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Goats for Brush Clearing

 
Posts: 5
Location: Northeast Georgia
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We are purchasing a property that has an existing chicken run and coop, measuring around 3000 sq. ft. It appears to have been neglected for at least a year and is quite overgrown with weeds and brush. There are 2 mature honey locusts that are fervently spreading their brethren, as well as tons of wild blackberry and other thornies. I can't get to most of the run how it is. I had the idea of putting a couple of goats in to get some clearing started and following with chickens after a few months. I have some other overgrown areas on the property (at least another 3000 sq. ft.) and about an acre and a quarter of pasture that I can rotate them to in the future, but would have to invest in fencing. So my main question is: is it a worthy venture for both the goats and me? I'd like to harvest the meat, not able to milk, but can't get a reliable timeline on how long that would take from my internet searchings, considering the variables of breed and forage. I'm new to livestock but like the idea of starting with these smaller critters. I haven't found a "rent-a-goat" service that will come out for less than 2 acres. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated!
 
Posts: 124
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Howdy Meagan!

Well as you say, there's pretty large variations that affect the number of goats (or any livestock) that would be suited for an amount of land. For 1.25 acres of pasture and another 6000 sq ft of brush, I would take the conservative estimate of 2-4 adolescent to adult goats.  That way they can get to work as soon as they arrive taking care of the thorny mess. If that number turns out to be on the low side you won't have impacted your pasture too much and can scale up your herd naturally. If that number turns out to be high, let them chomp out the brush then fill your freezer =].

With goats one of the biggest concerns is fencing, you mentioned the need for that in other areas of your property but as far as the run and coop do you have that infrastructure in place already?

I would also keep an eye out for any limping, as I'm sure I don't have to tell you those honey locust thorns are HUGE. Even if every trace of the tree is gone, I would very carefully go back through that paddock and comb the ground for honey locust thorns. Takes exactly 1 instance of stepping on one to never want to do that again!

Hope this is helpful!
 
Meagan Cundiff
Posts: 5
Location: Northeast Georgia
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Very helpful! As far as fencing, I have to do some clearing around the outside of most of the run to make sure, but it seems pretty sound from where I can get to it. I anticipate some reinforcement before I put goats in there, but it's 4ft welded wire fencing. As far as putting them in other areas, I'm researching the best way to implement the paddock shift with reliable temporary fencing. Does anyone have experience with the electric netting for goats?
 
Cody DeBaun
Posts: 124
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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I... Do not.

But lots of people have, and their contributions can be found here:

General fencing thread

Goat electric fencing thread

Another goat fencing thread with thoughts on electric

Thread with lots of info on the challenges goats present, and solutions to them

 
Meagan Cundiff
Posts: 5
Location: Northeast Georgia
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Super information! Thanks!
 
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I have two Saanen/pigmy crosses. we use elecrtonet portable fencing(both the goat and poultry versions). Our goats are short, so we have good success with the electric fencing. No problems yet! I would suggest looking into the Tennessee fainting goats, or some sort of cross. I know people think they are just a pet goat but I did quite a bit of research about them and a lot of people are using them for meat production. They are also short, which would help with your fencing situation. Our goats have been really great for clearing places, I hope it works out for you!
 
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: Mason Cty, WA
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I am hoping to do the same thing very soon. I expect to acquire 8 acres most of which was irresponsibly logged (no replanting) and has a 20 year growth of alder on it, with an understory of some himalayan blackberry and many more less awful things.

I plan to selectively clear it by tethering goats in it as a first step. This link has some helpful information on that that I've used as the base of my plans, but I'd like to hear what permies think. The most important thing is having a goat of a suitable emperament. Then, e.g.:

"Post To Post Run Length Line
This is the system I have had the most success with. Many years ago I employed this method to leave my Doberman and Weimaraner dogs on. What I recommend for this system is to mark two spots (A and B) on the terrain you wish to let your goat browse. In my case, I run 100 feet between point A and B. At each point, dig a fairly deep hole - for smaller goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a large coffee can; larger goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a five gallon bucket. There are variations on each of these which I will discuss further."

I'd add to the helpful info here that a farmer I know tethers and leashes his goats including short hanks of inner tubing. Chains have some innertubing at the end for tethering and leashes are ropes with innertubing at end. He said the goats respond well to the gentle, giving pull of the innertubing. I can't wait to try it. I have loved goats since I was a kid (lol) and am really looking forward to this.
 
