Goats are experts at getting rid of troublesome weeds.
istockphoto/ Aleksandr Lobanov
If your back yard or pasture has a weed problem, you may be happy to know that there's an effective, all natural weed-eating solution: Just bring in a goat. Goats have a well-earned reputation for being willing to eat anything, and because they're more interested in eating weeds than grass, you don't have to do much more than turn them loose where you want them to devour weeds.
They're so effective that they're often used to control noxious weeds that are otherwise hard to get rid of, such as kudzu in the South and leafy spurge in the West.
To understand more about how this works, we went straight to the source and talked to a real live goat. Here are his candid answers to our questions about his favorite kind of work.
I've heard goats will eat anything, but what's your favorite food?
I'll eat just about any kind of plant, but I prefer weeds to grass. I've got my favorites, but I like to mix it up. I like cheat grass, dandelions, purple loosestrife, yucca ... what have you.
So you could say you're a natural weed-eater?
I think that's fair.
Do you eat kudzu?
This is anonymous, right ?? I love it.
Hypothetically, if you were going to move into my back yard what would I have to provide in the way of room and board?
Well, taking care of a goat is a commitment. It's not something to be taken lightly.
For me, these are the basics:
Food. I'll eat your weeds, but I'm also going to want some hay and your basic commercial goat ration. If I don't get enough to eat, I'm out of there.
Housing. A barn would be nice, but I would consider moving into the right shed. Most goats just need some basic shelter, we're not that picky. But I definitely need a big yard to graze in, a couple hundred square feet at the very least.
Medical care. I don't need health insurance, but I'd like to know you at least have a vet you can call.
If I wanted to keep a goat in my yard, how high would the fence have to be?
We don't need much in the way of fencing. We like to stay in one place.
That's not what I've heard.
OK, you've got me. You know the old saying, 'If a fence won't hold water it won't hold a goat'? That's actually true. In fact, it's my motto.
I don't have a big enough yard to require a goat year-round. Would you be willing to work for an hourly wage?
Well, I have a pretty good deal here in my barnyard, but yes, there are people who rent out goats, so you can ask around. For large tracts of land, there are companies you can contract. In fact, the government hires goats to clear out noxious weeds in some of the Western states. I've heard some of those federal jobs are a pretty sweet deal.
Note from the editors: OK, you've got us. We didn't really interview a goat. But using goats to control weeds is no joke. You can learn more about it
here and here
. Do you have more stories of goats and other weed-eating livestock? You can share them by posting a comment.
Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on Google+.