• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Need to clear some land - thinking of using goats

 
S Usvy
Posts: 82
Location: South NB
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello,

We have a property on the east coast of Canada. Close to the house, we have something like 3 acres that used to be a hay field a few decades back. Now it's a mess of alders and blackberries, with some young maples here and there. We're sort of in the middle of a forest, so there are deer, moose, and coyotes running around for sure. The odd black bear too.

My vision for this area is an open, low-density orchard with nut and fruit trees, on swales. Clearing this area by manpower seems daunting. I'm toying with the idea of getting some young goats in the early summer to chow down on that area. Idea being to pay the least possible for the goats (maybe young wethers or bucks that no-one wants in their herd) and their upkeep - ideally, 100% forage, with only added minerals.

We will not have room to keep them over the winter, so I was thinking of having them munch up during the summer and slaughtering them in late fall. Neither of us has had goats before. If this were your area, how would you go about it? Is this even a good idea? If you went ahead with it, would you make the goat shelter by the house (=goats need to be moved back every night and out every morning) or out in the acreage (=goats take care of their own schedule, but the shelter needs to be moved with the paddocks)? How big would you make those paddocks?

I feel like it's going to be a challenge to fence them in, based on how overgrown that area is. Maybe we need to knock down the brush on perimeter of the paddocks (to be able to fence it in) and then let the goats do their thing?

So many questions, so few answers...
 
Tina Lee
Posts: 16
Location: Garrison, Montana
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have 6 goats. When we got the first 2 we had knapweed 3' tall everywhere. In the first year they were here. Just 2 goats cleared an acre of the weeds. They are amazing, but they attract predators. Over the years we have lost 6 to mountain lions. Good Luck!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From your description, you will need predator control 24/7. That means stout fencing and secure shelter at night. Bringing them back to near the house would help at night, but you will have problems in the middle of the day.

I would build small paddocks with goats and horse panels. The panels with 2x4 holes and five foot tall if you can get them. They are expensive, but you only need a few of them and they last forever. Four panels will work, six are better; plus a large dog house and waterer in the middle. Two or Three goats. Mow and move. Maybe a few chickens as well, to get seeds and bugs.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 82
Location: South NB
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So it sounds like you guys think it should work overall, just need to iron out the details.

R Scott - are the panels you're suggesting something like this? http://www.kijiji.ca/v-deck-fence/edmonton/heavy-duty-freestanding-panels/1117857185?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true
Would you be locking up the shelter (the doghouse) overnight?

It is going to be a pain in the butt to set up any enclosure for sure, probably the toughest part of the job. This is just from online, but roughly how that spot is looking right now, a mix of these good things:
alders
more alders
and extra crap

Oh, if anyone has any super-duper recommendations for a breed, I'm all ears. I'd like something that can put on some meat, but I'd rather have a self-reliant (yet still docile) animal that is efficient on forage than a stupid, yet fast-growing one that would require grain and numerous vet visits.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Those are heavier panels than I was thinking. I have some that are like hog panels but small holes, called no climb panels or something like that. They were about 75 bucks when I bought them, but that was a long time ago.

If your goats have horns, you will need something with small holes they can't get their heads stuck. And small enough to keep predators out regardless.

We did not lock the shelter when the perimeter was that secure.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 82
Location: South NB
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmm. Were yours self-standing? Or do you need posts for them? I'm still trying to figure out how to set it up so that we can move all that stuff through the brush without killing ourselves... Good to know that your perimeter worked. We lost 2 chickens to raccoons recently, so I'm still touchy about predator issues...

I'll probably be looking for polled animals, but I will be limited by what I can get for cheap around here, so thanks for the head-getting-stuck warning.
 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have goats and have done some land clearing with goats and general herding.
They LOVE blackberries and alder. I agree with the predator control though or you will not have them very long. Goats and sheep without proper protection are like chickens - everything eats them. Goats' only defense is inaccessibility - whether by living high in the mountains where nothing in its right mind will go...or using humans and their fences/buildings and Livestock Guard dogs. Even a horned goat really can't fight off a predator. Especially a bear. I would also read up on poisonous plants. Stupid babies and goats who are not familiar with the local plants will eat poisonous plants...and then you must deal with sick and dying goats, and then decide whether to replace the dead ones or continue the year with the number you have left.

