Using Goats for Brush Control

18 September, 2015rodster385Comments (0)

Meat goats have traditionally been used in extensive grazing systems not only to produce saleable animals but also to control brush. Serious suppression or near elimination of brushy species, weeds and other undesirable plants by goats will reduce competition for scarce soil nutrients and moisture and, over time, improve carrying capacity of pastures for cattle and sheep. In Texas mixed species grazing, with the ratio of goats to cattle and/or sheep carefully chosen to fit existing plant populations, has proven biologically practical and economically feasible.

Using goats at the typically high stocking rates required to achieve effective brush control, however, may compromise off-take per acre by reducing kidding rates or kid weaning weights. The resulting trade-off between pasture improvement and cash income from goat sales should always be fully considered in enterprise accounting procedures; unfortunately, pasture improvement is seldom properly credited.

It is sometimes difficult for landowners to accurately compare net costs of controlling brush by alternative methods: goats, fire, chemicals, and various mechanical means. Similarly, the methodology and cost-benefit ratios of using goats to control competing plant species in pine plantations and also in naturally regenerating pine and hardwood forests are inadequately known. In any case, individuals electing to establish a meat goat enterprise should decide whether they wish to treat their brush as a renewable crop resource to be used as sustainable goat browse or as an intolerable bane to pastures and trees to be removed as quickly and as completely as possible. In actual management situations, some practical, on-going combination of these two extremes is usually undertaken.