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Sheep vs goats for brush clearing

 
Posts: 177
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Since nobody is responding to my question in another thread I'm going to start a new topic so it hopefully gets more visibility.  :)

I have a shy 5 acre lot.  Maybe 2 acres in grass, the rest wooded with varying degrees of brush.  I'd like to get a ruminant of some sort to eliminate that brush.  I don't mind letting the grass grow to provide graze for them if necessary - saves mowing.  Grass is of undetermined type, just whatever random grass that was growing here for the most part.  Probably rye, fescue, etc.  Most of the brush is Himalayan blackberry (ranging in age from new growth to 10+ year old canes), with some trailing blackberry, salmon berry, vine maple, sumac (not poison), plus volunteer alders/big leaf maple/birch.  Oh and ferns (I've been told these are toxic to sheep and goats, so I'd eliminate them if I need to worry about it).

What would be better for this application?  Sheep or goats?  And any particular breed?  I don't want to breed, and I definitely don't want to milk, but a "dairy" breed is OK with males (wethers) and dry females.  Ease of keeping is a very close second to effectiveness at brush clearing in my priorities.  

Right now there's no fencing, but we're planning to put up some real basic fencing to start with.  I have electronet fencing for my chickens and I really like it.  I'd definitely be OK with getting a few rolls of that and a solar charger if that's my best bet.  I like the ability to concentrate them in an area and then move them as they eat out the brush.  I do have one neighbor that would shoot them if they damaged his trees.  He does have fencing put up to keep the elk out, so I'd imagine it's a low risk of them getting onto his place.  Biggest risk there would be if the animals tried to dig under his fence, and in some spots that wouldn't be a huge challenge.  He has 3 strands of hot wire above the field fence (highest is a good 6-7' from the ground), but nothing down low, though I could add my own hot wire down low if I though it necessary.

Biggest threat to any animal, beyond their own stupidity, is probably neighborhood dogs, and coyotes are around too.  I suppose bears and cougars could be threats, but I think they're a low probability.  

Intention would be to get the animals in spring time, and then sell or slaughter in the fall or early winter so I don't have to feed them over the winter.  So whichever type of animal I get I'd need enough that they would be able to eat all that brush between March/April and November.  
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I can't say what's best for your area, but here's what goes on in my location.

My sheep do a whiz bang job are grass and brush clearing, better than my goats. But there are things that they won't touch but the goats will. So for brush clearing I use both together. What one doesn't eat, the other usually does. Neither will eat the ferns that grow on my place, though the sheep will nip the young tips at times, but no serious eating.

As for fencing, my goats are harder to keep confined than my sheep. My sheep only go past the fencing if they fund a hole. The goats have both squeezed under and jumped over. A hotwire works well on them if they are trained to it. Otherwise they just run through or get tangled up in it. I don't rely upon just hotwire to keep them in. I use both field fence and hotwire. The hotwire at 20" height is there to prevent them from rubbing along the fence, thus bowing it out. Plus it keeps the goats from climbing it. The hotwire along the top is to keep humans out (it tends to work ok).

A hotwire fence, like a Premier fence, won't protect them from predators because the predators aren't conditioned to it. Here in Hawaii, dogs are the main predator. They will go right through. I've had plenty of sheep and goats killed by stray dogs, hotwires and all. The last few times I had stray hunting dogs go over my wire field fence I heard them yelp when they hit the hotwire atop the fencing, but they got into the pastures anyway. Lucky for the sheep, the donkey killed the dog each time before it got the sheep.
 
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Goats. Hands down . First hand experience
 
pollinator
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Andrew,

What are you planning on longer term? We have a very high bramble/vine burden and suckering trees. Once they are knocked back they don't just stay back. This means we will probably have and maintain a mixed herd like Su is talking about. It is the best way of improving your soil. After the suckering trees are removed mobbing may be sufficient, but on a small acreage that seems unlikely. Sheep vs goats would best be determined by asking locally. Here the sheep will not strip sweetgums. Once those are eliminated they will eat everything else.

Fencing- the Premier One charger can be used for both. We have a 0.6J portable, and use it on the net for the chickens. We are probably going to upgrade to the 1.2J and use the 0.6J on the sheep/goats. You can upgrade the battery if you want to higher than 10Ah with an aftermarket battery. The little solar panel and trees can be a problem in your climate in the wet times. I would consider rotating larger SLA batteries, they should run the fence for a week and are not dependent on solar. You can still have a solar charger set up, it just wouldn't move with the animals. I'm wishing I had done that initially, the total cost of the charger, two 100Ah batteries and two cheaper energizers would be pretty close probably favoring the large battery system. Yes you have to move them but in the cloudy period, news flash, you will have to manually charge quite  a bit. Battery can go on a milk crate with an inverted bucket for water control.

Longer term, we are likely to have a system that pulls off one of the higher wires of the perimeter on a jumper since those tend to have lower losses. This will energize much more than a little battery energizer.

 
pollinator
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I would go with goats.
The issue with sheep vs bramble (fun video)
and
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Andrew,

What are you planning on longer term? We have a very high bramble/vine burden and suckering trees. Once they are knocked back they don't just stay back. This means we will probably have and maintain a mixed herd like Su is talking about. It is the best way of improving your soil. After the suckering trees are removed mobbing may be sufficient, but on a small acreage that seems unlikely. Sheep vs goats would best be determined by asking locally. Here the sheep will not strip sweetgums. Once those are eliminated they will eat everything else.

Fencing- the Premier One charger can be used for both. We have a 0.6J portable, and use it on the net for the chickens. We are probably going to upgrade to the 1.2J and use the 0.6J on the sheep/goats. You can upgrade the battery if you want to higher than 10Ah with an aftermarket battery. The little solar panel and trees can be a problem in your climate in the wet times. I would consider rotating larger SLA batteries, they should run the fence for a week and are not dependent on solar. You can still have a solar charger set up, it just wouldn't move with the animals. I'm wishing I had done that initially, the total cost of the charger, two 100Ah batteries and two cheaper energizers would be pretty close probably favoring the large battery system. Yes you have to move them but in the cloudy period, news flash, you will have to manually charge quite  a bit. Battery can go on a milk crate with an inverted bucket for water control.

Longer term, we are likely to have a system that pulls off one of the higher wires of the perimeter on a jumper since those tend to have lower losses. This will energize much more than a little battery energizer.



Longer term plans would be to do additional gardening in some areas, but mostly just elimation of the brush for a combination of asthetics and fire prevention as well as making it hard for predators to approach (we have chickens and my older son wants to raise rabbits).  I'm assuming this would require periodic need for buying additional ruminants, which is fine, as the cost of keeping a breeding group would likely outweigh the benefits of not buying lambs/kids when I need more.  

Good input on fence charging.  I'll look into that more and price things out.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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s. ayalp wrote:I would go with goats.
The issue with sheep vs bramble (fun video)

and



Nice videos.  :)

Would hair sheep (e.g. Katahdin) be less susceptible to getting tangled?

FWIW, SWMBO is opposed to goats due to childhood experiences on her uncle's farm.  Granted, breeds, how they're raised, and individual variation could make that an unfair impression.  But, goats are reputed to be a lot smarter and difficult to contain than sheep.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Stewy Stuadenwalt wrote:Goats. Hands down . First hand experience



Care to elaborate?
 
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