For 3 acres...I think you need 15 goats to an acre to clear land. That's adult goats, not kids. I think that's what I read... If you are skilled at butchering, bucks would work, but you need to keep the hair off the meat. Baby wethers may not get very far at clearing and will not be very adventuresome without having an adult goat leading them. I speak from experience with this one. If I were going to do your project, I'd pick up a couple of adult wethers or does (who didn't make the cut as milkers) and keep those longterm to be your lead/trail boss goats to get the annual acquisitions to browse efficiently.

Goats, especially tame ones, adapt very well to being brought in at night and going out to browse during the day. It plays into their ancestral Ibex instincts. Ibexes (and domestic pastured goats) have their "safe place" where they are safe from predators (high rocks or barn/shed) and then go out every day to migrate around their environment to eat. At dusk they return to their "safe place" to sleep. Some also like to come to the "safe place" to take a midday siesta. My bottleraised goats particularly like it if I go with them as I've imprinted them on people so they see me as the "senior/lead doe". You could conceivably fence the entire area and just lock them in at night. Maybe fence your house away from them or they may take to sleeping on your porch for their siesta...or your house if you left the door open.

Fences - 4 ft fence is generally adequate. Swiss breeds are the most athletic and occasionally require higher. Nubians and Boers are generally quite lazy and placid and I've gotten away with 3 ft, but I wouldn't in a predator-heavy area. I personally prefer 4 ft wire mesh with a strand of electric at goat-nose height. If you want to eventually divide up the areas, I highly recommend Premier1's portable electric mesh. I just bought some this year and it's a game changer. Quick and easy to put up by yourself.

Polled goats are extremely rare. I own two polled bucks and leasing a third in hopes of changing that. I believe you mean disbudded (born horned, horns removed as kids). Breed matters less than how the source herd is raised. Although for meat and land clearing, I would avoid miniature goats...they just can't eat that much and they only get so big. Look for herds that don't heavily grain their herd. If they have their goats out on pasture, even better. Boers are good for meat, as are Nubians. Nubians are easier to find as disbudded vs horned. Lamanchas often have decent muscling also. They are naturally "earless" and look a little strange to a non-goat person. Saanens get big, but they are mostly bone.

Do NOT source them from a salebarn. That is where culls go (cull = unwanted, unthrifty, diseased). You risk bringing home sickly and diseased stock, and some of those diseases infect your soil to infect later goats (or sheep, sometimes cattle if you ever want other livestock). Even if they didn't arrive at the salebarn sick, they can pick stuff up while they are there. Wethers are probably the cheapest (dairy wethers anyway...Boer wethers can be expensive) and can be bought from any dairy breeder for very little money in the spring. I sell mine for $50/head. If you bottleraise, you can often get them at a couple days old for not much more than a song if you find a dairy or a serious dairy breeder. You may avoid telling the seller that you intend to eat them...just say you want brush clearing goats. Some people don't like to think of their "babies" getting eaten.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 82
Location: South NB
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Awesome info, thanks! I don't think we have the resources to fence in the whole area, but I'll look into the fencing you're proposing for sure. Good call about the sales place. I know of one dairy goat herd around, will contact them for prices and such...
 
patrick canidae
Posts: 74
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just run an ad for someone with a hair sheep or goat flock to custom graze off your mess in your local sale barns, farm stores, feed mills, craigs list and farm papers. You will be far better off to flash graze it with a perimeter of electronet fence around all of it and a hundred or more head all at once.

I ran a hobby flock of 300 meat goat does and hair sheep ewes with up to 500 kids/lambs in tow and did this kind of work semi-regularly. I could have that place sparkling clean and trees girdled off and debarked in 3-4 days.

