Brush Goats

Brush goats are any goats used for brush control. Some people keep "cull" goats just for brush control, but any goats can be used.

I like to let my milk does out to eat grass and weeds. This not only keeps the grass and bushes cut back (without me having to work) but it also gives my goats a more varied diet and some exercise.

Getting out to "graze" is also good for keeping up their mental health. It gives the goats new things to see, do, and think about.

That is good for everyone, not just goats!


Grazing Brush?

Goats are natural browsers.

They do not just graze like sheep, cattle, or horses will.

Goats will travel over a wide range nibbling on this, that, and the other.


Xylo-what?

Goats are "xylotrophic." That means they are eaters of woody plants (literally: xylo=wood, trophic=eater).

They will eat grass, but they prefer brush, especially trees.

What that means is, if you have any trees, shrubs, bushes, or even flowers that you don't want to lose, don't let your goats around them.

They can do an amazing amount of damage in a very short amount of time. Just a couple of goats can kill a good-sized tree in an afternoon.

They will strip the bark all the way around the tree, as high as they can reach. This is called "girdling" the tree and without its bark a tree will die in a few weeks.

Turn your goats out on the lawn if you don't use pesticides or herbicides on it,  or in a woodlot or "scrub" area, but not into an orchard or into a landscaped, ornamental ("pretty") yard.


Almost Anywhere Will Do...

No matter how small your 'backyard' place is, you certainly have some grass, brush, or weeds that you would like to get mowed down.

Make your herd be brush goats and turn them out to eat the weeds instead. (Your 'herd' can be just two goats!)

If you don't have someplace in your yard, maybe the neighbors do. Ask if they would like a little free trimming and fertilizing. Make sure you mention the 'fertilizing' so they are not surprised when they get some goatberries out of the deal.

An empty lot in the neighborhood can also be a good place to let your goats have some outings. Just make sure you go along with them, either herding them or with the goats on leashes.


Ways to Graze Your Goats

There are several different ways to "turn out" goats. Each one has its advantages -- and disadvantages. Choose the one that works best for you (I have done all three at different times and in different places):


Use Your Goats!

Brush goats are really useful in other ways, too.

I like to turn my goats out, especially just the kids after they are weaned, to clean up around my hay stack.

I store my bales of hay on wood pallets, which allows a certain amount of hay fines to fall through onto the ground.

Every once in a while I change where I stack hay (with the new load -- I don't move a stack!).

Then I pick up the pallets and let the goats into the hay yard so they can eat the scraps of hay.

This gives them the joy of doing something different, gets my yard cleaned up easily, and lessens the amount of hay I lose through waste.

The best of all win-win-win situations!

Let your goats 'earn' some of their keep by doing 'work' around the yard for you, too.


One Other Caution

Always make sure that dogs can not get in with the goats, whether they are in their pens or out grazing and eating brush.

The word "capricious" (meaning changing often and suddenly in mood or behavior; not logical or reasonable, not possible to predict) comes from the Latin term for goat (caprine) for a reason.

Goats are squirrely idiots that will take off in a stampede for no reason, or start running around and jumping onto and off of anything (including each other) with no warning.

Dogs just can not resist chasing goats once they start this, no matter how calm or well-behaved the dogs usually are.

Prevent problems by making sure the dogs are penned up, or that the goats are where dogs (yours or others) can't get to them.

Disappointed dogs will live! And that makes sure so will the goats!


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