No herd yet, but I do have 5 acres of poison oak

fat brown hen

Ridin' The Range
Joined
Aug 5, 2023
Messages
21
Reaction score
68
Points
58
If your neighbor has goats already... could you work out some sort of deal where You purchase enough to make up that dozen he needs and yall share the herd until the job is done and then send them to an auction & split the sale price???? I suspect that they WILL pick what they think is tastiest first, but will then eat pretty much everything else once the choicest bits are gone?
I mean... do we really need a dozen? If the goats receive no supplemental feed, they'll eventually clear the weeds, right? My neighbor's goats are pets, so he's probably unwilling to withhold food.

Incidentally, I mentioned the goat idea to another neighbor who instantly offered me 2 free mini wethers. I get the impression that male goats are kinda like VD roosters -- easy to acquire, tough to get rid of.
 

Ridgetop

Herd Master
Joined
Mar 13, 2015
Messages
6,702
Reaction score
22,821
Points
693
Location
Shadow Hills, CA
Pass on the offer of the free mini wethers. There is a reason they are being given away. Male wethered goat (castrated) are definitely in the pet category. Especially mini wethers. Remember that you do not want minis or dwarfs. They will be harder to fence in due to size and will not eat enough for your purpose due to size. Like getting a Chihuahua when you need a Great Dane.

A single hot wire will not keep the goats in but using electric netting will. Look online for electric netting for goats. The best brand is Premier. You will also need an electric charger. You can get a good solar charger at Tractor Supply. Electric netting will alsohelp to keep stray dogs and coyotes away during the day. At night you want to put them in an enclosure with 6' sides (a commercial dog kennel will work) and you can get those cheaply at Lowes or Tractor Supply.

Goats can definitely be trained to return home in the evening for a small feed of alfalfa or grain. Since they will be foraging all day, grain will be cheaper and easier to transport and store in a metal trash can. Barleycorn (a mixture of rolled corn and barley) is cheapest. Otherwise the cheapest s"sweet feed" wi do. Yu can even mix them to make the cost of sweetened feed cheaper "Sweet feed" is any grain sweetened with molasses. It is slightly sticky, but just like candy for kids animals love it!

Donkeys may be good but are more discriminating with what they eat and require some grazing. Most sheep and goat people avoid them because they have been known to kill newborn lambs and kids.

BTW, there is a difference between grazing and foraging. Grazing is grass eating while foraging means brush, bushes, trees, etc. You need foraging type eaters like goats. Grazers need grass. Some breeds of sheep will forage, but goats will do the job much better.

You don't need a dozen goats unless you have a short timeline to clear the poison ivy. 3 goats will do the job - it will just take a little longer depending on the size of the area. By confining them to a smaller area - starting with 1/4 acre? - they will clear that first area to the ground quickly. Then enlarge the area or move the fence to enclose another section, and they will clear that too. The electric netting is not cheap, nor is the charger, but you can use that fencing for years, and add to it with more sections of netting. The only area you will have to clear will be where the netting is supposed to go. It you are on a hillside, there is a tye of netting recommended for hillsides. You can also call the premier fence people direct and they will give you help on what you might need. I would recommend buying extra support posts for the slopes, and get the heavy-duty drive-in ones on the fencing. Depending on whether you are on hard clay slopes or light sandy soil you will need different posts. Premier people can help you with that.

Your best bet is to figure out how much $$ it is costing you to hire people each year. Take that number and multiply the cost of the yard crew to clear the poison ivy each year by the number of times you think you will have to use them.

Then figure the initial cost of the fencing, charger, night kennel, grain, and goats. Once you have those figures divide them by the number of years the goats will work for you.

While the initial expense may be a couple thousand (and surprise you) it is much less than the yard crews for one year. The goat cost will decrease exponentially for each year they continue to keep the poison ivy and brush cleared. And if you decide you prefer paying the yard crew $$$ each year, you can easily sell the charger and electric fencing on Craigslist. The fencing and the charger will be in demand.