If you want to save trees you need bark wrap up to 4 feet. Whips need to be sleeved. Branched saplings need wrapped, staked and limbs pruned above six feet. Dancing goats will grip limbs and pull down with their buddies and strip everything bare once they are practiced at it.

Every hobbiest land clearer I met was a dismal failure. Predator loss, piss poor infrastructure, tiny electric fencers, poor ground systems, no stock density, the wrong animal, no predator control, the list went on and on.

If you insist on doing it yourself in a wet cold climate, get hair sheep. Buy a maremma or great pyr that is already a proven worker that can stand off or kill stuff, but not your stock. Electro net with at least a 5 working joule low impedance charger. Must mow paths and have it fairly weed free where you stand up fences. http://www.premier1supplies.com/detail.php?prod_id=20226&cat_id=53..

Between the $160 per 150' section fence, a good $300 fencer, ground rods, a $1000-$2000 quality mature dog, dog maintenance, mineral, death loss and vet costs from inexperience and mal-adaption, it will be many times cheaper to pay someone to bring their sheep/goats to you for a few days and get it done. IM me if you really want to do it yourself well with a limited amount of sheep and I'll give you some free professional consulting to reduce your odds of abject failure.
 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ditto on the fence charger. You want a charger with a good punch to it. I think my two units are 4? joules. They can make a grown man cry and pigs (and small boys...don't ask) scream...LOL! With goats, you also want to train them to electric first or they will strangle themselves on the portable mesh and go straight through traditional electric fence. I can keep my dairy goats behind 3 strand polyrope without fearing their escape. I could probably get away with two strands if I wanted. But! I have a pen fenced with wire mesh with a strand of polyrope at goat-nose height. All new goats go in there and don't "graduate" to the traditional 3-strand electric pen until they consistently react appropriately to the polyrope. Goat instinct is to slam straight forward as fast as caprinely possible when they are hurt, and you must "reprogram" that so they veer away from the electric fence. Cows do that naturally, so they have a better reputation with electric. I much prefer polyrope to wire when putting up electric. More visible for everyone and easier to train the goats to since it looks different than the wire mesh that they know they can touch.

If you go with hair sheep, find calm Katahdins (maybe dorpers, but their legs are shorter). The smaller breeds are extremely high strung so if they ever get out of your fence, you may never see them again. I've had a few sheep...I like my bottle babies in both species. Sheep are generally very easy to move with grain if they aren't high strung and freaky. You will pay at least $100 a head for a sheep though, if they are any good. Unless you get bum lambs (bottle babies - mom died, mom rejected the lambs) and bottle raise them yourself. If you do all bums - goat and sheep, they will bond and think they are the same species...it is funny to see a sheep attempt to be a goat...
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 632
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
17
trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S Usvy wrote:Hello, We have a property on the east coast of Canada. Close to the house, we have something like 3 acres that used to be a hay field a few decades back. Now it's a mess of alders and blackberries, with some young maples here and there.

If you decide to forgo the goats, you could probably clear out the area in a weekend with a BCS or grillo outfitted with brush cutter. With weeds/saplings over my head (like in the picture below) I can do about an acre a day with a Grillo by myself. With a second person running the machine when I get worn out that could probably be 1.5 to 2 acres a day. Around me, renting one of those types of machines is about $100 a day.
 
Rob Bouchard
Posts: 41
Location: BC, Canada
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tried the goat routine last year, what a pain. If there was something for them to break, break into, break out of... They would do it. They would break the chicken coop door to consume all the chicken food in minutes. They would dig under fences, jump over fences, knock fences down. They did clear a small area, but when I tried to get them to a larger unconfined area they would just browse a little here and a little there.... Not overly productive.

They were very cute! I'll give them that... But never again. If I have clearing to do it will be with a machine.

