Using goats for grazing can make clearing brush around your home or farm a breeze. Goats are one of the oldest species of animals that have been domesticated. They serve various purposes from milk production to meat to grazing. They are also used for their fur and skin.
Goats are animals that naturally love to browse. They can chew anything chewable and this makes them great for grazing. They enjoy it when they are permitted to graze and they help in clearing brush and weeds.
Some of the best goats for grazing include:
- Brush goats
- Alpine goats
- Boer goats
- Pygmy goats
- Nigerian Dwarf goats
- Anglo Nubian goats
We look into all these in better detail throughout this article.
Grazing according to the English dictionary is the action of animals eating, mainly of grass in a field or on other grasslands.
Below you will not only be shown best goats for grazing but also several other things you need to know about grazing goats.
Brush goats are strong, hardy and resistant to most common diseases. They easily adapt to harsh climatic conditions. Brush goats are generally used to control weeds.
Most of them are cross breeds, making them best for several options. Most of these brush goats are not just good for clearing lands, they are also very good for meat production, diary use and some even make good companions (pets).
Here are the best grazing goats you should consider having in your homestead:
Alpines goats originated in the French Alps. Alpine goats’ sizes usually range from medium to large size. They are good domesticated breeds for milk production. They are a great choice too for grazing. They don’t really have set colors or marking. They are horned and have a straight profile and erect ears.
They have a hardy nature which helps them adapt to any climatic condition. They are the only breed with erect ears that comes in all colors and combinations of colors. The buck kids mature sexually within four to six months after birth, while the doe kids mature sexually within five to six months after birth. The doe kids are best bred when they have reached at least 75-80 lbs.
They have good personalities and can make good herd leaders. They are a good option for brush clearing. Their big size is a good advantage to them as they can reach higher parts of branches.
Country of origin – France
Use – Dairy, crisscrossing and grazing
- Male: no less than 77 kg (170 lbs)
- Female: no less than 61 kg (135 lbs)
- Male: no less than 81 cm (32 in)
- Female: no less than 76 cm (30 in)
Skin color – Variable
Boer goats originated from South Africa in the 1900s. They are best kept for meat production rather than milk production. They’ve undergone selective breeding and improvement.
They have a fast growth rate in addition to their meat production. They are one of the most popular breeds of goat kept for meat production in the world today. They have high resistance to diseases and can adapt perfectly to hot and dry weather conditions.
Boer goats are commonly white, while some can be completely brown. They have distinctive brown heads. They have long pendulous/drooping ears. They grow very fast and are docile. They also have high-fertility rate.
Their doe goats have been observed to have higher mothering skills compared to other breeds.
Boer goats are very hardy and will make a good grazing option. They clear lands a little faster than most other breeds.
Country of Origin – South Africa
Use – Meat, crossbreeding, grazing
Weight – 22–36 kg
Colors – distinctive brown head, white bodies and some completely brown.
The pygmy goats originated from West Africa. Between 1930 and 1960, pygmy goats were imported to The United States. They were kept in the zoo, and some for research. It was established as a breed in 1975 after some were kept and bred as companion animals.
The Pygmy goats are small and stocky, with heavy bones. They make great pets and are very good for meat. They have multiple periods of estrus in a year, are prolific and are characterized by exceptionally early development and maturity. Their kids usually become matured sexually within two months. Their gestation normally lasts between 145–153 days.
They are small in size and easy to handle. This makes them good for scientific research. It has been noted to have good production of antibodies for immunological research.
Their small, compact and stockily built body makes them good options for clearing brush.
Weight – 23–39 kg
Height – 40–50 cm
Horn status – horned in both sexes
Beard – males bearded
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
The Nigerian dwarf goats are small but perfectly proportioned. It may be horned or naturally hornless. Their coats are fine. They come in different colours with upright ears. Their facial profile is usually either concave or straight.
They are also characterized by early development and maturity. The makes can be bred from about three months of age while the female is from about seven to eight months of age. They have a gestation period that ranges from 145–153 days.
