Goats are useful animals, providing us with milk, meat and wool. They have fulfilled these important roles for thousands of years, enabling humankind to survive and thrive on just about every continent. In today’s world, where most people buy their meat and dairy in the grocery store and wear clothing made from synthetic materials, some goats have found new ways to help humans get through the day. These special goats — represented by many goat breeds — serve as goats in 4-H, pack goats for hikers and companion goats.
Another goat activity that is gaining interest throughout the United States is vegetation control. Weeds are tasty to most goats, which are natural browsers. This makes the use of goats an excellent method to control unwanted vegetation without the use of herbicides or heavy equipment.
This method of using goats to keep weeds to a minimum, called “mitigation,” helps reduce the risk of brush fires. In the Western United States, the use of goats for weed control is becoming popular. Some goat owners have started their own small businesses, hiring their goats out to land owners and even government municipalities for vegetation control.
To be part of a herd of weed-control goats, a goat must be calm and easily manageable. Weed-control goats must also have a good appetite — not overly fussy about what it eats. Goats of different sizes are a good idea in a herd of weed-control goats since each size goat will focus on plants that are most suitable or readily accessible to its stature. A herd made up of large, medium and small goats will provide the most effective weed control in an area.
The size of the herd of weed control goats doesn’t matter — any number of goats will be able to keep weeds to a minimum. However, the smaller the herd of goats, the smaller the amount of land the goats can browse. A herd of five or six weed-control goats can’t be expected to clear out many acres of land rapidly, but they can be effective on smaller lots.
Vegetation control is a great way for goats to satisfy their natural urge to browse while helping keep brush fire risk and herbicide use to a minimum. Weed-control goats also help their owners earn extra money while providing a positive image of goats to the general public.
Excerpt from the Popular Farming Series magabook Goats.