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Old 08-24-2014, 07:46 PM
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Using goats to clear property of vegetation


When mowing a large property, obviously the vegetation is going to grow back rather quickly.

If one wanted to get rid of the grasses and weeds that are growing on their land, would goats do the job? How "deep" do the goats eat when they are used to clear vegetation?

Its true that new weed and grass seeds would blow on to the property eventually, but would the use of goats get rid of the existing vegetation?
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Old 08-24-2014, 08:03 PM
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they will eat everything.

don't use a rope to tie them up with.
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Old 08-24-2014, 08:32 PM
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they will eat everything.

don't use a rope to tie them up with.
Including the roots so the weeds and grass won't regrow?
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Old 08-24-2014, 08:35 PM
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What those who use goats for vegetation management on a commercial scale do, is confine a lot of goats in a small space for a few days. Then they move them to another small space. Etc. This is normally effected with moveable electrified netting. The goats are forced to eat all the vegetation but then they are moved almost immediately to a fresh spot. If you turn goats loose in a large area they will eat their favored species completely until they are gone before moving to the least favored. At that point, they might be poisoned by being forced to eat large quantities of something which might be toxic at that level, in order to avoid dying of starvation.

It is an intensively managed process, it has to be in order to keep the goats healthy while getting the job done.

Yes, if the goats are gone, and you have water and sunlight, plants will grow. Some kind of plants.

Question is, why would someone want to get rid of all the living plants in a large area?

If you lightly stock a well-watered area with goats, they will eat mostly forbs and brush, not grasses. Goats will eat grass but it isn't favored. To control just grass, get sheep.
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Old 08-24-2014, 08:40 PM
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Perhaps what you need is a broad-spectrum herbicide, followed by a pesticide that will kill all living things. Then pave it. That should solve your problems.
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Old 08-24-2014, 08:57 PM
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What those who use goats for vegetation management on a commercial scale do, is confine a lot of goats in a small space for a few days. Then they move them to another small space. Etc. This is normally effected with moveable electrified netting. The goats are forced to eat all the vegetation but then they are moved almost immediately to a fresh spot. If you turn goats loose in a large area they will eat their favored species completely until they are gone before moving to the least favored. At that point, they might be poisoned by being forced to eat large quantities of something which might be toxic at that level, in order to avoid dying of starvation.

It is an intensively managed process, it has to be in order to keep the goats healthy while getting the job done.

Yes, if the goats are gone, and you have water and sunlight, plants will grow. Some kind of plants.

Question is, why would someone want to get rid of all the living plants in a large area?

If you lightly stock a well-watered area with goats, they will eat mostly forbs and brush, not grasses. Goats will eat grass but it isn't favored. To control just grass, get sheep.
What I have is about 8 acres on the east side of the Big Island. Warm, sunny weather year round with about 200 inches of rain a year.

The property is mowed every 2 or 3 months. I don't want the ground to be bare, I just want the weeds and grasses gone so I can plant other things. I hope to accomplish this using goats. Its just too big an area to use herbicides. I've already planted about 250 fruit trees and use herbicides around them.
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Old 08-24-2014, 09:03 PM
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There's a very well-known block in the middle of Portland that is vacant except for grasses and weeds. For some years now, there has been a flock of goats in there to keep the verge trimmed. They do a great job and have their own ramshackle shelters to sleep in and stand on. Now the property is going to be developed, and the goats have to go. A lot of people are upset about it, as they've taken their kids there to see them. But, you know, progress.
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Old 08-24-2014, 09:31 PM
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If you want to plant a vegetated area, why not mow it, rototill it, plant it, then mulch around the plants to suppress the weeds? Goats and sheep properly managed will reduce vegetation to a sort of rough lawn, but they aren't going to kill all plant life unless you are way overstocking them and then you'll get horrible soil erosion with the rainfall you have.
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Old 08-24-2014, 09:38 PM
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I live in a Los Angeles suburb and goats are moved around usually one a year to various lots. They do a pretty good job but lots of things don't get eaten. I do like the looks of the properties much better since the goats have been grazing on them but they are far from bare.
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:00 PM
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Forb.

Thanks.
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:20 PM
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Mangosteen, I suggest you call your local extension office. Let them know exactly what you're trying to accomplish (which I'm still not clear on, based on your posts). They'll have advice from local farmers working in your local conditions.

Having said that, sounds like a plan to me. You might do better with renting a large herd, rather than getting just a few - as mentioned, they'll just eat their favourite stuff if you give them options. Also, goat is delicious.
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
There's a very well-known block in the middle of Portland that is vacant except for grasses and weeds. For some years now, there has been a flock of goats in there to keep the verge trimmed. They do a great job and have their own ramshackle shelters to sleep in and stand on. Now the property is going to be developed, and the goats have to go. A lot of people are upset about it, as they've taken their kids there to see them. But, you know, progress.