They are bred for show purposes, as companion animals and for diary purposes. Their lactation usually lasts for about ten months, making them a good option for diary use. They are strong and hardy, and can be used for grazing purposes.
Use – milk, meat, show, companion animal and grazing
- Male: 19–23.5 inches (48–60 cm)
- Female: 17–22.5 inches (43–57 cm)
Color – any color
Horn status – horned or hornless
The Anglo Nubian Goat
The Anglo-Nubian is a British breed of domestic goat. It originated from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. They have large and pendulous ears. They also have a convex profile.
The Anglo-Nubian is large and has more flesh than most other dietary breeds. Their breed standard specifies large sizes. They are dis-budded when they are two weeks of age and thereby normally kept hornless.
They are great for grazing. You are not to be perturbed whether they will stuck their horns in between branches during grazing since they are kept hornless.
Country of origin – United Kingdom
Use – dual-purpose, meat and dairy, grazing
- Male: up to: 140 kg (310 lb)
- Female: up to: 110 kg (240 lb)
- Male: average: 90 cm (35 in)
- Female: average: 80 cm (31 in)
Are Goats Good for Grazing?
If the question is, “Are goats good for grazing?” The answer is “Yes”. If you have vegetation and don’t mind your goats feeding on it, then they are a good option for grazing.
Goats are very good and excellent when it comes to consuming weeds, shrubs, and other unwanted plants.
Goats are animals with strong digestive systems. Their digestive systems can even digest a thorn found on leaves of some plants with ease.
Goats are good when used not just as milk, meat and pet, but also as weed control machines. Research has shown that goats have the ability to eat almost all vegetation irrespective of their structure.
Goats are herbivores and can eat anything that comes their way as long as it looks like a plant/grass. So, protect all garden flowers around your homestead if you don’t want the goats to take good care of them (in a baaaad way).
Using Goats for Grazing
Before you get started, it’s important you know that goats may not always clear your lawns perfectly.
Another important fact to note when using goats for grazing is the different sizes of goats. Raise different sized goats together in a herd. This helps to make sure all plants/weeds of different sizes are consumed.
For instance, the Boer goats are large goat breeds and so can consume plants and weeds of six (6) feet to seven (7) feet. The Pygmies are dwarf species and can be very good for plants and weeds of lower heights. You will achieve a better result when you graze with different goat sizes.
Benefits of Using Goats to Graze
There are a couple of benefits of using goats for grazing. They include:
- Using goats to graze is a means of creating an opportunity for the goats to play and have fun, since browsing is what they love to do naturally.
- It will save you cost of feed because by the time they are done grazing they will not need much food anymore.
- When you are done using machinery to clear an area of land, you will need goats to clear where these heavy machines cannot enter. Example, side of hills, small pens, and more.
- Using of goats for grazing makes cleaning up of an area of land easier than manual labor. They will save you time and energy.
Be cautious not to set your goats in areas that have risk of potential hazards.
Keeping Your Goats Safe from Poisonous Plants
Before using your goats for grazing, scout the area thoroughly and be certain there’s no toxic plant.
Remove plants if you’re able to do so or fence off the area to keep the livestock from entering the area.
Goats have high tolerance of bitter or high tannin plants. They may end up eating weeds that are not palatable and wild shrubs that may be poisonous, such as cherry or milkweed.
Factors that affect the severity of the poison taken in by the goats:
- The quantity of the poisonous plant consumed
- The age of the poisonous plant consumed
- The age and the size of the grazing goat and some other factors.
Many of the Ornamental plants that are grown in our environments are also very toxic for grazing goats. For example, ornamental plants like yew, azaleas, rhododendrons, delphinium, lily-of-the-valley and larkspur can be very toxic and harmful to your goats.
Ensure they have access to plenty of fresh water, and salt & mineral.
Goats are very active foragers that are able to cover a wide area in search of scarce plant materials. Their mouth and lips are adapted to enable them pick small leaves, flowers, fruits and other plant parts. Most times, they choose only the most nutritious plant/weeds within their reach.
