Goats are browsers with voracious appetites, making them a perfect biological control method for unwanted plants on your property.
But what are the best goats for clearing brush? And how should you utilize them to clear your land?
In this article, we’ll uncover the following:
- Seven best goats for land clearing
- The qualities to look for and avoid in a brush goat
- Tips on how to raise and utilize them for this purpose
You’ll also discover how to set up your land before employing the brush-eating goats and maintain them while they carry out the dirty work for you.
And should you decide to start a goat rental business, this will give you insights into the things you need to consider and invest in.
But before diving into that, let’s first discuss why using goats for clearing brush benefits you and the environment.
Benefits of Using Goats for Clearing Brush
It’s easy to spray gallons of herbicides or rent a bush hog to clear a brush-filled land. However, both options have downsides.
Herbicides can kill good plants, and bush hogs can’t reach some areas, which goats can.
On the other hand, brush goats clear the land without disturbing the existing soil or leaving synthetic chemicals.
They may not be able to landscape a lawn perfectly, and it may take time for them to clear brush, but the good news is they don’t damage the land like machines do.
In fact, these ruminants can restore a pasture overtaken by invasive plants since their manure can serve as an organic fertilizer.
Furthermore, they can reproduce and provide you with milk and meat.
But how can you pick the best goats for brush clearing?
Qualities to Look for Goats for Clearing Brush
Here are the factors you should look for in brush goat breeds:
- Ideally, you should choose castrated males or wethers because they possess good temperaments and are not as smelly as intact bucks. They also tend to be calmer, more playful, and enjoy playing with children. And good temperament will make moving them easier.
- Your brush goats must be docile and easy to manage and catch to avoid the hassle of chasing after them.
- Preferably, purchase brush goats with browsing experience already and are used to riding in trailers.
- While purebreds are great, crossbreeds are hardier, parasite, and disease resistant, so we recommend trying them to see how they perform compared to purebred goats.
- It’s best to have large goats for brush at higher parts and miniature goats for the undergrowth to ensure your field will be cleared entirely.
- You can also use cull goats or those rejected from farms to clear brushes in your field. But ensure they’re not culled because of an illness or health problem.
What to Avoid in a Brush Goat
Any goat can eat and clear brushes, but avoiding the following is best to prevent mishaps and keep the herd harmonious.
Goats With Horns
Horns pose a greater risk to your herd from goats hurting one another and getting tangled in fences or vegetation.
Dairy goats are typically disbudded or polled, but horns are often left on meat goats.
Bucks are often aggressive and challenging to manage. During the breeding season, bucks urinate on themselves and emit a foul scent.
They won’t concentrate on the brush clearing you need them to do since they will be preoccupied trying to mate with female goats in the herd.
Female Goats With Damaged Udders
It’s best to avoid female does with previous damage to udders because it can worsen their condition.
Pregnant or nursing goats aren’t suitable for this job either because those nursing their offspring spend less time browsing.
They’re more focused on protecting since their tiny kids are vulnerable to predators.
7 Best Goats for Clearing Brush
No particular breed is inherently most suitable for brush clearing, but some goats can do this job better than others.
So we compiled a list of the best goats for brush control to help you narrow down your picks and make the right purchasing decision.
1. Alpine Goats: The Best Goats for Clearing Brush
Alpine goats from the Alps are excellent for clearing overgrown land because they’re large goats with a height ranging from 34 to 40 inches.
Therefore, they can reach high parts of plants or trees that miniature goats can hardly get, which is why they’re considered one of the best brush goats.
Furthermore, they’re great herd leaders and can help other members to search for more forage.
On top of that, these brush-clearing goats are friendly and docile and can provide lots of milk. However, they can eat aggressively and climb trees to reach their desired shrubs.
Alpine Goats’ Characteristics
|Average Height:||34 to 40 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Dairy production|
|Pros:||Taller and can reach higher parts of plants and trees|
2. Boer Goats: The Fastest Brush Goat Breed
Boer goats are slightly shorter than the previous Alpine breed due to their compact body structure. But they’re a force to reckon with because they can clear brushes faster than others.
