I recently read a great comment by Roy Austin on a SharkTankBlog and this is what he said:
Goats, a Green Vegetation Management Approach
Why use goats?
There have been various approaches to weed and brush control, none fully satisfactory nor efficient. Using goats is an efficient, holistic, environmentally healthy green approach to weed and brush control allowing us to restore degraded land in a shorter period of time.
How do goats help restore natural areas?
Using goats is based on a natural process, like bison grazing the prairie.
Goats eat dried and fresh above-ground plant parts.
They break plants down into digestible pieces by chewing.
Their hoof action also breaks apart plants into smaller pieces.
Plants decompose releasing nutrients into the soil.
Goats also work desired seeds into soil with their hooves.
Goats can restore large areas in a shorter time period than people.
Why is using goats environmentally healthy?
Grazing is an alternative to mowing, herbicides and expensive manual labor.
Goats eat plants, eliminating debris and recycling nutrient elements.
They maintain beneficial soil organisms.
Goats exclude the use of heavy equipment minimizing soil disturbance and compaction.
Goats trample dried brush, create a natural mulch and add organic matter to the soil.
Why use goats instead of other methods?
Goat grazing is not a replacement, but another tool in the tool box of weed control and land restoration. They can cover large areas in a shorter period of time than most manpower. One hundred goats average 1/2 acre per day.
Goats are best used:
a) In areas with poison oak, blackberry, and heavy brush they break off the dead biomass.
b) In sensitive areas near waterways, rivers and lakes where chemicals are prohibited.
c) On steep embankments difficult for people or machines.
d) On ditches, canals, rocky and wooded areas where mowing or spraying is difficult or inadvisable.
e) In large areas where manpower is unavailable and costly.
f) On very degraded land where human efforts would take years.
a) Do not bring weed seeds to the surface.
b) Do not disturb the soil organisms.
c) Do not extract soil nutrients. d) Manure is dry pellets, minor smell; low nitrogen aids native plant not noxious weeds.
d) Are not a potential risk to ground water.
Disturbs soil bringing more weed seeds to the surface.
Creates plant debris that goes to landfills.
Extracts nutrients from the soil.
Disturbs soil organisms.
Is labor intensive and expensive.
Uses heavy equipment that compacts soil.
Creates air pollution, both exhaust and dust.
Leaves stubble, does not eliminate fuel matter or break down quickly.
May contaminate ground water.
May kill or disturb soil organisms.
Does not allow seeding at same time.
May damage desired vegetation. Disliked by general public.
May have risk to personnel.
How will using goats work?
We will use a small goat herd, 45 to 200 head of mostly meat breeds of goats. They are easy to handle and friendly to people. Areas are enclosed by electric fence panels and protected with a livestock protection dog.
In the spring, goats are used to:
Remove top growth, eat dried brush from previous year and early cool season weeds that either over wintered or recently emerge.
Work in desired seeds with their hooves while they graze.
Once an area is clean, the goats are moved to the next area and the process is repeated. Placing the goats in strategic areas and managing their time in the area are key factors.
In summer or fall the goats feed on emerging annuals and perennials:
Managing their time to feed on the perennials minimizes food reserves in the unwanted plants and prevents plants from going to seed.
Continuous grazing stresses the plants.
Reseeding at this time allows desired vegetation in late summer to compete.
In Fall and Winter the goats browse heavy brush areas reducing fuel load:
1) Browse is faster and limbing is faster and less expensive. 2) Burning of slash can occur.
How do we keep goats and people safe?
Safety is critical to the success of this program. The following condition will be put in place
1) The herder remains within contact 24/7.
2) Goats are enclosed in portable electric fences with livestock protection dog inside the fence.
3) Direct contact with Home Owners, Animal Control, Local Police, and the goat contractor.
4) Signage placed around project area to inform the public.