Lew the Goat Guy really knows and loves his goats. He has recently started hiring them out to do "prescribed grazing", helping folks like us clear property. Their work is eating, and they love their work. (Business name: Vegetation Management Services, in Vernonia, Oregon.)
Shannon and I are both interested in having a few goats at Haven. She wants to raise Pygoras for fiber, while I am interested in training up a couple of larger goats as harness goats, to help with hauling stuff around the property. I would also like to periodically get a few wethers to help with clearing, and later turn into meat for the freezer, along with the rabbit meat. Shannon calls it "sending them to Freezer Camp". I'm also toying with the idea of keeping a milche goat or two -- but that is a heavy commitment that I'll have to think about for a while. Still, both Lee and I are interested in making cheese.
So, when I saw the article about Lew's goats, and saw that they were near Haven, I thought it might be a good and timely idea to turn them loose on an especially large bramble patch and some other tough areas, and at the same time to get an idea how much clearing goats will do in a given period of time. We want to be careful not to have so many goats that we overgraze the land.
Here are a few pictures:
Lew's 4 wheel drive truck was the first street vehicle to come up our proposed driveway, so I thought I'd record the occasion.
Lew and his red-haired son Rob set up a portable fence to corral the goats. The fencing they used seems very handy -- it has built-in stakes every ten feet or so, and is designed to be electrified, producing an 8-strand electric fence. It is lightweight and rolls into a compact bundle. Because of the particulars of our job, Lew decided he would simply stay with the goats, and wouldn't need to charge us the fence. He says his goats associate the fencing with unpleasant shocks, so they have learned to stay away from it, whether it is electrified or not.
When I arrived the next day, the small herd of 18 goats had done a great job of clearing the green stuff, and were taking a break to process what they's eaten.
These goats are standing and browsing on the remains of what had been a tall and nearly inpenetrable blackberry thicket. I was pleased to see it so eaten and beaten down. There are still canes left, which we will need to cut and remove, but that will be easier now. And even if we do not get to that before the surveyers arrive, they can now see through the area to survey, which was a significant goal.
They were not only efficient, but quiet, curious,and quite personable. They'd been eating all day, but when Lew moved the fence to open up an untouched area, they crowded into it without hesitation, eating with gusto. I wish I'd gotten pictures of them climbing and leaping over the many fallen maple trees in the area -- even the two tiny kids among them had no difficulty navigating the barriers to get at the forage. (Unfortunately, my storage card filled up. )
I remember thinking that we'd better be careful to keep the numbers of goats we have down to a manageable size, to protect the green and growing things!
Yeah, I think I could enjoy having goats.