There is one danger! Like a lot of us you may find you fall in love with Goats!
 

fat brown hen

Ridin' The Range
Joined
Aug 5, 2023
Messages
21
Reaction score
68
Points
58
Pass on the offer of the free mini wethers. There is a reason they are being given away. Male wethered goat (castrated) are definitely in the pet category. Especially mini wethers. Remember that you do not want minis or dwarfs. They will be harder to fence in due to size and will not eat enough for your purpose due to size. Like getting a Chihuahua when you need a Great Dane.
I passed on these two, but I hesitate to completely dismiss the minis and dwarves. Seems convenient to be able to load one in a dog crate and take it to the vet. I assume larger goats need a livestock trailer (which I don't have). IIRC there was an episode of Top Gear where they tried to transport goats in a minivan; the goats ate all the upholstery and an ashtray.

The main reason (for me) to get larger goats is that they are less likely to become coyote food. But if they'll be surrounded by electric net, then it doesn't matter. Little goats will eventually clear brush, it just takes longer, right?

A single hot wire will not keep the goats in but using electric netting will. Look online for electric netting for goats. The best brand is Premier. You will also need an electric charger. You can get a good solar charger at Tractor Supply. Electric netting will alsohelp to keep stray dogs and coyotes away during the day. At night you want to put them in an enclosure with 6' sides (a commercial dog kennel will work) and you can get those cheaply at Lowes or Tractor Supply.

Goats can definitely be trained to return home in the evening for a small feed of alfalfa or grain. Since they will be foraging all day, grain will be cheaper and easier to transport and store in a metal trash can. Barleycorn (a mixture of rolled corn and barley) is cheapest. Otherwise the cheapest s"sweet feed" wi do. Yu can even mix them to make the cost of sweetened feed cheaper "Sweet feed" is any grain sweetened with molasses. It is slightly sticky, but just like candy for kids animals love it!

Donkeys may be good but are more discriminating with what they eat and require some grazing. Most sheep and goat people avoid them because they have been known to kill newborn lambs and kids.

BTW, there is a difference between grazing and foraging. Grazing is grass eating while foraging means brush, bushes, trees, etc. You need foraging type eaters like goats. Grazers need grass. Some breeds of sheep will forage, but goats will do the job much better.

You don't need a dozen goats unless you have a short timeline to clear the poison ivy. 3 goats will do the job - it will just take a little longer depending on the size of the area. By confining them to a smaller area - starting with 1/4 acre? - they will clear that first area to the ground quickly. Then enlarge the area or move the fence to enclose another section, and they will clear that too. The electric netting is not cheap, nor is the charger, but you can use that fencing for years, and add to it with more sections of netting. The only area you will have to clear will be where the netting is supposed to go. It you are on a hillside, there is a tye of netting recommended for hillsides. You can also call the premier fence people direct and they will give you help on what you might need. I would recommend buying extra support posts for the slopes, and get the heavy-duty drive-in ones on the fencing. Depending on whether you are on hard clay slopes or light sandy soil you will need different posts. Premier people can help you with that.
Excellent info, thanks! I currently have Zareba chargers with electric net for the chickens.

Your best bet is to figure out how much $$ it is costing you to hire people each year. Take that number and multiply the cost of the yard crew to clear the poison ivy each year by the number of times you think you will have to use them.

Then figure the initial cost of the fencing, charger, night kennel, grain, and goats. Once you have those figures divide them by the number of years the goats will work for you.

While the initial expense may be a couple thousand (and surprise you) it is much less than the yard crews for one year. The goat cost will decrease exponentially for each year they continue to keep the poison ivy and brush cleared. And if you decide you prefer paying the yard crew $$$ each year, you can easily sell the charger and electric fencing on Craigslist. The fencing and the charger will be in demand.
I'm leery of such calculations. I did this way back when I was deciding to get chickens -- "I'll save so much money on eggs!" -- next thing I know, I'm spending $$$ on coops, coop expansions, exhaust fans, predator cameras, fence, fence chargers, mealworms, medical care ... and so on.