Hmm...I know where the OP can get some good used goats, cheap...
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Old 08-25-2014, 05:49 AM
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Goats for the most part are browsers, meaning that they eat leaves and small woody stems rather than graze on grasses and grassy plants like cows and horses and sheep do. They will eat grass if there's nothing else, but it's not their preferred food.
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Old 08-25-2014, 07:59 AM
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Using goats and sheep to control weeds is a giant pain in the ass. They do the job, but it looks, smells and sounds like shit. A lot more work than mowing. Trust me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
I've already planted about 250 fruit trees and use herbicides around them.
Turn goats loose and you can kiss those goodbye, first thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
They do a pretty good job but lots of things don't get eaten. I do like the looks of the properties much better since the goats have been grazing on them but they are far from bare.
Your yard ends up looking you would if you had Ray Charles give you a haircut.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:00 AM
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Goats are best for clearing out wooded areas of underbrush, etc. where taking a mower or brush hog is inconvenient or difficult, and round-up herbicide is not practical without killing the trees and bushes you want to keep.

Mangosteen, is your property wooded or covered with trees that you want to keep? If not, you need to get a tractor with a mower or brush hog attachment.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:46 AM
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The City of Boston is using them to clear weeds and invasive species.
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Old 08-25-2014, 11:08 AM
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Commercially, goats make sense where herbicides are too dangerous, or prohibited, and where a mower/brush hog can't be used because the ground is too uneven. They are cheaper than hiring people with weed whackers, but not as cheap as herbicide.

They are not magic. They require management. They will only kill woody plants over several seasons (by stripping them of leaves continually). However, they are the most environmentally benign (IF managed properly) of any of the alternatives.

I also really like goats as a species and have kept a small herd for some years now. Vegetation control with goats is interesting and enjoyable work, but it IS work. And it might not be realistic for your situation. For example, you will have to fence them off from all your existing planted fruit trees because they will go for them right away. One goat can eat all the leaves off a baby tree in about 5 minutes.

There very well may be a commercial outfit which can give you an idea of whether goats would work for your place and how much it would cost you if hired out.
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Old 08-25-2014, 11:57 AM
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A TV documentary about solar electricity farms showed sheep and/or goats allowed to graze among the panel rows. Wild prairie grasses, left alone, will grow waist- to chest-high. That would make the weekly panel washing very tricky.
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Old 08-25-2014, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
Hmm...I know where the OP can get some good used goats, cheap...
I think the owner rents them out and that the vacant lot was their permanent home. There were chickens, too.
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Old 08-25-2014, 01:12 PM
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I have a friend who uses two miniature goats to control the plants in her two acre fields. The fields used to grow alfalfa but have been allowed to wild for about 6 years now. So Id say they are 30% alfalfa, 30% clover, 10% wild strawberries (invasive buggers in this area) and the rest a misc mix of volunteer weeds, trees and shrubs.

The goats do a great job*, but leave the woody stems of the shrubs. It's my understanding that sheep will eat the grasses down too low, even pulling upward with each bite and uprooting a good bit, leaving you with alost no groundcover at all. With 200" of rain, that would be disastrous.

* and her children love them dearly

Last edited by TruCelt; 08-25-2014 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:38 PM
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I can echo TruCelt's comments. We had 2 acres and 3 mini-goats. They did a fantastic job on brush, and left established trees alone. The fire department even stopped by and thanked us for doing such a great job of keeping the land clear. (They do annual inspections in that area, prone to burn). You'd want to put a wire cage around baby trees I think. And garden beds should be fenced off.

We adopted them from the ASPCA.
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:09 PM
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Farmers I work with use goats to clear areas that are hard to access with their tractors. Open areas just get mowed down with brush cutters. Areas around stone walls and slopes the sure footed goats work great.
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:25 PM
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I spend 3 weeks in Barbados every winter. There is a field next to our villa that is attached to a school. As a rough guess it is 20 acres. Every 3 or 4 days, a small herd of sheep (they are called black-faced sheep) grazes for a morning on the field, then are led somewhere else. The school kids use the field regularly, so it can't be too full of shit. Of course, this is pretty labor intensive, but labor in Barbados is cheap.
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Old 08-30-2014, 03:03 AM
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The school kids use the field regularly, so it can't be too full of shit.
The only good thing I have to say about sheep is that their shit isn't all that bad. Doesn't really stink, little dry pebbles, good for fertilizer.

But that's as far as I go.
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Old 08-30-2014, 08:53 AM
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The only good thing I have to say about sheep is that their shit isn't all that bad. Doesn't really stink, little dry pebbles, good for fertilizer.

But that's as far as I go.
Oh yes it does. My high school was across the road from a small farm with a few sheep. When the wind blew towards us, the smell was awful.

Growing up around farms, I learned how to identify the species of livestock on a farm from a ways off by the smell. Sheep were no harder to id than horses, cattle or pigs. (With minks being especially easy!)

Note that climate can play a role. The drier the less odor.
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Old 08-30-2014, 12:42 PM
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If you want to go deep, you need to get some pigs.
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Old 08-30-2014, 04:02 PM
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I haven't ever found that manure from well-managed pastured flocks and herds ever smells bad. I keep goats and poultry and have kept horses and sheep, and the only time things get stinky is when animals are confined too closely. This is true even of poultry.

Not sure about pigs. They have the stinkiest poo, save carnivores and human beings, I've ever smelled.
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