That also explains why they gain weight more quickly. These meat goats are also docile, and the beautiful contrast of brown and white in their coat makes them head-turning.
They’re not the best milk producers, but they provide good meat and additional income. This breed is hardy and can cross well with other dairy goats.
Boer Goats’ Characteristics
|Average Height:||25 to 30 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Meat production|
|Pros:||Clear brushes faster than other breeds|
3. Kiko Goats
The name “Kiko” in Maori means meat or flesh, which implies the primary purpose of this breed.
Kiko goats are docile and quiet, with fewer parasites like Boer goats and fewer hoof problems compared to other breeds, making them suitable for the brush-clearing job.
They’re hardy, active, easygoing, friendly, and easy to train. Despite not being the largest breed, they can compete with the strength and energy of other goats.
Kiko goats are good at managing overgrown land, and they’re not picky eaters. On top of that, their kids grow rapidly and produce great carcass yield.
But you must be aware that there’s a tendency that they’ll become aggressive or wild.
Kiko Goats’ Characteristics
|Size:||Medium to large|
|Average Height:||26 to 37 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Meat production|
|Temperament:||Docile and quite|
|Pros:||Resistant to parasites and fewer hoof problems|
4. Pygmy Goats
You may be wondering why Pygmy goats are included in this list of the best goats to clear brush when it’s super tiny, measuring about 15 to 20 inches tall.
Well, Pygmies can make a great addition to your brush-clearing herd for that reason!
Larger breeds prefer browsing on large trees, plants, shrubs, and weeds and may disregard the lower areas of the brush, so that’s where Pygmies can be helpful.
They’re tiny, so they can graze on the undergrowth larger goat breeds can’t reach.
Not to mention the meat and tasty milk they can produce, which is high in butterfat content.
Pygmy Goats’ Characteristics
|Average Height:||20 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Pet/ meat goat|
|Pros:||Graze on undergrowth large goats typically avoid|
Angora goats are fiber goats known for their fine, long hair or soft wool known as mohair which is perfect for making sweaters.
But they’re also worth adding to your brush-clearing collection because they eat dock, thistles, nettles, and other weeds some other goats avoid.
However, this breed is sensitive to cold winds and rain because they’re not as waterproof as sheep due to the lack of protective lanolin in Angora goat’s mohair.
Also, their thick and long coats of fiber can get tangled in brush, so you must keep an eye on them if you wish to use these goats to clear brush.
Angora Goats’ Characteristics
|Average Height:||42 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Fiber production|
|Pros:||Eat docks, nettles, and thistles which other breeds avoid.|
6. Spanish Goats
This goat breed is mainly bred for meat production, but you can also use them for milk production and clearing overgrown land.
Spanish goats are hardy, can forage in local plants, and withstand bad weather conditions. They’re generally healthy and are less prone to internal parasite infestation.
However, they’re less tamed than Boer and Kiko goats and may be difficult to handle for beginners in the goat-keeping world. But when crossed with other dairy goats, they can create good, hardy offspring.
Spanish Goats’ Characteristics
|Average Height:||20 inches|
|Primary Purpose:||Meat production|
7. Crossbreeds or Hybrids
Now we’re down to the last entry on this list of best goats to clear brush.
As said earlier, hybrids or crossbreeds are excellent for clearing brushes due to their hardy nature. They’re not picky eaters and are more parasite-resistant than the purebred ones.
Advantages of Crossbreed Goats Over Purebreds
Hybrids are typically the best bets for brush-clearance goats. For the following reasons, crosses between meat and dairy goat breeds typically result in the most common brush goats:
- Crosses are resilient, healthy, and well-mannered
- Crossbred goats are more resistant to parasites than purebred goats
- Crossbreeds can be produced cheaply through breeding
- Your crosses can be mixed by selecting large, medium, and small
- The dairy/meat breed hybrids are typically more giant and can therefore achieve higher brush
- The bigger goats will clear higher up, while the smaller goats will clear lower down if you have varied sizes
- You now have a clearing window between ground level and seven feet
How to Raise Brush Goats Properly
If you’re planning to raise and use goats to clear land, you need to prepare the following needs to keep them healthy and safe while doing the dirty job for you.
