that a dachshund out grazing with the cows? How odd. Now I have an image of heards of dachshunds grazing between the herds of guinea pigs.

I totally agree with the keep your lawnmower suggestions. I'm also considering reducing the lawn area with low ground cover and stepping stones. But, being lazy, that may take awhile.

Thanks for the suggestions. There was some interesting information, a sheep in the pool story (I am so glad that wasn't me), and a comment about my needs and sheep. My cup is full.
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:28 PM
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Is that a dachshund out grazing with the cows? How odd. Now I have an image of heards of dachshunds grazing between the herds of guinea pigs.
Yep. The front yard is the dog's turf. Here's what happens when the cows decide to lay down instead of leave the yard when they're finished. The cows pretty much ignore the dog, which infuriates her.
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Old 05-21-2008, 03:54 PM
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May I change the parameters of the question a bit?

Let's say I have spare acre with a good fence. My goal is not to have a "lawn," but to basically keep the land clear.

Untended land in this area quickly turns into an impenetrable brushy scrubby weedy mess. It eventually does turn into forest, but that takes a while. I'm just looking to keep things under control.

Would sheep or goats or some other animal be best? How many would I need? And is one easier to take care of than the other?

n.b. this is purely hypothetical.
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:20 PM
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May I change the parameters of the question a bit?

Let's say I have spare acre with a good fence. My goal is not to have a "lawn," but to basically keep the land clear.

Untended land in this area quickly turns into an impenetrable brushy scrubby weedy mess. It eventually does turn into forest, but that takes a while. I'm just looking to keep things under control.

Would sheep or goats or some other animal be best? How many would I need? And is one easier to take care of than the other?

n.b. this is purely hypothetical.
Two miniature goats will keep an acre pretty clear.
You will need to feed them in the winter, of course.
Note that there are some weeds that goats won't eat, and you may end up selectively growing them (happened to me).
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Old 05-21-2008, 05:38 PM
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May I change the parameters of the question a bit?

Let's say I have spare acre with a good fence. My goal is not to have a "lawn," but to basically keep the land clear.

Untended land in this area quickly turns into an impenetrable brushy scrubby weedy mess. It eventually does turn into forest, but that takes a while. I'm just looking to keep things under control.

Would sheep or goats or some other animal be best? How many would I need? And is one easier to take care of than the other?

n.b. this is purely hypothetical.
Goats are good people. Remember that friend you had that wasn't all that bright but kept things lively, always had a good time, and was always there when needed? That person is an ordinary billy goat.
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:50 PM
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Cattle do a good job at keeping trees and shrubs from taking over. They keep the pasture trimmed but don't destroy the roots of ground cover. Cattle provide tenderloin and prime rib. Goats unfortunately only have goat meat. How many people come to a goat barbecue? Cow chips are good for Frisbee throwing. Goat chips are not good Frisbees.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 05-21-2008 at 08:52 PM.
  #35  
Old 05-22-2008, 05:47 AM
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The thought of a herd of g-piggies chomping away, wheeking happily just makes me die of absolute cuteness.
I'm thinking of using them as beasts of burden - harness them all to the bottom of a big, flat board that distributes the load evenly. See me conquer the earth on my guinea-pig-surf-board.
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Old 05-22-2008, 06:08 AM
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The thought of a herd of g-piggies chomping away, wheeking happily just makes me die of absolute cuteness.
Now it's doing the same for me, in no small part due to the charm of the word "wheeking"
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Old 05-22-2008, 06:23 AM
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Cattle do a good job at keeping trees and shrubs from taking over. They keep the pasture trimmed but don't destroy the roots of ground cover. Cattle provide tenderloin and prime rib. Goats unfortunately only have goat meat. How many people come to a goat barbecue? Cow chips are good for Frisbee throwing. Goat chips are not good Frisbees.
Does proposing goat cheese to someone from Wisconsin count as unnecessary cruelty?

*halo*
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Old 05-22-2008, 06:45 AM
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Does proposing goat cheese to someone from Wisconsin count as unnecessary cruelty?

