Raising Goats for Land Clearing

One benefit of raising goats is the ease with which they naturally and efficiently clear land.

| July/August 2014

  • For wooded acreage, goats have tons of utility, and are plenty capable of restoring pasture in most cases.
    Photo by Leigh Edwards
  • Boer Goat doe and kid grazing by sunflower field in Illinois.
    Photo by Lynn Stone
  • Goats are the only ruminant with the ability to climb trees. They have exceptional intelligence and coordination, plus a burning curiosity.
    Photo by iStockphoto/manx_in_the_world
  • Gritty is a well-seasoned goat herder.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson

Some farmers contract and pay good money to have goats fenced at the edges of fields to reclaim pasture that has been lost to succession plants. In the farmers’ case, this can mean greatly increased pasture area from old fields and increased profitability for grazing or haying operations. Some towns and government agencies even occasionally contract with goat owners to clear brush and other vegetation on municipal lots, powerline rights-of-way, roadsides, you name it — an eco-friendly, money-saving and more effective method than most other means. All parties benefit.

For wooded acreage, goats have almost as much utility. Goats are effective as a means to removing thickets and underbrush to begin converting land to homestead agricultural or managed woodlot use, and to opening up access before logging efforts and selective harvesting occur. Just like plowing with pigs, raising goats can be a great way for the modern homesteader to use livestock to achieve a desired outcome without expensive machinery. And top it all off with the fact that goats will gain nutritional advantage and thrive, all while improving the land.

Toxic to goats?

First, one must become familiar with plants that are noxious or toxic to goats. Before introducing goats to a browsing area, walk the area to scout out any problem plants.

Let me ease your mind: The plants that are to be avoided are for the most part readily identifiable and familiar to us all.

Potentially goat-toxic trees would include stone fruits such as cherry, peach, apricot and plum. When leaves from stone fruit trees wilt, they can be poisonous due to the accumulation of prussic acid — a cyanide-containing compound. Oak leaves tend to be the most toxic to goats in the spring — they contain gallotoxins that can harm the animal’s kidney once the toxins are converted to a series of acids and alcohols as digestion ensues.

In addition to the tree leaves, rhododendron, iris, buttercup, yew, bracken fern, and rhubarb leaves are perhaps the easiest toxic plants to identify. Other plants to avoid in the pasture include mountain laurel, lamb’s-quarter and pokeweed.

4/16/2018 10:25:44 AM

We had a pair of miniature goats, and a portable wire dog fence. In the morning the goats would nicely go in the gate, and the fencing (about two feet high) was easy to move. Since I was trying to recover some pasture, I would move the fence around and by fall, we had a nice pasture. I hope to get some again. There is finally a rent a goat farm nearby, I have to check out their prices.

4/29/2016 2:59:21 PM

My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a new home on 14 acres of land. A little less than half the acreage is beautifully cleared and maintained, but the rest is wooded along with some areas of shrubs and weeds. I was considering purchasing a small number of goats to help clear and clean up the wooded and rougher areas. I've had an interest in raising goats and I think this would be a good way to start. I've seen moveable fencing units meant for goats. Would something like this work well for clearing areas of land while also keeping the goats safe and contained (with extra shelter from the elements of course)?

3/31/2015 4:48:34 PM

gee,this sounds like a great idea. We have 10 acres nearby. It is pines which are scrubby and not kept up. Do you think it would help to take the goats there at times? I don't think there is any grass to speak of and I would have to put up a temporary electric fence. How old would they have to be to go to work?

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