Fences can help keep the goats in place and the predators out. That’s why it’s a key component when using goats for clear land, but it may be more costly to install than the animals.
Each goat owner has different preferences in terms of fencing, but here are the most common types you can choose from.
1. Electric fencing
Electric fencing effectively keeps the goats inside the parameter and keeps the predators out when it’s set at over 4,000 volts, and the lowest wire is kept below 6 inches from the ground.
You must also fill the depression under the fences to ensure no predators can enter.
However, electric fences have several downsides. It is easily shorted out when it rains, and powering electric fencing can be a problem.
It’s simple to plug the fence in if it’s close to a power supply. However, you’ll need a solar fence charger if the clearing area is far from any electrical supply.
But installing a solar fence charger can add extra costs and may not work well when the sky is overcast for a long time.
Since goats are smart, they’ll eventually figure out if the electric fence isn’t working and may attempt to escape.
2. Barbed wire
This fencing material can also help keep the goats inside if you’d use eight strands of barbed wire and posts 8 to 10 feet apart.
But the ruminants may still crawl if there are several depressions, so you must cover them.
3. Woven wire
Woven wire offers better protection against predators than other types of fencing. Woven-wire fencing, however, has some drawbacks.
It becomes one of the most expensive options after you factor in the price of the supplies and labor.
This may not be the ideal fencing option if production is secondary, brush management is the primary objective, or the terrain is rough.
Moreover, horned goats can become entangled in a woven wire. If not found and freed immediately, a head stuck in a fence turns into a loud coyote call.
Goats need about 9.5 liters or 2 gallons of water daily, but lactating does need 1.9 liters more to support their needs, and kids consume about 7.7 liters a day.
They may drink less water when grazing on lush green grass, but you must always provide clean, rodent-free, and accessible water to meet their needs.
Goats aren’t fond of being wet, so you need to provide shelter. You can construct a three-sided shed, but a portable one will also do.
Have working pens or milking stations if you’re using the goats for clearing brush. But if you’re raising dairy or dual-purpose goats, that’s a must.
Goats are herbivores, and they mainly feed on plants. But can brush goats eat everything?
You’ve probably heard the tales that they can eat almost everything. However, that is not entirely true because some plants and human foods are toxic to them.
What Brush Goats Can Eat?
Here’s a list of grasses, plants, and fruits goats can eat.
- Sorghum-Sudan Grass
- Christmas Trees
- Japanese Knotweed
- Bell Pepper
But the plants often requested by goat owners to be cleared are:
- Coyote Bush
- English Ivy
- Japanese Knotweed
- Leafy Spurge
- Lupine at the early stages of their plant cycle with no seeds
- Poison Ivy
- Poison Oak
- Poison Sumac
- Russian Knapweed at their early stages
- Spotted Knapweed at the plant cycle’s early stages
- Wild Parsnip
Goats can also clear stinging nettles when they’re dry, but you have to know that you may get itchy after touching goats or drinking their milk if they eat plants that cause itching.
Toxic Plants for a Brush Goat Must Avoid
- Black Locust
- Cherry Trees
- Crotalaria, Rattlepod
- Desert Baileya
- Flax Plant
- Horse and Bull Nettle
- Japanese Pieris
- Johnson Grass
- Lambs Quarter
- Leafy Spurge
- Milk Thistle
- Monkshood, Aconite
- Orange Sneezeweed
- Poison Hemlock
- Ponderosa Pine
- White Snakeroot
- Tall Buttercup
- Tansy Ragwort
- Water Hemlock
- White Snakeroot
Groups of Plants That Are Dangerous for Goats
If your area contains the following group of plants, it’s best to get rid of them before letting your goats browse in them because they aren’t safe for your ruminants.
