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John Harrington: Goats for brush control

[audio:|titles=John Harrington on goats for brush control]

John Harrington, Professor
Department of Landscape Architecture
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 263-4587

Goats for brush control


3:11 – Total Time

0:19 – What the goats are used for
0:53 – How goats become brush clearing machines
1:25 – Stocking rates for brush control
1:52 – Goat management
2:28 – How to acquire goats for brush
3:01 – Lead out


Putting goats to work on the landscape. We’re visiting today with John Harrington. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

Sevie Kenyon: John, welcome to our microphone. Tell us a little bit about how goats are going to work on our landscapes.

John Harrington: One thing I might start out by saying is what we’re looking at the goats in doing is removing brush on what we would call oak woodlands, oak savannah areas. These are areas that were very common in southwestern Wisconsin, in fact all southern Wisconsin. These are also probably our rarest natural communities left. However, we know that a lot of these oak savannahs occur on private properties. Typically we would want to burn these areas or mechanically remove brush, but that really isn’t something that private landowners are going to want to do most of the time.

Sevie Kenyon: How do the goats enter the picture?

John Harrington: We can’t get fire to go through these areas and mechanically brushing is too intense. But goats, which are about 60 percent browse animal, which means they eat woody material, particularly the leaves of woody plants and they start at the top and move downward. By repeated browsing, where we’re going to move them through an area several times, slowly they will reduce the vigor of those shrubs and help remove those shrubs from the system, particularly above-ground growth.

Sevie Kenyon: How many goats per acre, how many acres can goats manage for you, and how long does it take?

John Harrington: Typically we know they recommend eight goats per acre on a thirty day browse regime, but we’re doing this much more intensively. So, what we started out with was about eighty goats on an acre, an acre and one quarter, and we’re doing this for two days and four days. So, we’re comparing those. The two days, they’re making some progress. The four day we’re starting to see some reduction of shrubs.

Sevie Kenyon: How much management do these animals take?

John Harrington: They need to be checked for water. We fence them. What we’re using is fencing that’s very removable and can be moved, because we’re doing rotational grazing, so we’re putting in a paddock and moving the fence and the goats, but largely it’s just checking to see that none of the goats are sick and that there’s water available for them. If the food is out there, the shrubs are out there for them to eat. And we are also measuring body weight of the goats before they go out there and when they come off. Not only do you want to know what it’s doing for vegetation, but we do want to make sure there’s incentive enough for private land owners to put goats on these areas, where and that the goats are going to bulk up in weight and stay healthy, which is a big concern obviously for someone who owns goats.

Sevie Kenyon: John, if a landowner is interested in clearing brush on their property, what steps should they take if they’re interested in goats?

John Harrington: Goats may be a good answer, but goats aren’t always the answer. So, you need to have someone who deals with land management come out and look at your property. I really, really would recommend that, first of all.  But if there’s intensive brush, if there’s enough brush to support goats, then you have a couple of options. You could call a natural land management company that uses goats, or you could be looking into people who raise goats in the area.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with John Harrington, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.