Goats: The Great Weed-eaters

Reader Contribution by Janice Spaulding
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It’s cold and blustery here today, but still a far cry from yesterday when winter storm “Nemo” came to visit. When it snows sideways, and there are hurricane force winds, you know you are in trouble. The one thing that

didn’t happen was a power outage! WOW, normally that’s one of the first things that happen up here, but even though it was wicked ugly out there, it was warm (thanks to the wood stove) and we could cook, and flush the toilet, yeah! It’s funny how those little things can be overlooked sometimes.

This morning was/is the great clean up. Plowing with the loader on the tractor, shoveling, and of course playing in the deep snow with Jack, our dog, who just loves it! Jack is a rescue from Alabama and this is his first winter up here.

As I sit here, looking out the windows, I can’t help but think about summer! Lush green, the goats out browsing, sunshine, rain showers, the warmth of the sun, and still so much more winter to go.Of course, along with summer
comes all of those nasty problems that we have to deal with, being over taken with kudzu, bamboo, poison ivy, wild roses (believe me, they can be a huge problem!), and our worst scourge, wild raspberries and blackberries.

So, what is the best way to deal with these nastys? Fence it in and put your goats out there of course!We don’t deal with kudzu up here, but we can be overrun with the rest of those darned weeds. I do know that if the plant is completely defoliated over and over again, they die. No chemicals needed, lots of good fertilizer left behind!

I know, if you are in an area that doesn’t have to deal with wild raspberries, you are thinking, wow, I would love to have some of those to pick and make jelly or jam…NOT.These things are so thick, and so thorny that only the
birds and wild animals (and of course the goats) can get in there. The fruits are small and shriveled, usually full of bugs, and they really don’t taste that good. The only ones we can get to are the ones that grow along side the road, but usually the birds get most of those too.

The best part of using your goats to clean areas such as this, is the fertilizer they leave behind! A goats’ digestive system works so well, that their poop is virtually weed seed free! And, because they are predominantly browsers and not grazers, they prefer weeds, leaves, thorny things, small saplings and of course your garden if they can manage a way to get to it. They will be happy to leave behind the grasses for other animals, so, putting a few goats in with a browsing herd, will keep your pastures gorgeous!

Back 10 years ago when we started to build our farm, the guy who installed our septic system, (because it was the end of November), decided to short cut the work by hauling in ditch cleanings instead of loam. We didn’t realize until spring what had happened. All of a sudden we were getting the nastiest weeds you can imagine, all coming up where grass
should be. It was a mess! So, we waited until there was a good amount of the yucky stuff, fenced it in and started putting our Boer girls out there every few days, all season long.

The following year, in the spring, some weeds returned, but definitely not as many, and quite a bit of grass was starting to come up.Once again, we fenced it in and allowed the goats to do a clean-up about once a week.

The third year, my poor husband was having to mow this incredibly lush area at least once a week because the grass was so thick and healthy! No chemicals, no expensive grass seed, just goats.

Do you have an area you would like to re-claim? Goats work really terrific!

Here is some really exciting news! We will be doing a Goat School in Minnesota (another cold spot this winter!) in June! Matthew and Elizabeth Pendergast, North CountryFarm, in Littlefork, Minnesota will be hosting Goat School on Saturday, June 22nd, Sunday, June 23rd, and a Soap Making and Cheese Making class on Monday, June 24th.For the registration form for this event, click here.

Also coming up earlier in June is Goat School here at our farm, Stony Knolls, in Saint Albans, Maine! We are accepting registrations now, so reserve your spot for Saturday, June 8th, Sunday, June 9th, and a Soap Making class on Monday, June 10th!

Maine is so beautiful in June, our weather is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the snow is gone, and we invite you to come and see why we put up with such cold, nasty weather.Come and see our summer!

And don’t forget, my books are always available! “Goat School, the Manual”, and “GoatSchool: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking”!