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Clearing a vine infested thick forest edge

 
pollinator
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I have some thick forest edge areas on my newly purchased land that is adjacent to pasture here in 7B Central VA.  The invasive Japanese honeysuckle, muscadine, greenbrier, and poison ivy vines have gotten so thick at theses edges (due to neglect over the years would be my guess) that the trees are just being overwhelmed with  vines and getting choked out.  I have started trying to clean up some parts of my forest edge, but it is backbreaking work and I have gotten bad poison ivy outbreaks a couple of times. Clearing 25 feet in a day is good progress, but I have several hundreds yards of edge on my property so it seems that I'm fighting a losing battle.  Also, locals tell me that winter time is really the only season that you should do this kind of work because lush growth, chiggers and copperheads can be a problem during the growing season.

In trying to come up with a permaculture solution to this battle, I have started thinking about goats.  Some friends of ours that raise goats have offered to lend us a couple of "old ladies" to help clear out the thick forest edge, however I am hesitant because I'm concerned that they will destroy much of the native flora such as coralberry and other shrubs, small trees, or even girdling large trees like tulip poplar.

Does anyone in the Permies community have experience with this problem?  Should I let a couple old goats rotationally graze the forest edge in order to help clear it out, or is this a bad idea?  If this is a bad idea, does anyone have any alternative ideas or thoughts?

Sincerely, a frustrated farmer....
 
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defiantly goats. they love ivy. mine actually search out poison Ivy, but we also have (had) wild grape all along the hedge rows. most of it is gone now apart from what creeps over from the next door farm.
 
Joshua LeDuc
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Thanks Phil - are they killing any of your trees when you let them graze the edge?  
 
Phil Grady
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Joshua, They killed off all the trees i let them get too. most i didn't want any way. they chewed the bark of from ground level to about 3 feet up. the trees i wanted to keep i protected with either plastic culvert tubing or for the bigger trees i put fencing around but a couple of feet away from the trees.
Some times if there was ivy that the goats couldn't get too i would cut it and pull it down. lucky i m not effected by poison ivy. unfortunately my wife is.
When we fist got the property you couldn't walk across the field. it was totally over grown with small trees and brambles, Ivy and honey suckle bush. it's pretty clear now. i just have to take out the dead trees.
 
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Joshua, we bought a property that had sat vacant for 10 years and had a lot of vines, including poison ivy that had grown up on an old dead tree.

We rented a DR Brush Cutter that made that job much easier.  That was one of the best ideas we ever had.

I like to recommend goats for keeping the area cleared after getting all those vines down.

Here are some threads that might help:

https://permies.com/t/149414/Dr-brush-cutter-reviews

https://permies.com/t/141497/clear-small-lot-acres

https://permies.com/t/141497/clear-small-lot-acres
 
Joshua LeDuc
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Anne, thanks for the great advice and links!  I'll be sure to check them out.  

I also just talked to the owner of Eco-goats, a man that is doing this type of work up in Maryland.  He was very helpful as well.  He said that goats won't typically go after any trees that are bigger in diameter than your arm, but they will girdle esp. tulip poplar and sweet gum this time of year through mid-summer, as the bark is more loose and the sugars are moving up from the roots into the canopy.  
 
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I can very much relate to this problem! And I concur that goats will help a lot!. Goats are well suited to brush clearing because browse (vines, leaves, and tender branches) are their natural preference for food. It's true you can't really control what they eat; they eat what they prefer. But they love honeysuckle, muscadine, greenbrier, poison ivy, berry brambles, kudzu, ligustrum, and wild roses and will do a great job in clearing these for you.

In regards to eating bark and girdling trees, mine have never touched our mature tulip poplar and sweet gum trees. When they do eat bark, it's from tender young saplings and shrubs. However, this is less of a problem if their mineral needs are met. Goats have high needs for minerals, and it's the deep rooted plants that pull these up from deeper in the soil than most grasses grow. The minerals are what they're going for. So it helps to make sure that they have free-choice access to a good quality goat mineral.

Goats would definitely save you a lot of back-breaking work!

 
Phil Grady
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If you have poison ivy i wouldn't recommend any type of machine to remove it. anything that mashes it atomizes the oils. if this gets in your lungs it can be life threatening.
 
Joshua LeDuc
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Leigh Tate wrote:I can very much relate to this problem! And I concur that goats will help a lot!. Goats are well suited to brush clearing because browse (vines, leaves, and tender branches) are their natural preference for food. It's true you can't really control what they eat; they eat what they prefer. But they love honeysuckle, muscadine, greenbrier, poison ivy, berry brambles, kudzu, ligustrum, and wild roses and will do a great job in clearing these for you.

In regards to eating bark and girdling trees, mine have never touched our mature tulip poplar and sweet gum trees. When they do eat bark, it's from tender young saplings and shrubs. However, this is less of a problem if their mineral needs are met. Goats have high needs for minerals, and it's the deep rooted plants that pull these up from deeper in the soil than most grasses grow. The minerals are what they're going for. So it helps to make sure that they have free-choice access to a good quality goat mineral.

Goats would definitely save you a lot of back-breaking work!



That is some great advice, and makes me feel more confident in borrowing the goats from our friends!
 
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