In addition to being adorable animals to add to your homestead or farm, goats are an excellent biological solution for clearing acreage efficiently without heavy equipment.
They are earth-friendlier options compared to synthetic chemicals, and they require less human labor to clear thicker brushes.
Brush goat business is on the rise, and some people even utilize larger goat herds for a brush goat rental business.
The benefits of brush goats are numerous, but figuring out how many are needed for a particular area is a key step.
The exact number of goats per acre to clear a plot of land varies depending on the context. However, it generally takes about 8-12 goats per acre over the span of one month.
Whether you have experience with goats or not, read on to learn more about what types of vegetation goats are more effective at managing and the best breeds of goats for clearing brush.
Terrain for Clearing With Goats
Goats are not a simple solution for clearing land left completely unmanaged for extended periods.
While goats are great additions to a farm or homestead, and they are indeed eating machines, there are limitations to their clearing ability.
For example, goats will not clear any trees other than small saplings.
They are also somewhat picky eaters and will opt for their favorite plants if given various choices.
Goats will eat grass if it is the only thing available to them or if they are hungry enough, but it is not their top choice.
They tend to browse more on the leaves of shrubs and trees.
Generally speaking, a brush goat herd will naturally select about 60% browse, 10% weeds, and 30% grasses for their diet if given plenty of choices.
If your main goal is to manage grass, sheep and cows are great options for living lawnmowers!
Compared to ruminants, one big advantage of goats is their ability to manage invasive plants, thorny and spiky plants, plants with tannins, and woody perennials.
They will even stand up on their hind legs to reach desirable branches and leaves, though they often eat at their eye level.
Some of the favorite plant species for goats to eat include the following:
- Multiflora Rose
- Black Locust
- Poison Ivy
- Dogwood Bushes
Depending on the density and type of vegetation, some brush goat keepers can use fewer than 5 goats to clear an acre.
Precautions when Grazing Goats
Goats are wonderful for clearing unwanted plants, but only graze them in a fenced area containing only plants and trees you are willing to part with.
In other words, don’t let goats loose around any prized, heirloom fruit trees, as they may inflict significant damage to trees, such as stripped bark and severely damaged branches.
Brush clearing goats are not always the best choice for backyard animals or carefully landscaped areas where they may damage or completely remove planted shrubberies, such as roses.
Lastly, as a brush goat owner, you will need to check what weeds you have on your land and look specifically for any weeds or plants toxic to goats.
Most of the time, goats are smart enough to avoid these plant species, but it is best to be aware of potential plant poisoning.
Toxic plants for goats include stone fruits, azaleas, iris, rhubarb leaves, etc.
Tips for Grazing Goats
Before you get started, here are a couple of suggestions to keep you on the right track as you incorporate a herd into your land:
Make sure you have an excellent fence for the area you are grazing your goats in.
Since goats are skilled at jumping and climbing, the fence height should be 4-5′ feet tall all around the grazing area to keep them from escaping.
Electric fencing is a good fencing option for reinforcing the boundary.
However, if you live in a rainy area, an electric fence is more likely to have technical problems.
Check if your electric wire is likely to short out in rainy weather.
Get at Least 2 Goats
Even if the area you want to clear is relatively small, it is best to have at least 2 goats to avoid social isolation.
As herd animals, they can get anxious and agitated if they do not have other goat company around.
If possible, buy your goats from goat farmers who have already run their goats in a wooded area before, rather than raising them entirely in a goat house on dry feed.
If you are not an aspiring goat farmer but are interested in acquiring goats for clearing, plan ahead of time what you will do with the goat herd when the clearing project is done (especially if you are using a larger herd).
Do you have enough land to rotationally graze the goats and ensure they have ample food?
Will you breed them and can raise kid goats?
Related: How much do goat farmers make a year?
Best Types of Goats for Clearing
The best choice for brush clearing purposes is a cross-breed in terms of breeds.
If possible, purchase adult goats and a cross-breed of a meat breed and dairy goat breed.
Cross-breeds tend to have the following advantages:
- Economically efficient – costs less to purchase
- Hardy – tend to be more resilient to common goat diseases and parasites than pure-bred meat goats or dairy goats
- Diverse sizes – Choose cross-breeds of diverse sizes for more efficient clearing at multiple heights
Both male and female goats are suitable for goat brush clearing, but female goats are preferred for brush control since they tend to be more docile.
Males will get particularly aggressive around mating season.
The table below shows some of my favorite goat breeds to potentially use in your cross-breed goats for brush clearing.
Each is an excellent option with specific advantages.
|Goat Breed||Type of goat||Characteristics|
|Boer goats||Meat||Hardy and very fast at clearing brush|
|Alpine goats||Dairy||Large, good temperament, herd leaders, good climbers for high areas|
|Kiko goats||Meat||Docile goat/easy to handle, hardy|
|Angora goats||Fiber||Eats troublesome plants such as thistles and nettles, which are less desirable plants to other goat breeds|
|Pygmy goats||Showing||Makes a good pet, good at clearing lower brush, the smallest of all of the goat candidates|
Related: 8 Best Goat Breeds for Brush Clearing (with Pictures)