Goats aren't just cute and cuddly - they can also be effective weed control! Discover how these animals can help keep your property free of unwanted plants.
Table of Contents
What is Goatscaping?
Goatscaping is a practice that was popular back in the early 1900's, has gained traction again over the last 5 years. Goatscaping is known as an eco-friendly solution to weed and property management.
It occurs by using 1 or more goats to consume and clear plants/ weeds in a designated area. One of the key benefits of this method is that it is sustainable and does not use harsh chemical and pesticides.
Utilizing goats for property management requires a fenced area (fence may be portable) to ensure they are contained. Once the goats are safely in the area, they will begin to graze and clear weeds and vegetation.
Goatscaping is often used interchangeably with targeted grazing. As they both rely on goats being contained to a specific area to eat weeds and plants.
What Will Goats Eat?
Goats will eat a large variety of plants including bushes, grasses, leaves, and weeds. One of the key benefits for using goats to clear land is that they will readily eat thorny plants that humans have difficulty handling.
Statistically, goats can clear up to 90% of the brush. If utilized year over year, they will reduce the number of weeds that grow back as they are natural herbicides.
More often than not, goats have a sense of what they can and can't eat. This means that most plants that are toxic to them, goats will naturally avoid.
Like people, goats have likes and dislikes for certain food. Due to these preferences, some goats may leave plants behind that they can consume.
What Can’t Goats Eat?
There are a number of plants that contain toxic chemicals that goats get very sick from eating. It is important to identify if these are present in an area as they can be fatal.
These plants contain alkaloid, cyanide, and a variety of other toxic chemicals. A complete list can be found in our guide of poisonous plants for goats.
What to Avoid?
For safe and successful land clearing, goats need access to shelter and shade, as well as a clean source of water. It is also important that the area is clear of any hazardous materials such as glass, plastic, hunting traps, etc.
Another consideration is plants that goats can get sick from eating. This is covered in the section "What Can't Goats Eat." It is also important that goats do not clear an area where harsh chemicals were recently used.
If there are any plants you would like to preserve, it is best to put protection around them as goats do not discriminate between weeds and landscaping.
Do Goats Require Supplements When Clearing Weeds?
With the dense amount of nutrients, they consume when clearing property, it is recommended that goats have access to minerals, a salt block, and baking soda to ensure their diet stays in balance and they do not get bloat.
Bloat can be a very dangerous and fatal illness for goats if they eat too much clover or other various plants. If identified soon enough your goat can be treated in your own home without a vet.
How Long Does It Take & How Many Goats?
The time it takes to clear an area depends on the amount of growth, terrain, and how many goats there are, as well as the size of goat matter.
Generally speaking, 30 goats can clear half an acre (1/2 acre) in 3 to 4 days. An entire acre can be cleared in an average of 7 days.
Less goats naturally take longer to clear an area. It takes an entire month for 8 goats to clear one acre of land.
It should be noted that goats are social creatures, and they require companions, or they will get lonely. For this reason, even with a small property more than one goat is recommended.
What Does it Cost?
The cost to rent goats to clear property will vary based on your area. Generally speaking it costs between $400 and $1,000 per acre.
With enough goats this can become a highly profitable method to monetize your herd.
Will Vegetation Grow Back?
Yes, vegetation will grow back. But due to goats' digestive system, when they consume plants and seeds, any remnants that are present in goat poop will not be viable. This is due to the fact that goats are natural herbicides.
Meaning that goats will reduce the presence of weeds and other plants spreading in the future.
Does the Type of Goat Matter?
To some extent yes. Any goat will clear a standard area, however certain breeds have characteristics that make this process quicker and easier.
Characteristics to Consider:
Larger goats require more food and will therefore clear more brush.
Some breeds (including crossbreeds) are naturally more parasite resistant.
Larger/ taller goats can more readily clear taller brush and low hanging limbs.
Breeds such as Alpines will even climb in trees and clear vegetation.
Hardiness matters, if the breed is more heat tolerant or cold hardy it will impact their level of activity in different types of weather.
Goats with horns are more likely to get stuck or injured.
Bucks (intact males) can be more aggressive, especially during breeding season unlike wethers which are much more docile.
The Benefits of Using Goats for Natural Weed Control
Sustainable and eco-friendly way of clearing weeds and maintaining property.
No use of harsh chemical or pesticides that have lasting impacts.
Can easily navigate and clear rough terrain easier than machines.
Goats are low maintenance animals.
Cost effective alternative to chemicals and expensive equipment.
Enrich an area goats clear with a nitrogen rich fertilizer. Goats will even work this into the soil with their hooves as they walk around.
Goats are natural herbicides and weeds and flowers they eat will not grow back as their rumen removes seed's ability to grow.
Easy removal of thorny plants that are difficult for humans to remove.
There are many considerations when using your own herd to clear an area or renting a herd from a business. But with proper accommodations, goats are an affordable option and provide many benefits to the land that they clear.
It is no wonder why Goatscaping is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable way to remove weeds.
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