*halo*
No there is a goat farmer or two in the state. I've even been on a goat dairy farm once. I can't stand the taste of any goat product though.
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Old 05-22-2008, 06:57 AM
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As to male goats stinking - good God is that right. My grandmother's goat liked to piss in its own beard for some reason.
How did it do that?!
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Old 05-22-2008, 07:16 AM
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How did it do that?!
Seconded. Also plnnr, could you describe the smell of a male goat, please? In your grandmother's goat's case I'll take it as read that the odour of piss is included.
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Old 05-22-2008, 07:34 AM
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How did it do that?!
How does a dog lick its own balls?
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:15 AM
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Goats unfortunately only have goat meat. How many people come to a goat barbecue?
A good goat curry simmered slowly until the meat is falling off the bone can't be beat!
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:21 AM
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Let's say I have spare acre with a good fence. My goal is not to have a "lawn," but to basically keep the land clear.
...
Would sheep or goats or some other animal be best? How many would I need? And is one easier to take care of than the other?
For me, this problem is not hypothetical. I did a lot of research before settling on hogs. Goats are browsers, and will clear land better than sheep or hogs. Sheep are grazers, and will only browse as a last resort. Sheep, goats, and cows are multi-year commitments, and therefore require more substantial housing if you're in an area where the weather gets cold. I scavenged pallets to make a pen for my hogs to stay in at night. Hogs can be fed relatively cheaply if you have access to a commercial kitchen, as you can supplement their feed with kitchen waste. Hogs only take 5 or 6 months to reach market weight, and while they will not clear as much land as goats, they will clear it completely. Their hoves are sharp little spikes, and they have shovels for noses. They will even remove stumps if you drive a hole under them with a bar and throw in some corn or other goodies.

Plus...Bacon!
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:58 AM
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A good goat curry simmered slowly until the meat is falling off the bone can't be beat!
I wish we had a Mr. Yuck face for this board. The link has audio, so kill your audio if you need to.
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:02 AM
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For me, this problem is not hypothetical. I did a lot of research before settling on hogs. Goats are browsers, and will clear land better than sheep or hogs. Sheep are grazers, and will only browse as a last resort. Sheep, goats, and cows are multi-year commitments, and therefore require more substantial housing if you're in an area where the weather gets cold. I scavenged pallets to make a pen for my hogs to stay in at night. Hogs can be fed relatively cheaply if you have access to a commercial kitchen, as you can supplement their feed with kitchen waste. Hogs only take 5 or 6 months to reach market weight, and while they will not clear as much land as goats, they will clear it completely. Their hoves are sharp little spikes, and they have shovels for noses. They will even remove stumps if you drive a hole under them with a bar and throw in some corn or other goodies.

Plus...Bacon!
The exact reasons the Wisconsin DNR allows you to shoot and eat the buggers if you find them. I keep hoping for some free bacon and ham.
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:49 PM
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A good goat curry simmered slowly until the meat is falling off the bone can't be beat!
There's a local African (Somali) place that serves goat. It's spectacular!
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:01 PM
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The exact reasons the Wisconsin DNR allows you to shoot and eat the buggers if you find them. I keep hoping for some free bacon and ham.
You have ferral hogs in Wisconson? How cold does it get there? Here, it gets to -20F or so, and I've never heard of ferral hogs surviving the winter. I thought you were colder than us.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:54 PM
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I'm thinking of using them as beasts of burden - harness them all to the bottom of a big, flat board that distributes the load evenly. See me conquer the earth on my guinea-pig-surf-board.
Hey - you could use a long board and train them to make crop circles!

Quote:
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A good goat curry simmered slowly until the meat is falling off the bone can't be beat!
YUM! Yumyumyum. Try it tandoori-style, too.
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:15 PM
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FWIW, I posed a similar question a couple of years ago in a light-hearted thread and received a wide variety of responses.

Super-short summary: whatever you do, don't try this with bunny rabbits, even if they are as cute as the Dickens.
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by masterofnone
You have ferral hogs in Wisconson? How cold does it get there? Here, it gets to -20F or so, and I've never heard of ferral hogs surviving the winter. I thought you were colder than us.
Yes we have feral hogs. I have never seen any, but the DNR says they're a problem in some areas and to shoot them. Around me it gets down to about -20F, by Superior -30F. It has gotten colder on extremely bad years.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 05-22-2008 at 04:53 PM.
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