- Carolina and Yellow Jessamine
- Evening Trumpet Vine
- Goats Rue
- Professor Weed
- French Lilac
- Jimmy and Burrow Weed
- Rayless Goldenrod
- Leucana, Whiteland Tree
- Guaje, Huaxin
- Koa Haole
- Nolina, Bear, and Brunch Grass
- Serviceberry, Saskatoon Berry, and June Berry
- Snakeweed, Broomweed and Turpentine Weed
- Spiny Plants, including Burs, Thistles, and Needle Grass
- Texas Mountain Laurel
- Coral Bean
- Mescal Bean
Other Foods That Are Bad for Goats
Aside from the foods above, some human foods and fruits should be off-limits for goats to avoid indigestion and gastric problems.
- Cherry pits
- Garlic and onion
- Finely milled grains
Utilizing Goats for Clearing Brush
This section will discuss how to use goats for brush control and how many of them you need to do the job.
How Many Goats Per Acre are Needed to Clear a Brush?
The rough estimate is that it takes 8 to 12 goats to clear one acre a month. But it may vary depending on the type of brush, the goat breed used, and how fast they eat.
If your land has a thicker brush than usual, you may need more goats for that timeframe.
It can also vary depending on whether you want to completely strip off the brush from the acreage so it won’t grow or trim it and leave it intact to regrow later.
However, you must note that the more goats you employ in an area, the more they’ll have to compete for food. Therefore you need to be careful and ensure they get enough nutrition.
Additionally, your land will have more feces if they’re crowded together.
It would be best to consider what you want to do with the goats after the grazing season. Would you sell them, or could you afford to keep them or use them for other purposes?
You need to ponder those questions to avoid getting caught off guard.
How Long Will It Take for Goats to Clear Brush?
As said earlier, it’ll vary depending on the goat’s breed, speed, and the brush to clear.
One farmer, for example, reported that ten goats could clear an acre of brushes in 1 month, while another farmer has observed that 30 goats can clear half an acre in 3 or 4 days.
But the rule of thumb is to get started with just a few goats and test them out. Then add more goats for faster clearing. That technique is called High Stocking Density.
Will the Goats Be Able to Completely Clear the Brush After Finishing Browsing?
Goats can reduce around 50% to 90% of brushes in a year, but it may take years to eradicate them completely.
So don’t expect they can eliminate the brushes in just one session.
However, the brush will grow slower than before if they eat the brush far enough. But know that some weeds grow faster than others.
What to Do Before Letting Your Goats Out to Clear Brushes
Analyze the Cost
Before anything else, weigh in if your brush and weed problem in your property really needs goats’ help.
If your property is small and you don’t have much time, it may be cost-effective to clear it yourself by renting a bush hog or hiring a professional to do the job.
However, if your lot is vast and you have more than a week to clear the brush weeds, the brush goats may be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Inform Your Neighbors
Don’t forget to let your neighbors know about your brush-clearing plans because some neighborhoods may object.
They may get annoyed with the noise of the ruminants, not to mention the significant chance that the goats may escape and damage their gardens and plants.
We also recommend checking your area’s local laws and ordinances before the process to avoid paying fines.
Check For the Presence of Herbicides
Before bringing the brush goats in, the next step is to ensure no traces of herbicides can poison the ruminants.
Check if there’s any herbicide applied recently and if it’s safe for goats to browse in it.
Identify the Toxic Plants in the Area
We listed the toxic plants for goats above, so you need to identify every plant and eliminate those hazardous plants for the ruminants.
Choose the Right Season
Goats can eat brushes anytime, but if you want to optimize the damage to unwanted plants, do it during the early spring and summer.
Clearing the brushes with goats in late summer or early fall has little to no effect on the regrowth the following year.
Document the Process
After setting up the fence in the area, observe how much vegetation is there and take before and after photos for better documentation.
Then, if possible, try adding a few goats at a time and see the difference they make.
Set The Fences and Area Up
Normally, goats begin at the base of a hill and work their way up. So set up and plan your paddock properly.
