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Goats/Sheep for weed control

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  • Goats/Sheep for weed control

    Has anyone used goats or sheep for weed control in your pasture? If so, how did they do? Are they fairly low maintenance? Did they get along with the horses okay?

  • #2
    Goats are useless for weeds in my opinion. I have my two goats in a separate paddock and have to mow it constantly. They get along great with horses though!

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    • #3
      Our goats get along fine with the horses. However I always laugh when I hear about this idea of goats being good for weed control. My goats are even fussier about where they graze than the horses are, definitely no weed control from goats happening at our farm. But maybe we just have very spoiled, high maintenance goats!
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      • #4
        I've heard people in the Genesee Valley say that the sheep do a good job but I guess that depends on what you call a good job.

        I do know I pass a large pasture (probably 30 acres)that I will one day see a large herd of dairy cattle grazing and the next day I may see a large herd of sheep grazing. I will also see quite a lot of weeds sticking up. It's too far away to see if the weeds are just the prickly one or if other types of weeds are also growing. My deduction is that the sheep aren't cleaning up all the weeds the cattle are leaving. Just my honest observation!

        I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.


        • #5
          Congressional Cemetery in DC just hired a herd of goats to clear their woodlots (25 cents/hour/goat for a week.) However they're eating kudzu and poison ivy. Goats wont' graze things flat. My goat will graze selectively and it seems to vary based on stage of growth-he started on fleabane and asters, but then they bloomed and he moved on to maple saplings (I want them gone) and wood sorrel, he wouldn't touch ragweed and goldenrod initially and now he's stripping the leaves a month later on both. He has no problem eating hay I got cheap because it contains sandburrs (the woman selling it got a load without realizing the burrs were in it-her ponies won't eat it, but the goats don't care.) But I don't know if he'll eat the PLANT. Though my neighbor's nanny is tied out in my lower yard and she's eating a lot more grasses than my wether--so it may just be you need enough goats.

          ETA: In light of the weed whacking threads--he DOES do a great job on the long grasses directly under the Electrobraid that the horses don't get. (The fence is off.)

          Sadly I don't think that my goat, at least, likes spotted knapweed. We may need to import sheep as they allegedly chow down on it.
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          • #6
            Goats never eat just one thing, sheep don't like it either. They will eat some of most weeds and if you put them out in the right growth stage of the plant they will select for them. My two goats right now are passing up the flowers and garden in order to eat the knapweed in the pastures. in the spring they didn't want it they were waiting for the flowers. But they won't eat ONLY knapweed they always want a mix. Sheep will eat the whack out of some weeds, like leafy spurge, but they won't touch some weeds like bindweed. Some weeds are actually toxic to sheep and goats as well as other livestock and they wisely won't eat those weeds.

            My goat's name is Pigweed and his brother's name was Thistle. Their job was to rid my garden area of pigweed and thistle and they did it. They love knapweed but won't eat burdock.

            You can't just point the goat/sheep at any weed at any old time and expect it to devour the weed!

            As far as getting along with the horses, yes as long as the horses don't chase/kick/bite the goats/sheep. Easy as long as your fences are good for the situation.
            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


            • #7
              I don't have personal experience, but my hay guy had 3 goats he used for weed control and also loaned them out for that. He has small paddocks near the barn for his 3 horses and the alleys in between would get seriously weed-choked, stuff taller than I am. He'd put up a fence panel at each end of an alley and put the goats in there for a few days. Then move them to the next alley...the last alley would be clean and shorn down to almost the dirt. (one wether and 2 nannies)

              There's also a company that does Rent-A-Goat and they come to your place, measure the area you want clear of weeds and brush and then come back with a trailer full of however many goats you need and fencing for them. They fence them in, drop them off and come out once a day to give them food and refill their water until that area is clean.

              However MOST people who have goats that I know of just spend all of their time trying to keep them fenced in and the goats eat everything they don't want the goats to eat, LOL! So not sure how to get weed-eaters instead of escape-artists?
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              • #8
                My goat does pretty well at eating down the weeds in a pasture that separates two paddocks. I've read that goats like to browse upwards, and will graze but it's not their preference? They can be very finicky. She gets along well with horses that aren't aggressive. As in, she picks fights and cries when someone fights back. She is a bully. I consider her to be high maintenance because if she is left loose--yikes! Nothing is safe, flowers, grain bins, shavings bags (she loves to smash into these, it's really quite funny). And she can be difficult to handle.
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                • #9
                  Does anybody remember the story a poster* related about her goats escaping in the middle of the night and going to her neighbor's vegetable garden? The funny part was that she drove over, stealth-like, to the garden in her car and tried to get the goats in the backseat so she could sneak them home. I don't remember the ending of the tale, but the mental picture was so funny. Getting a grown-up goat to do something he doesn't want to do takes a lot of muscle and determination--like getting spilled ink back into the bottle.