It's not about money (within reason). There needs to be a significant savings in work to make it worthwhile. Raising goats must be less work than me cutting/spraying poison oak by hand. Hiring a yard crew is the least amount of work, but their equipment causes erosion (from the tank treads), so I use them sparingly.

There is one danger! Like a lot of us you may find you fall in love with Goats!
Oh no :oops: That is what I am most afraid of.
 

SageHill

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 27, 2022
Messages
3,149
Reaction score
11,799
Points
473
Location
Southern CA
The minis and the dwarfs eat a lot less than the full size goats. Thing the difference between what a German Shepherd eats and a Chihuahua. The smaller ones are also more prone to predators - though predators are a threat to all.
 

fat brown hen

Ridin' The Range
Joined
Aug 5, 2023
Messages
21
Reaction score
68
Points
58
The minis and the dwarfs eat a lot less than the full size goats. Thing the difference between what a German Shepherd eats and a Chihuahua. The smaller ones are also more prone to predators - though predators are a threat to all.
What if I get twice as many mini goats? Or are they not strong enough to chew through dense brush?
 

canesisters

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 29, 2012
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
5,404
Points
413
Location
South Eastern VA
I think you'd do best to get the full sized ones.
You've got less chance of losing them to predators - regardless of how they're fenced or what protectors are with them.
You'll put less feed into 5 big goats than into 10 or 15 little ones. Remember.. there is ALWAYS a bit of waste with each animal.
It's easier (I think?) to pen up 10 goats at night - regardless of their size - than 20
And don't forget.. they can only clear as high as they can reach! I borrowed a couple of lamancha goats (that's the big ones with little elf ears?) a few years ago to clear out a wooded area that was so thick with underbrush (mostly poison this & that and briars) that you couldn't see through it. In just a couple of weeks they had it looking like a park!!!! Nothing but pine mulch & tree trunks from about 6' high down to the ground! So much faster that I would've ever expected.
 

Ridgetop

Herd Master
Joined
Mar 13, 2015
Messages
6,702
Reaction score
22,821
Points
693
Location
Shadow Hills, CA
Finding a Scottish Highland cow in the area might be difficult and expensive. Goats are easy to find, particularly if you are not looking for registered ones in a specific breed.

If you want the least work for yourself, then continue to hire someone to come in and clear the underbrush, trim the trees, and clean out and then spray the poison ivy/oak. The only effort on your part will be writing a large check.

You can talk to your neighbor with the goats and ask f he will put his goats on your property if you buy several rolls of electric netting. Since you already have the chargers that may be the most economical. He can put up the netting and move it as his goats clear the area. He will feed them in the evenings, take care of their health, and be responsible for them. Since he doesn't speak English well, use a translator to discuss your proposition with him.
 

fat brown hen

Ridin' The Range
Joined
Aug 5, 2023
Messages
21
Reaction score
68
Points
58
I think you'd do best to get the full sized ones.
You've got less chance of losing them to predators - regardless of how they're fenced or what protectors are with them.
You'll put less feed into 5 big goats than into 10 or 15 little ones. Remember.. there is ALWAYS a bit of waste with each animal.
It's easier (I think?) to pen up 10 goats at night - regardless of their size - than 20
And don't forget.. they can only clear as high as they can reach! I borrowed a couple of lamancha goats (that's the big ones with little elf ears?) a few years ago to clear out a wooded area that was so thick with underbrush (mostly poison this & that and briars) that you couldn't see through it. In just a couple of weeks they had it looking like a park!!!! Nothing but pine mulch & tree trunks from about 6' high down to the ground! So much faster that I would've ever expected.
OH YEAH, that's a good point. I'll be moving them around, and a bunch of little goats will probably be like herding cats.
You might also consider a scottish highland cow or 2???
This is completely 2nd-hand, but I've heard that they browse like goats and will eat things that most other cows won't touch.
If gentle and tame, they'd probably re-sale pretty easily once the job's done.
That would be awesome if true! I'm not sure if they're easily available in my area (or if they would do well in a hot desert climate). We do have a lot of weedy/grassy areas that might be good for cattle, but those are no problem for me to mow.
 
Top