Long before I ever bought the farm, moved back to Pennsylvania and started raising meat goats, I was fascinated by the premise of using goats for brush reduction after I first read about a company called Goats R Us. Not being prone to fires, I did not believe the need for kinder & gentler brush reduction methods were necessary here in the east.
But I forgot about poison ivy and began learning more about grass-based farming and certified organic methods. As I became more educated on the caprine dietary preferences for forbs and woody shrubs, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could give this a try.
Last year on the farm we experimented with spot grazing & browsing and from our success decided to build a rotational paddock system. But a series of events have taking place this spring that has led me to begin working with what I initially termed the "B-Herd" (those destined to become sausage) for brush reduction. With my freezers full and the farmers market at which I plan to sell my meat products not opening until this fall, I somehow had to hold over my culls a few extra months. For the non-farming folk, hay prices have nearly doubled so feeding them purchased forage would only result in a higher price for the consumer. Enter brush reduction.
Pressed for time with the upcoming PASA field day here at the farm, I wanted to get my woefully overgrown gardens weeded and planted. But with days of back-breaking weeding ahead of me, I shuddered at the thought of weeding to exhaustion for days on end. So I got lazy, spent 15 minutes installing my portable electric netting from Premier One Supplies and began my experimentation.
Now I understand that part of taking goats on the road for brush reduction is training them not to scatter. Most large herds use dogs such as Border Collies to help keep the strays in check. I decided on a bell. So on Saturday morning with my fencing all set up, I opened the main paddock gate and began walking down our road with a ringing copper bell aided with a feed bucket with a few cups of corn. They followed effortlessly. I repeated the ritual that evening back to their paddock approximately 100 yards away and twice on Sunday. My weeding was complete. Ironically, this is my perennial herb garden and I was prepared to sacrifice my well-established herbs and flowers to get this garden under control, but the goats only mowed off the chives....all others (oreganos, sages, lavenders, lambs tails and bee balm) were spared. Off into the woods will be the next test. Say tuned.....
2 months ago