Clearing brush with goats or sheep has become a popular enterprise. Here’s what you need to keep in mind before you consider starting a goat rental service.
Goats are friendly, social, and inquisitive creatures that are right at home on a small hobby farm or homestead, and they have provided a source of meat and milk for their human keepers for thousands of years. However, in recent years, goats have made the news for another use entirely.
I really have no idea how or why this trend got started, but suddenly goats are in high demand for their brush-clearing abilities. Individuals, companies, and even large utilities are clearing brush with goats and sheep as a sustainable alternative to chemical herbicides and large machinery. Goats are small, nimble, and they don’t take as much toll on the soil or environment as most alternative methods for clearing brush – plus, they love to eat weedy plants like kudzu, poison ivy, and brambles, so it’s a win-win!
Some goat keepers have started side businesses renting out sheep and goats for this purpose. But before you take the plunge and start a goat rental service be sure you are aware of the pros and cons, and what it will take to be successful in this enterprise.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind:
1. Goats Versus Sheep
It’s important to know the difference between the two species and which is best suited for the habitat you have in mind. Goats will eat grass and ground-level weeds, but they prefer taller, woodier vegetation and will stand on their hind legs to strip foliage and bark from them, weakening and eventually killing the plants. Sheep will eat woody vegetation but prefer grass and weeds on the ground. Sheep are like lawnmowers, while goats are more like Bush Hogs…
Staking livestock to a rope and expecting them to clear vegetation is ineffective and can result in animals dying of strangulation. You need fencing, which will likely cost far more than the animals to install. Some modern shepherds and goatherds rely on lightweight, movable electric fencing, but this is prone to disaster — it easily shorts out in rainy weather, and livestock (especially goats) are notorious for escaping if given enough unsupervised time. Don’t take your chances with electric fencing unless you’re in a location where periodic escapees won’t be a problem. Ideally, use four-foot-tall wire fencing to form a perimeter…
Unlike herbicides and machinery, sheep and goats need clean water, shelter, grooming, health care and a bit of TLC. They may also need supplementary food… Also, expect the unexpected: Dogs and coyotes may attack; teenagers may play unseemly pranks; and animals may turn up sick, injured or dead for any number of reasons. Make sure that you are prepared to provide the necessary husbandry for these robust yet vulnerable creatures.