The ability to utilize browse species, which often have thorns and an upright growth habit with small leaves tucked among woody stems, is a unique characteristic of the goat compared to heavier, less agile ruminants. Goats have been observed to stand on their hind legs and stretch up to browse tree leaves or throw their bodies against saplings to bring the tops within reach.
Grazing goats have been observed to:
- select grass over clover.
- prefer browsing over grazing pastures.
- prefer foraging on rough and steep land over flat, smooth land.
- graze along fence lines before grazing the center of a pasture.
- graze the top of pasture canopy fairly uniformly before grazing close to the soil level.
Goats are top down grazers especially in a pasture situation. This attribute results in uniform grazing. It requires using a herd of goat as the first group grazers and then cattle or other heavier ruminants as the last group grazers. This management is more appropriate/ better when using a lactating doe or growing kids for grazing.
Goats are less tolerant of wet cold conditions. As a matter of fact, they hate being wet for any reason. Wet goats can easily fall sick because their fat layers are thinner than that of sheep’s and cattle.
Therefore, it is advisable to provide artificial shelters, such as open sheds.
Multi Specie Grazing
It is no longer news that people graze goats/sheep and cows together. It improves the use of forage and reduces the cost of mowing and spraying of weeds.
Depending on the situation, small ruminants may require a more extensive program to control internal parasites than cattle, which can add to labor demands.
However, there are times that parasite-control program may benefit from multi-species grazing.
Because gastrointestinal parasites from goats or sheep cannot survive in the stomach of cattle and vice versa, multi-species grazing may decrease internal parasite loads. The decreased level of parasites should result in fewer treatments for worms which could slow resistance of parasites to conventional dewormers, an increasing problem with small ruminants. For more info on this, click here.
In a field infected with a high load of larvae from sheep and goat parasites, cattle should be grazed first to pick up the larvae of parasites, and then goats or sheep could graze with less danger of parasite infestation. In other situations, producers may prefer to have small ruminants graze before cattle as most of the larvae of internal parasites are located on plants within four inches of the ground.
Some type of predator control program is essential with sheep and goats since they are more susceptible to feral or local dogs and coyotes than cattle. Cattle may serve as a deterrent to the roaming canines but extra precautions are usually needed.
Livestock guardian animals are most commonly used to protect the small ruminants from predators. But, donkeys, mules, mustangs, and llamas are also used.
If a guardian animal does not protect the herd, it should be replaced.
Additional fencing (to keep goats in and dogs or coyotes out) is usually the most expensive change when grazing small ruminants with cattle. Reinforcing existing fencing with electric fencing is usually the most economical method.
As with all livestock, there may be personality conflicts with mixed species of animals. If this occurs, the least desirable animals involved in the conflict are best culled from the herd.
Another problem with grazing of multiple species is the feeding of minerals.
Usually goats and cattle can tolerate the same mineral unless there appears to be a health concern. However, sheep do not tolerate as high a level of cooper as do goats and cattle if the animals are being co-mingled.
Producers with cattle can obtain greater pounds of meat per acre and can reduce weeds and brush in a pasture when adding small ruminants for multi-species grazing. These benefits need to be compared to the additional labor and fencing requirements for the small ruminants as well as the costs of predator control for sheep or goats.Dr Pennington
Types of Grazing
Control grazing allows goats to graze for a limited time, leaving leafy stubble, after which they are moved to another pasture.
Legumes may reappear in the pasture when control grazing is practiced. Control grazing can help to improve the pasture, extend the grazing season, and helps to reduce the problem of internal parasites.
Here goats are retained in one pasture all through the grazing season. The goats are allowed to make the decision of where to graze, and when to graze.
The above mentioned goat breeds are the best options for grazing. It’s even observed that castrated male goats of the above mentioned species make very good grazing animals.
They focus more on clearing of weeds than mating.
In this article, we went beyond listing the species best for grazing, to give little details and characteristics of this species. We also answered the question “Are goats good for grazing?”
This article also included tips to using goats for grazing, the benefits of using goats for grazing, keeping your grazing goats safe from poisonous plants, goat grazing behavior, multi specie grazing and types of grazing.