You could introduce your goats to their paddocks, starting with the larger ones. They can remove some of the bigger brush and plant growth that is higher up and more difficult to get.
You can bring the smaller goats to work on the brush closer to the ground after the larger goats have finished trimming things down.
Many brush goat herders bring in all the goats simultaneously to save time.
But remember that when your goats eat weeds less than 6 inches from the ground, they are more likely to consume parasite eggs.
So, you might want to shift your goats to a different paddock once they have consumed down to about 6 inches.
The top sections of plants are typically attacked first by goats, and then they move downward.
Brush Clearing Tips When Using Goats
Avoid Tethering Your Goat
Tethering refers to putting a collar on your goat’s neck and tying a leash from its collar to a wire, a rope line that is a few feet above the ground.
Some goat farmers tend to do it when there’s not enough fencing to keep the goats in place and prevent the ruminants from running away.
They then stake the goats out by tying them to a stake driven into the ground. However, it comes with several downsides.
Doing so can make the goats more vulnerable to predators like coyotes because they’ll be out in the open and won’t be able to run away from the predators when they’re tethered.
A fence is still the better option, but if you really need a tether, supervise your goats the entire time and don’t leave them unattended.
Apply Rotational Grazing
Your goats may start damaging and killing trees in the long run if there’s insufficient brush inside the fenced area.
These mammals can easily strip off the bark all around the tree, causing it to die within just a few weeks.
But you can avoid it by making sure there are other brushes in the area your goats like more than the tree bark.
Another option is to surround each tree with wire mesh to prevent goats from gnawing on the bark. The more goats present and the longer the period without sufficient brush, the more harm will be done to the trees.
Return the goats after the leaves grow again in areas that need longer-term clearing.
You may also try rotating with other animals, such as cows and chickens, which is one strategy many farmers claim to be successful.
Cows are grazers, so they can clean up after the goats. Chickens can also help control pests by eating bugs and parasites that threaten other animals.
Some even combine these animals, but you must ensure the paddock won’t get too crowded.
Additionally, cows and horses are known for stepping on goats, and goats may step on chickens, so keep an eye on them.
Check Your Goats Daily
Goats are excellent escape artists, so you must check whether they’re inside an enclosed or fenced area.
You must also ensure abundant food for goats inside the fenced area.
Track the Cost
Don’t forget to keep track of your costs of the goat’s feed, shelter, fence, and other expenses. It’s helpful should you decide to start a brush goat rental business.
Frequently Asked Questions About Brush Goat
What type of goat is best for clearing brush?
Alpine goats are among the best goats for eating brush and controlling it because they can reach higher parts of branches. But Boer goats can clear lands faster than them.
How long do brush goats live?
The answer depends on the breed because some breeds, like Alpine goats, have a life expectancy of 15 to 18 years, while Boer goats can live up to 12 to 20 years.
On the other hand, the Kiko have a shorter life expectancy of 8 to 12 years.
Do all goats eat brush?
Goats are herbivores, and they’re not picky, so they can eat almost everything in their path, including brushes, grasses, weeds, vines, small trees, and even poisonous plants if you allow them to.
What breed are brush goats?
Spanish goats are often referred to as brush goats. But Boer, Alpine, Kiko, Pygmy, and hybrid goats also make good goats for brush control.
Goats for Clearing Brush: Final Thoughts
To sum it up, the best goats for clearing brush are Alpine, Boer, Kiko, Angora, Pygmy, Spanish, and Hybrid goats.
They all have pros and cons, but mixing them in the herd or crossbreeding them can be beneficial and help you optimize their brush-clearing capabilities.
However, setting up the fences and the goats’ needs takes a lot of preparation, including water, shelter, supplements, and food.
So, it’s crucial to calculate the cost to see whether using goats for clearing brush is worth it.
But it can be cost-effective to keep the goats used to clear brush for meat and milk production too.
Goat renting can be lucrative and provide additional money-making avenues if you decide to keep them.