Thursday, August 8, 2013

Use Goats to Clear Your Land

A couple of summers ago we had a rash of wild-fires in East Texas and it inspired me to start clearing a wider area around my farm house.  The woods here are thick.  Not only are there trees, large and small; but there are honeysuckle vines, grape vines, and green briar vines growing over everything.  It’s a formidable clearing job.  I recently enlisted the help of two pygmy nanny goats that I bought from a friend of mine.  Joy and Abbey are small little things, maybe 18 inches at the shoulder and they don’t weigh over 40 pounds each, but boy can they eat.  They are the best brush clearers that you’ve ever seen.

Of course I needed to control the area that they clear so I built them a movable pen out of T-posts and cattle panels.  The panels are 16 feet long, so I put in T-posts 8 feet apart and wired the panels to them using tie wire like you would use to tie re-bar together.  I didn’t drive the T-posts very deep because I will have to pull them up on a regular basis.  I made the pen about 16 by 32 feet.  I’ve heard that goats are hard to fence in, but I’ve had no problems with them trying to get out.  Of course they are nannies, so they are not as aggressive as a billy-goat would be.

I had an old gate from a chain link fence laying around so I wired it up between two T-posts to give me access to the pen.

The goats went right to work on the brush.  The pictures below illustrate the method that I and my goats now use to clear land.

Because the goats are so small they can only munch on the greenery to a height of about 3 feet, so I give them a couple of days to get that part of the job done.

This is what I started off with:

And this is after 2 days of work by my goats:
Next I go in with a pair of loppers and cut down all of the saplings up to about an inch in diameter.  For larger trees I trim off all of the branches that I can reach with the long handle loppers, then I sit back for a day or two while the goats clean up all the branches and the vines growing on them.

Now I pull down any vines that are growing up into the larger trees.  This usually results in a big pile of honeysuckle and green briar which the goats seem to love. This pile of vines keeps the goats fed for a couple of more days.
After about a week the goats have done their part and eaten all of the greenery.
When there’s nothing left in the pen but bare branches and vines I go in with my machete and it’s a couple of hours work to cut up the bare vines and throw them and the branches out into the woods.

It’s now time to move the goats to the next section so that I can go in and rake the ground, throw out any rocks, and use my chainsaw to cut down any stumps or larger trees.

The ground is now clear enough to run my lawnmower over next spring.

In addition to the brush I give each goat 16 ounces of 12% all-stock feed each day and plenty of fresh water.  The feed amounts to about $10.00 a month.  Pretty cheap wages for these hard working hands.

In my next post I’ll show you how I made a portable shed for my goats to live in.


David Dill said...

How far did drive the T-Posts into the ground? Could you pull them back out by hand?

Sensible Survival said...

I drive the t-posts down to the top of the little triangle near the bottom of the post, about 14 inches. You can pull them up pretty easily if they haven't been in the ground too long. Just wobble them back and forth until they are loose and then pull them up.