Using goats to clear brush from your property

Goat eating grass

Weeds 3 feet tall? Don’t want to douse your yard with poisonous weed killers? More and more people are renting goats with voracious appetites to do the dirty work cleanly. We’ll tell you what you need to know about renting goats to clear brush and unwanted plants from your property.

Why rent goats?

Three words: Goats are voracious. They are born vegetarians and are not picky. They eat virtually everything in their path – grass, shrubs, weeds, vines and small trees, even poisonous plants if you let them. A couple of dozen goats can clear a half acre of brush and weeds in a few days.

Goats do not eliminate weeds completely, however. Instead, they chew weeds down to nubs so you can regain control of your yard. The weeds will grow back, but goats get you to a manageable starting point so you can deal with the weeds using more conventional methods, whether it’s mowing or applying herbicides.

Sure, you can apply gallons of herbicides or rent a bush hog, but there are downsides to both. Herbicides can be toxic to good plants, and goats are able to get to hard-to-reach places that a bush hog can’t.

One woman’s experience

When Jeanne Kaplan of Indianapolis inherited her mother’s home, it was “overwhelmed with weeds,” she said. Kaplan didn’t want to spray a bunch of weedkillers on the yard but instead was looking for a natural, biological weed-control method. 

She recalled that her mom liked goats and often talked about having them on the property.

“I saw a story about goats being used in parks,” Kaplan said. “I didn’t want to spray because of the dogs. And I have toads in the yard, and the spray could kill toads.” The weeds were so high and dense that mowing was not an option.

So Kaplan turned to Goats on the Go.

Indianapolis’ Goats on the Go co-owner Kaitlin Hossom visited Kaplan’s property to determine logistics and provide a cost estimate. She also scouted for plants that would be toxic to the goats. On weed clean-up day, Hossom delivered the goats in a trailer and penned them in an area encircled by a solar-powered, portable electric fence. The fence was laid out to keep the goats focused on the trouble spots but also to keep them away from toxic plants, such as yews. The 26 goats spent less than two days in Kaplan’s back yard, and gnawed the weeds down to nubs.

What to expect

Renting goats for weed control is a little more involved than just placing an order online. Here are some things you should expect:

  • You should know that you won’t get just one goat. Goats are very social animals, so the rental company will likely show up with multiple goats.
  • A responsible, experienced goat rental company will visit your property to assess how many goats are needed, to plan fencing, to evaluate whether there are any poisonous plants in the area, to determine how to protect roses and other desirable plants, and to offer a cost estimate.
  • You will not have full access to the area where the goats are penned, so plan for that. For instance, make sure the fencing does not block you from your vegetable garden or the path to the garage.
  • On the agreed upon day, the company will bring the goats to the property and set them up inside a portable fenced area. Goats on the Go provides water and food supplements for its goats.
  • The goats remain until the job is done. In some instances, goats may be left for a month or more, especially in expansive areas such as parklands or woodlands with invasive species. 

Things to consider before renting

Renting goats isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to clearing property. There are some things to consider:

  • Is your weed and brush problem big enough for a goat solution? It may be cost-effective to rent goats if you have several acres or more and a week or more to invest in clearing the brush and weeds. If you have a small piece of property, it may make more sense to rent a bush hog and clear it yourself or hire a lawn care professional to do it.
  • Consider whether your neighbors will object. Goats might not be welcome in a cozy neighborhood. A dozen bleating goats on an acre, 100 feet from your neighbor’s bedroom window, can be quite a nuisance.
  • Goats poop. A half dozen or more goats will produce a lot of manure over the course of a couple of days. It can be collected and eventually used as fertilizer. If you don’t want it, will the rental company collect it and dispose of it? Be sure to ask.
  • Talk to the rental company representative about any concerns you may have, such as who bears the responsibility if a goat escapes its pen, eats a desirable plant, or causes unexpected damage.

The cost of renting

Goat rental costs $400 to $800 an acre, depending on the size and configuration of the property and types of plants. By contrast a lawn care professional will charge $1,000 or more per acre to clear thick brush

Both of those options are considerably more expensive than a DIY application of a weed-killing herbicide, such as a ready-to-use glyphosate, which costs $25 to $30 a gallon.

The final word

Clearing dense brush and weeds from your property can be a daunting task – goats or no goats. If you’d prefer to rely on a company with expertise in the area, call a Lawn Love lawn care professional.

Main photo credit: Jason | Pixabay

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp award-winning garden writer, editor, and speaker. (She speaks at libraries, garden clubs, public gardens, home and garden shows, Master Gardener groups, and horticulture industry events.) Known as a hortiholic, she frequently says her eyes are too big for her yard. She blogs at hoosiergardener.com.