Pasture Brush Control Using Goats

goats grazing on brush

By Megan Oleksyn

Recently I attended the Western Stock Growers€™ Association€™s (WSGA) summer meeting, this year held in Donalda, AB. Why Donalda, you ask? I asked the same question after I got out my google map and found out just where Donalda was.

The answer to €˜why Donalda?€™ really intrigued me.  In this small Alberta town, one of the most innovative pasture projects I have ever come across was taking place. Sponsored in part by the WSGA, they decided to have their annual summer meeting there to allow those of us ignorant about the project (and goats in general) to experience it.

The project entails the use goats to control brush in areas where chemical application or mechanical removal of brush is not a viable option.  On this particular 400 acre piece in central Alberta, 800 goats were grazed for approximately 3 weeks to knock back brush and allow the grass to regrow where it had been previously overtaken.  Within the central Parkland region, overgrazing by cattle can encourage shrubs, buckbrush and other components of a forested area to encroach onto areas that would naturally be open grassland.  The objective of introducing goats to the area is to set back woody growths and allow more productive species to recover, while maintaining forest and rangeland health.

We all know that left in a pasture, cattle will select for grass species, causing these species to decrease and the forbs and shrub populations to increase.  Conversely, goats are browers and mixed feeders, meaning that they will select for forbs and woody species first (which are unpalatable to cattle), thus allowing grasses to increase.  Depending on the ratios of grass to brush, goats and cattle can actually be grazed together, without an adverse affect on either in terms of food availability.

So, instead of firing up that D12 cat to clear pasture next time, consider unleashing a liner load or two of goats instead.

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Categories: Cattle / Research