Meagan Cundiff
Posts: 5
Location: Northeast Georgia
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Wonderful information! Gearing up for winter projects, planning to get 2 goats in the spring and a few chicks to start. My next question is regarding portable shelter. I've seen a lot on Permies about skid shelters, but I'm not sure that will work. I have to move it myself most likely, husband is not always available in daylight hours with his work schedule. The main issue is that I want to start them in the chicken run. Firstly, I can barely get in there due to the aforementioned thorny situation. The entrance is also only about 2.5-3 ft. wide. Any suggestions for something I can assemble and disassemble easily? There's enough brush in each area that I won't be moving them daily, or even weekly at first. Once the brush is cleared and I can get them into the pasture, I'll be able to put up something more permanent.
Some pictures for reference, from areas I can actually get to. This was a fun thorny adventure in itself
IMG_1763.JPG
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Entrance to run
IMG_1765.JPG
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Left of coop
IMG_1766.JPG
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Back left of run
IMG_1767.JPG
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Outside right of run
 
Taylor Cleveland
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We are about to end our first season clearing with goats and chickens. It has worked SO WELL!

We have no shelter for our goats, we just make sure they have trees in each paddock. We did build a triangle shaped portable shelter for them but they wouldn't sleep in it. So we gave up. We have 2 old nannie goats and they have never messed with our poultry electronet. Typically we run the goats and chickens through a paddock until they are out of food. We have never had to supplement the goats with any feed, just mineral and water. They are fat and happy eating all the unwanted weeds/brush. Once we move them again we cut down any saplings (we have tons of locusts) and put stump killer on them. I have using stuff like that but it would take YEARS of cutting down to get rid of those and we just have too many. Anyway, after we cut the saplings down we use a push mower to mow down all the leftover stems and vines. Once the pasture recovers it is shocking to see how much it improves! A farmer-neighbor was out in the pasture with me today and said he couldn't believe how well it has worked. He had brush hogged our property multiple times before we moved in and said it had never looked as good as it does now.

I would be happy to answer any questions for you. We have learned a lot this past year.
IMG_4964.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_4964.jpg]
 
steward
Posts: 4618
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Here are a couple of folks who use goats to clear weeds and make a living doing it.  I have seen them working here in Denver.

 
Posts: 108
Location: The Ocala National Forest. Florida, USA
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My goats are excellent at weed control. I notice some weeds they wont touch until a certain stage of growth then they're eating it down. Theyve done such a good job i leave diserable weeds to go to seed around the yard and perimeter of my property so that i can spred the seed back in the field for them.  Also, young ones sometimes need a teacher... Older goat... To show um what to eat when. If your getting a couple butcher wethers that are getting grain and hay when you bring them home can take a bit to figure out that's yummy stuff all around them. Ive never kept sheep but think goats absolute best for weed control! They can be hard on fences but electric fence wire run around about knee high stops all hanky panky with mine. I hope to get some rotational paddock system set up soon and thinking of just using one of those pop up canopys in my areas without shade or shelter.... Not sure how it'll work but I can put some anchors in where needed an just move the canopy when needed...
 
Posts: 79
Location: Appalachian Mountains
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Fredy Perlman wrote:I am hoping to do the same thing very soon. I expect to acquire 8 acres most of which was irresponsibly logged (no replanting) and has a 20 year growth of alder on it, with an understory of some himalayan blackberry and many more less awful things.

I plan to selectively clear it by tethering goats in it as a first step. This link has some helpful information on that that I've used as the base of my plans, but I'd like to hear what permies think. The most important thing is having a goat of a suitable emperament. Then, e.g.:

Goats will not tether in brush as they tangle up so much you'll probably have to cut the tethers to untangle them!  Try another method.  Might take fencing on the perimeter to work.  I have goats that are jumping a fence 5 feet high so had to raise all my fences.  (a big chore with 14 acres).    Faye at Heartsong Farm, Southern Appalachians

"Post To Post Run Length Line
This is the system I have had the most success with. Many years ago I employed this method to leave my Doberman and Weimaraner dogs on. What I recommend for this system is to mark two spots (A and B) on the terrain you wish to let your goat browse. In my case, I run 100 feet between point A and B. At each point, dig a fairly deep hole - for smaller goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a large coffee can; larger goats, a hole deep enough to completely cover a five gallon bucket. There are variations on each of these which I will discuss further."

I'd add to the helpful info here that a farmer I know tethers and leashes his goats including short hanks of inner tubing. Chains have some innertubing at the end for tethering and leashes are ropes with innertubing at end. He said the goats respond well to the gentle, giving pull of the innertubing. I can't wait to try it. I have loved goats since I was a kid (lol) and am really looking forward to this.

 
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Great video Miles. I learned a lot from it. Thanks for sharing!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1013
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Looks like good fence. You can buy a T post puller and pounder and reconfigure such a fence if you need it in a different place.  Looks like the shed wold be a good goat barn.
If the run works good as a corral for goats yu can just take them for walks with your pruners in hand and they will eat the leaves off and then you can pile the branches and stems to burn. The ashes make a quick mineral return to the soil.
 
pollinator
Posts: 450
Location: Western Kenya
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We don't have any fencing.  Our goats are tethered.  Yes, they get tangled.  When I go out at noon to water them, I just untangle and move them to a fresh spot.  Then I go after them with a machete to cut down the naked branches they leave behind, so its less to tangle on. Big branches make firewood.  Smallish branches go in the deadhedge.  Everything grows back faster than they eat it.  
 
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