The only exposure to goats the average North American has had is perhaps a few pets at a petting zoo and fabled bedtime stories. So its not uncommon for most folks to have a difficult time envisioning the art of target browsing when I describe a site of a few hundred goats with no fences and a few herding and guard dogs. For most of our clients seeing is believing, and the intensive process of target browsing is only executed by a skilled land-steward.
The key is in how we do it, it’s a strategy that requires attention to detail and a knowledge of the livestock and land. You don’t just throw up a fence and pray, this requires good old-fashioned common-sense and hard work.
How Target Browsing Works
A great Example of how it all works ~The Goat King
Click for further explanation
Selectively removes vs. killing everything
Target browsing reduces kill off of preferred vegetation like native species and crops. Goats are browsers and prefer broad-leaf plants (like weeds) to grasses unlike sheep and cattle. Our staff keep the goats moving and targeted on the invasive plants.
Target browsing reduces liability. Target Browsing is free of toxic chemicals which can have adverse effects on; staff, landowners, neighbors, pets, livestock, wildlife, crops, wetlands, riparian areas and sensitive natural areas. Many toxic chemicals have been found to cause Autism, Infertility, Alzheimer’s & Cancer. Pesticides and herbicides accumulate in soils, adsorb to the soil and are often water-soluble. Toxic chemicals become more concentrated over the summer as they have a long half-life and are re-applied to plants. Toxic chemicals can migrate off-site, contaminate water and every time they are used an inherent amount of exposure and liability is assumed.
Target browsing reduces limitations and economic loss from; human error of misidentified plants and using the wrong chemical application. Steeply sloped landscapes are no problem for goats. Goats can access invasive plants in dense brush and clear dense brush making work safer and faster for timber removal. Goats eat chemical resistant plants and because the whole plant is eaten there is no opportunity for plant mutation or a reproductive response when a dying plant uses its last reserve of energy into seed production. Goats are effective in wind, rain and sun.
Target browsing reduces overall duration and cost of plant management programs because target browsing promotes natural succession. While the initial treatment and eradication of invasive plants is relatively the same timeline, there is far less disturbance to the site soils and no need to amend soils. Nutrients are still available for native plants to compete with invasive weeds. Shortening the timeframe of overall site management. The costs of target browsing are significantly less than other methods. Several studies show target browsing with goats reduces weeds by 95%.
Safe for Soil & Water
Target browsing will not damage soil and you won’t need soil amendments. Countless studies show that the adsorption of herbicides interferes with the cation ion exchange in soils and causes leachates of metals and nutrients from soils which impact water and prevent nutrients from getting to other plants. Soil pH changes after 2 applications of herbicides and facilitates further weed infestations. When chemicals are used in agricultural areas and parks, where preferred vegetation is wanted, amendments must be made to the soil.
Don't Distribute Seeds
Goats stomachs are so acidic they actually destroy weed seeds and prevent seed distribution, they can also digest weeds that would otherwise be toxic to other livestock. If not timed perfectly right, mowers can actually distribute seeds and chemical spraying can trigger a reproduction response in plants, where the dying plants put their last reserve of energy into seed production and make the problem worse.
Increase Soil Nutrients
Target browsing increases soil nutrients. Goat’s digestion break down nutrients that are trapped in weeds and fibrous material and make it readily available for desired plants. Goat manure has a healthy N-P-K ratio and has been proven in several studies to not be a concern for smell or nutrient overloading with short application rates.
Safe in Sensitive Areas
Target browsing is safe in sensitive areas and places where sensitive receptors are near by like; water bodies, parks, hospitals, organic farms and markets. Goats are safe to use in riparian areas and won’t damage fragile plants and soil like cattle do. Goats do not compete with wildlife but enhance forages.
So what weeds will a goat eat?
Canada Golden Rod
Yucca (leaves and blossoms)
Don’t see something on here you want to manage, give us a call and we can always try it.