Got weeds? Employ some goats

If weeds and brush are stealing your pasture profits, using a herd of goats may be the answer to reclaiming some of your pasture.

Grazing goat

Grazing goat

What do autumn olive, multiflora rose, cedar trees and thistle all have in common?  Yes, they are all plants we often consider to be undesirable in our pastures. A couple of these are even called noxious weeds, and they are difficult and expensive to spray and kill. But these plants might be a valuable, untapped resource. All of them, in addition to many other weeds and brush species, are the preferred feed of goats. Goats like to browse and can greatly help to remove these undesirable species from your pastures.

Drought will often weaken grasses, leading to an explosion in weeds and all sorts of other plants that cattle and horses rarely eat. Many other pastures have their own problems with cedars, thistles, autumn olive and other weeds. Spraying, digging or bulldozing is often way too expensive. Fortunately, goats eat these weeds. Also, with the smaller size of goats, they tend to do less damage to wet soil than heavier animals like cattle.

Nearly all grazing operations have enough weeds to add a few goats without needing to reduce the number of other grazing animals. If these goats eat your weeds, you save money on herbicides, and fewer weeds mean more pasture for grazing other animals. Goat kids can sell for $150 apiece during the November through March holiday season. Michigan State University Extension is currently working with a Jackson County farmer who is using a small goat herd to help rejuvenate her horse pastures. We hope to share information on this project through a pasture walk later in the season.

Goats are relatively low maintenance, easy to handle and very personable. The cost of adding a few goats to your operation to help clean up your pastures is relatively low and could add up to a big savings in the long run.

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