bioLOGICAL weed management

How goats are the natural choice for weeds

There’s a reason weeds survive and thrive in the West.

They have adapted well to dry, arid soil, and over time have become more resistant to herbicides. Also, herbicides like Roundup are being shown to cause cancer.

Goats, however, are nature’s way of helping to control invasive and noxious weeds. Presented at the proper time in your land’s weed cycle, goats can begin to stress the weeds to the point where the weeds don’t survive, and native plants are able to begin their return.

WEEDS COMMON TO MONTANA:

LOVE AT first bite

Goats prefer weeds and brush over grass

What are Weeds?

Invasive Weeds

Aggressive plants that spread into landscapes and take over native plants

 

Noxious Weeds

A plant designated by law as undesirable and requiring control

 

Examples:

Leafy Spurge

Knapweed (Russian and Spotted)

Canada Thistle

Dalmation Toadflax

Musk Thistle

Mullein

Pigweed

What about the seed heads that goats eat?

Well, goats have small mouths and the way that they chew, with a scissor-like motion, destroys much of the seeds that are ingested. Over time, using goats to control weeds gives your native grasses a chance to return to the landscape.

At Ranger Springs Ranch in Bigfork, Montana Highway 35 runs adjacent to one of the pastures. Inevitably, knapweed saw this dry, roadside soil as a perfect place to set up shop, and it did — in a big way.

But by grazing the 20 acre plot over two months, the goats destroyed the knapweed, and now the owner is able to plant native grasses to get this pasture back into productive grassland for cattle and horses.

According to the USDA, seven rare plant species were eliminated in just three years in Glacier National Park, and in some places there has been a 97 percent reduction in available elk forage on land that Spotted Knapweed has invaded.

According to the USDA, when knapweed is left to run unchecked it can create large increases in water runoff and soil erosion.

WHY GOATS?

Goats love to browse the landscape, eating selectively, while cattle and sheep are grazers. Perhaps due to predator adaptation, goats prefer to eat plants that are at eye level and above. Cattle and sheep prefer the natural grasses down low. Our experience is that the goats, given the choice, will eat weeds and brush before going after the good grass down below. Goats are excellent at removing undergrowth and brush, which opens up the canopy to allow more sun to reach the natural grasses.

Goats can be used throughout your landscape to eliminate much of the brushy vegetation and weeds, allowing your cattle or horses to then graze the grass that has been exposed underneath.We’ve seen how goats will eat a Christmas tree left in the pasture before eating the grass.

Goats, being very selective browsers, approach a pasture this way: They eat the seed heads first, if there are any. Then they eat the exposed leaves of the weed, leaving a bare stock. This stock is unable to photosynthesize and go to seed, eventually dying. (This was the result at the Ranger Springs roadside pasture.)

Goats can be used to eat these weeds:

  • Canada Thistle

  • Cheat Grass

  • Common Yansy

  • Common Mullein

  • Dalmatian Toad Flax

  • Dandelions

  • Downy Brome

  • Indian Tobacco

  • Knapweed

  • Kudzu

  • Larkspur

  • Leafy Spurge

  • Loco Weed

  • Musk Thistle

  • Oxide Daisy

  • Plumeless Thistle

  • Poison Hemlock

  • Purple Loostrife

  • Scotch Thistle

  • Spotted Knapweed

  • Sweet Clover

  • Yellow Star Thistle

Like the way the Forest Service has controlled wildfires in the west, the fires are only getting more severe. The same is happening with weed control. Spraying is simply ineffective on some plant species and spraying herbicides leads to more herbicide-resistant weed species.

867 Jackson Meadows Road

Kila, Montana, 59920

406-249-5728

montanagoatcompany@gmail.com

© 2020 Jackson Meadows Montana Properties LLC  

Outbuildings with weeds/MT Goat Co.