                  *It was either posted here or on the old UDBB.


                  • #10
                    The main problem with goats is to keep them where you want them.

                    If you get some, make your place Fort Knox worthy first.


                    • #11
                      My sheep eat all kinds of weeds, but you would need a lot of them to do a decent job on a pasture.
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                      • #12
                        I don't have goats but they and sheep are used here all of the time for weed abatement. They brought about 300 next to the barn and fenced them off in sections of about an acre. Those suckers cleared, I mean cleared an acre a day. It's dry grass, thistle, hemlock, and all kinds of nasty stuff. What is left is very little vegetable material and a lot of goat poop. They do it all of the time around here for fire clearance.

                        As said, I think if you just let them be, they will eat only good stuff, but if you manage them, they are super for weed control and automatically fertilize the cleared land! They use moveable electric fencing here.


                        • #13
                          I think they do better clearing young woody plants rather than grassy weeds. My next door neighbors had goats and still had to mow the grass area, but the wooded part went from a tangled jungle to a nice open woods in a surprisingly short amount of time, and it stayed that way. They escaped once and I herded them into my dog pen, then asked if I could keep them for a bit because it was really getting overgrown, and my weedwacker had died. They did a phenomenal job

                          I need some to clear a chunk on my new lot, come to think of it. Anyone in the Aiken/Columbia area got goats to rent?


                          • #14
                            Goat poo (as well as sheep and bunny poo) doesn't retain weed seeds either; it can go straight to the garden or pasture.

                            There is electric netting fencing that works pretty well. My wether is terrible about staying in but my doe stays in just a hint of a fence.
                            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                            • #15
                              I know cows and goats can be trained to eat weeds - a friend of mine has a business where she travels around the country teaching people to teach their cattle/goats to eat weeds and plants we consider to be undesirable.

                              She's got an article about cattle here, I'll try and find the one she did on goats.

                              Her facebook page has a lot of livestock/agricultural info:

                              Don't know if any of this would help?


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                                The main problem with goats is to keep them where you want them.

                                If you get some, make your place Fort Knox worthy first.
                                OK- I read this as... "Make your place Foxworthy first." and it reminded me of my get rick quick scheme- "Rent a goat" and we would also supply a junk car to tie the goat to. This business service would be advertised for quickly settling neighborhood disputes and entertaining the in-laws.


                                • #17
                                  I have goats in one of my two pastures(the one lined with 2 inch mesh) It has visibly fewer weeds than the one with just horses. Goats like the crunchy stuff particularly wild roses, thistles and brambles but won't eat the weeds that produce those godawful buffs.

                                  Given the slightest opportunity they will also decimate your landscaping, particularly roses and daylilies.
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                                  • #18
                                    And lilacs...
                                    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                                    • #19
                                      I use sheep for weed control and they do a great job. Not only do they love to nibble on "interesting" plants, they also prefer to graze in different areas of the fields than the horses so they graze down the roughs. They love woody baby trees and brambles, but they won't harm larger trees (they don't chew bark) and they love to clear out fresh areas. They prefer to hang out in different areas of the field, so the areas that the horses wear down have a chance to grow back. Their little feet are very gentle on wet turf and don't dig things up. After my sheep have been on a field, after a quick mow it looks like a golf course!

                                      Sheep are not terribly hard to fence in, except for sneaky lambs my sheep usually stay put very nicely with four board fence and an electric wire at the bottom. I'd recommend having something better for a perimeter fence though. Predators can be an issue with sheep, but having horses with them is protective depending on the horses.

                                      As far as getting along with horses, most of my horses are completely fine with the sheep, however some horses might try to play with them or chase them, and obviously a sheep would be pretty vulnerable to being injured by a horse in that scenario. Sheep seem to have a calming effect on nervous horses. Most of my sheep are pretty smart about not trying to steal hay and grain from horses that might try to kick them. Sheep are sensitive to copper, so they should not eat horse feed. I also use plain white salt blocks instead of ones that have other minerals.

                                      Maintenance wise, a few adult sheep mixed with some horses should be pretty easy. If you get a larger flock or start lambing, then there is a little more work. Sheep do need to be sheared periodically, though it depends on the breed.


                                      • #20
                                        I think from what I've heard and read to do serious weed abatement you need a lot of goats on a small amount of land. I think if you just toss some out in the pasture with the horses they'd just eat what they liked here and there, not necessarily just the weeds.
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