February 19, 2021

Using Goats for Weed Control

With Melanie Brown

There’s quite a bit of buzz around goats at the moment! Prices are on the rise, there’s an increasing acceptance of goat meat in Australia, and more and more farmers are jumping on board to use these eating machines as a sustainable weed control method. 

For me (Mel, your Farmer Success Mobbler), the increased interest is inspiring. Goats are a huge passion of mine- there is no animal quite like them! When I’m not Mobbling I spend a lot of my time working with my small dairy herd to manage the enormous local weed burden around my place in central Victoria. 

A group of Anglo Nubians (goats)
Some of my Anglo Nubians

Our place is on gold country, and due to the significant soil disturbance caused by past mining activity, the weeds have taken over the landscape. Blackberry, Gorse, Broom, Elder, and Hawthorn trees tangle together across acres of bushland, and past management attempts with herbicides or brush cutters have only had limited or temporary success. These methods set the natural succession process back at step one, and the weeds soon come back with a vengeance. 

For the past year I’ve been working with other community members to tackle the weed management problem using the eating power of goats. We rotationally graze our goats in the most weed-dominated areas, with fantastic results.

using goats for weed control

Once they get started, they’re unstoppable: they’ll clear every leaf and trample all the canes, putting some severe pressure on the weed species. 

using goats as weed control!

After a couple of seasons, the pressure on the blackberries allows other species start to repopulate the landscape.

lessons in agriculture - using goats as weed control
Grasses starting to take over again in an area previously dominated by blackberries

My top tips for using goats to manage weeds: 

  1. Make sure your goats have some form of shelter wherever they are. While they are happy to browse out in the open, they are much more comfortable resting under some tree cover.
  2. Ensure your goats have access to the right minerals. Goats have much higher mineral requirements than cows or sheep: copper, boron, and sulfur are particularly important. A free-choice loose mineral station or a mineral lick specifically for goats is the way to go, as licks designed for sheep or cattle generally don’t contain enough copper for goats. If in doubt, consult your vet or livestock nutritionist. 
  3. How to prevent escapes? Make sure the goats want to be where you’re putting them. Goats will live up to their Houdini reputation if they don’t have access to enough tasty weeds, shelter or water where they are. Moving them regularly to provide access to fresh fodder is the best way to keep them satisfied and keep them eating!
  4. Record all rotational grazing and animal treatments in Mobble.

Melanie Brown (Farmer Success Mobbler)

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