Goats for Custom Brush Control
Using goats for custom brush control is at times referred to as a “rent-a-goat” operation. Many landowners that need goats for vegetation management may not want to get into the goat business due to a lack of expertise, capital, time, or other resources. This provides potential for goat producers to capitalize on free grazing and/or get paid for grazing. Landowners needing these services include the federal government, such as the Forest Service or Army Corps of Engineers, state governments, and local governments that want to control brush in drainage areas, on lake dams, and to reduce fire hazards in residential areas. The Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies have utilized the services of custom brush control by goats, but due to budgetary constraints have mainly provided only free grazing.
The main constraints to rent-a-goat businesses include cost of fencing, water supply, the need to check on animals daily, and a place to keep goats when not being used to control brush. The latter constraint applies particularly to government agencies that typically want their land free of goats by deer hunting season. In some free grazing situations provided by government entities, the hosting agency may be able to provide some assistance “in-kind.” This may be through providing a water source, varying degrees of fencing materials and/or labor, or the provision of a person to check on water and goats daily. However, the goat owner would still be expected to resolve any problems relating to escaped or sick animals. As fencing is a major hurdle in making a rent-a-goat operation work, this potential should be explored. Electric fence is cheap, but requires management. Existing fence can often be modified to contain goats; however, if new fencing is required funding will be the biggest challenge. If a private rancher is giving or paying a goat producer for weed and brush control, the above considerations will apply.
Hart, S. 2006. Goats for Vegetation Management. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.