What do kudzu, oriental bittersweet, sumac, ironweed, stinging nettle and poison ivy have in common? While it’s true they are among the most successful weeds on your farm, they are also choice vegetation to goats.
Goats are hardworking consumers of weeds in pastures and also along fencerows, drives and roadways. They can chew through vegetation filled with stickers and thorns. They are the champions of low-impact weed consumption.
Goats are less damaging than heavy equipment and chemical solutions, and they provide your soil with a steady source of manure amendments. That said, goats need to be contained in areas specific to their weed eating; they won’t discriminate between stinging nettles and prize rose bushes, for instance. Goats need sturdy fencing for their permanent yard and can be managed or contained in temporary weeding areas with portable fencing.
Before choosing grazing goats, assess the types of weeds you have. Yew is extremely toxic to goats, which shouldn’t be in areas with access to this deadly plant. Goats can safely consume some invasive weed plants, such as poison ivy and oak, ailanthus, mile-a-minute, winged elm, ironweed, sumac, stinging nettle and kudzu.
Understanding the weed species that are most prevalent on your farm will also help you assess the best approach for management. In some cases, digging weeds out or using prescribed burning might be a better solution.
To learn more, connect with goat keepers in your area. Visit their farm operations to see what you will need for your own on-farm weed management crew. You might also discover that goats can be rented for weed management, so rather than adding to your own livestock, bring in a neighbor’s goats for a short-term brush-management project.
If you start a small goat herd, you’ll discover that goats are friendly, enthusiastic and fun to have around. They can provide hours of entertainment as they nibble their way through your weediest areas.
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Hobby Farms.