|Kali with Goatie (rear) and Clarisse|
When my staff had badgered me long enough that I finally relented and allowed them to get four goats for invasive plant management last April, I asked where they planned to house the animals. They had it all worked out, with plans to retrofit a wooden utility shed and to surround it with woven-wire fencing. All went (reasonably) well until cold weather set in, and we worried about keeping the goats' water tank open (there's no electricity at the shed) and keeping the animals reasonably comfortable on the coldest days.
The staff approached neighbors who had an unused barn on their property. The neighbors had grown up with animals in the barn, but the last horse had departed decades ago. So, the neighbors were amendable to hosting the goats. However, over the decades since the last horse left, the barn had deteriorated and filled with junk. Before the goats could move, the barn needed major cleaning and renovations, which ended up requiring several months because of very slow and casual workers. Now the work is completed, the goats have moved, and invasive plant removal will get underway again as soon as the multiflora rose and the Japanese honeysuckle green-up over the next few weeks.
Are the goats worth it? That goats will eat any- and everything is an exaggeration. They certainly will eat anything green, succulent and tender. Furthermore, they will damage and strip the bark from woody vegetation, but they won't eat it down to the ground as I had hoped. The goats clear a heavily invaded patch, but the staff has to "mop up" with chainsaws, weed-wrenches, and herbicide to kill the woody invasives. In addition, the goats have to walked to the area to be cleared, and then walked back in the evening, requiring staff time. The staff has to erect - and frequently reposition - the electric enclosure that keeps the goats corralled in the field, a task that often requires the staff to clear vegetation in advance of repositioning the electric wires. Could we achieve the same results at lower cost just using just the staff? Probably. But, the goats are friendly, they're endearing, the public likes them, and they've become a bit of a tourist attraction.