 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You must have had barn bums then. Foraging is a learned habit and goats raised in a drylot situation will be much lazier about getting out than ones raised on pasture. My blueblooded fancy dairy goats would sell their firstborn in exchange for being out on browse or pasture all day. Maybe their mother also. Preferably with me there with them while they are out. Most I handraised and they think I am their mother - the eldest doe is the one who is wisest and is supposed to know where the good places are, so the herd (often comprised of her offspring) naturally follows her. But I've been training mine for several generations. Adding new goats who have never been out like that takes some time for them to adjust, even older, weaned kids, if their dams had been drylotted (maybe it gets written into their genetics??). I had one doeling I obtained as a spoiled barn bum 8 month old, who would stand right beside me and cry the entire time we were out. She never adjusted. She didn't stay.
Goats hate rain, and in the winter, mine will now gladly go against that instinct to wander for an hour or more in anything but a downpour (and then they still want a quick 15 minute run down the first hill) if it means I will take them out of their small shed for a walk out in the neighborhood to browse on blackberries and fallen Douglas fir branches. About mid-winter my old matriarch would get so she'd pace back and forth at the gate until I'd let them out for their walk. She liked to go every day. She is gone now, so I'm watching how the "positions" in the herd settle out.

You have a Herd queen who rules the roost and you have a Trail Boss. The trail boss is the control point in the herd (works the best if they know their name) and she is also the "GPS" that remembers the routes...the old doe could remember a new route the first time we walked it and she'd take you back the exact same way for the return trip. If you hike with the goats as a herd you will see pretty quickly who that is by who leads the herd on your way back. I used to think the herd queen was the Trail Boss (the Old One was both), but I'm seeing a different goat take that position than the one holding the herd queen ranking. The new Queen is the Old One's daughter and the Queen's daughter is the new trail boss so far. Apparently the ability is passed down genetically somehow. We tackle two long, steep hills on our walk, so it's a good workout for all of us. It has also retrained their innate migratory instincts, and if I put them in a large pasture even without my presence, you can see them make large circles around the pasture as they graze and then at dusk they congregate at the gate and yell until I put them to bed (most of them are Nubians and have no difficulty telling me of their displeasure at my tardiness).

If you start them as 1-2 week olds, you can bring out the instinct very well by taking them out on short walks where they follow you around as you clip some short branches off the plants you want eaten (this mimics the mother's eating, which will get a lot of interest from the babies as that is how they learn what to eat - try not to clip their noses!) and then you can take the branches back to their shelter and leave them there (where the kids can't step all over them) for the babies to nibble. This will also start them on solid food faster. I did this with my current Queen as a baby and she is now one of my most aggressive foragers. I don't have time to do that will all of my kids, unfortunately, so I put them in with their moms in the shelter to learn at the feeder and out on pasture once they are a month old when they can comprehend electric fences. I separate the kids and moms for a week and then reunite them, the moms remember them but won't feed them - I like bottlefeeding as it makes VERY tame goats.

That was longer winded than I originally intended...but I love observing the nuances of goat behavior, and you learn a lot when you work with them as one of them, in scenarios where they are unleashed and unfenced, and have the opportunity to develop the instincts they inherited from the ibex.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 225
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As you say, so many questions. I'd rent a heavy duty self-propelled brush hog for a day and see how it goes. If that doesn't work, see if you can find a farmer with a tractor and a 3 point hitch brush cutter.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Goats are a lot of work! If you want goats because you like goats, getting them will be a better idea. If you just want the land cleared, maybe renting machinery will be better.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 82
Location: South NB
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I do want to have goats in the long-term (for milking and company), but I'm starting to think they may not be the solution I was hoping for. I sometimes forget this sort of machinery is out there for rental, thanks so much for reminding me of non-animal options! I'm sure I'll still be using all the good suggestions for whenever it is that I get those milking girls. It's really good to know about the difference between grain-fed and pasture-trained ones, and what a huge impact bottle-feeding will bring in terms of bonding. Thanks again, and Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) to everyone out there
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic