Goats will eat everything, right? While that’s not exactly true, goats do have a nearly miraculous ability to clear brush. But did you know some goats are better at clearing brush than others?
We’ve found not only the best breeds for clearing brush but what qualities to look for in your brush goats.
We even found some interesting facts about hybrids. Keep reading to learn more!
Which Breeds Are Best for Clearing Brush?
When I first got goats, I didn’t think too much about which breed they were. But just like any animal, I soon found that different goat breeds are better at different things. It’s easy to learn which goat breeds are the best milkers and which grow largest for meat. Finding the best brush goat is more of a challenge.
But don’t worry. Whether you are looking for goats to clear your overgrown land or you are thinking of starting a goat brush clearing business (yes, that is a thing), we’ve found everything you need to know about brush goats.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s talk goat breeds.
Boer goats are large goats, with males reaching weights between 240-300 pounds and dams reaching up to 200-225 pounds. They gain weight quickly because they eat more than other goats. Their large size means that they are generally kept as meat goats.
But the same qualities that make them good meat goats also make them excellent brush clearing goats. When you have a lot of brush to clear, you want a big goat that can eat.
Despite their large size, Boers are docile animals. The breed originated in South Africa. The indigenous goats there were bred with European, Angora, and Indian goats, resulting in what we now call Boer. They have horns and lop ears, and you will find them in a number of color patterns (1).
As the name suggests, Alpine goats originated in the Alps. They are medium to large size goats with does reaching no less than 135 pounds and bucks reaching 170 pounds or more. Does can be 30 inches tall at the withers, while bucks can grow up to 34-40 inches tall (2).
While Boers can clear land quickly, Alpine goats are great at reaching brush that smaller goats can’t get at. Obviously, we are looking for good brush clearing goats, but it’s always beneficial when your animals can serve more than one purpose. Alpines are prodigious milkers and can deliver as much as a gallon of milk daily. They are also great herd leaders, helping encourage your other goats to search for more forage.
If you need another reason to add some Alpines to your herd, they are known for their great personalities. I mean, let’s face it– every goat is unique, but some goats are just friendlier and more playful than others. While I keep my goats primarily for practical purposes, I can understand the desire for pet goats.
You may not think it makes sense to keep Pygmy goats for clearing brush. I mean, really, how much can a tiny goat eat? But pygmies make a great addition to a brush clearing herd. Their small size allows them to graze on the undergrowth and in places larger goats can’t reach.
Pygmies are pretty tiny, only reaching 15 to 20 inches tall, and they generally don’t exceed fifty pounds. Amazingly they are classified as meat goats, but the truth is pygmies are generally kept as pets. These adorable goats come in a range of colors in caramels and grays (3).
You can milk pygmies, as well. Their small size means that they don’t produce huge quantities of milk, but the milk you do get is rich in fat and high quality.
Angora goats may not be the first breed that comes to mind when you think of brush clearing goats. Unlike other goat breeds, angora goats are known for their fine hair rather than their meat or milk production.
But angoras are good for more than just making sweaters. Angoras will eat dock, thistles, nettles, and other weeds that your other goats may avoid. This makes them a great addition to a brush clearing herd.
Plus, their unique appearance will instantly set people talking. Angoras tend to be smaller than other goats. They also take longer to reach their mature size. Males may not reach their fully mature weight until they are five years old. But it isn’t their size that sets angoras apart — it’s their long hair.
Angora hair is prized for making soft wool known as mohair. There are a few different types of angora goats, but all have a longer, more distinctive goat than other goat breeds.
When you cross two different breeds of goats, the resulting offspring are hybrids. Hybrids tend to be heartier and healthier than pure breed goats, making them a great choice for clearing brush. They are also more resistant to parasites.
You can choose to cross any of the above mentioned goats. By crossing various breeds, you can get a range of sizes in your resulting herd. Dairy/meat goat crosses often result in larger animals. This will allow your goats to access all the brush on your land better.
So, if you’re looking to add new goats to your brush clearing herd, start cross breeding your goats. It should result in good tempered, healthy, brush clearing goats.
Qualities of Good Brush Goat
We generally think of goats in terms of dairy goats and meat goats. For dairy goats, we want high milk production, and for meat goats, we want fast growth. But what qualities make a good brush clearing goat? Well, let’s take a look.
First of all, you want docile, good tempered goats if you plan to have them out clearing your brush. You wouldn’t think personality would matter, but it does. If you plan to move your goats to different areas of your property (or perhaps other people’s property), a good temperament makes moving them that much easier. You particularly want good temperaments on your animals if you plan to have them clear brush on other people’s land.
An aggressive goat can scare your friends or, worse, your clients.
Keep in mind that brush goats get moved a lot. Especially if you use them to clear brush away from your homestead. You want to make sure that your goats are ok with traveling in trailers if you plan to take them far.
Even if they aren’t traveling, brush goats do get moved around a lot. So, you probably don’t want to move your angry buck to a new paddock daily. But brush clearing is an excellent use for your wethers (castrated males, if you didn’t know). Wethers tend to have a better temperament than bucks, and they are not quite so stinky.
As we mentioned earlier, having a range of different-sized goats in your brush clearing herd is a good idea. That way, the larger goats get the higher forage, and smaller goats can reach harder to get to areas. But you may also want to avoid horned goats if you are using them mostly to clear brush. Horns can get stuck in shrubs and fences, leaving your goat in a sticky situation if you’re not nearby. Horned goats can also injure other goats in your herd if they are fighting.
Brush Clearing Goats Can Eat Everything, Right?
We’ve all heard tales that goats will eat everything, including clothes and tin cans. While goats are adventurous eaters and certainly like to browse, there are some things goats won’t or shouldn’t eat (like tin cans).
For the most part, you can trust that your goats won’t eat poisonous plants. However, it’s always good to know what common plants are toxic to your animals.
Rhododendron, azalea, sumac, cherry, pokeberry, and yew are a few common garden plants that can be dangerous to your goats.
Aside from a few plants that your goats are likely to avoid, goats can eat just about everything. As mentioned earlier, they will even eat thistles and other spiny and pokey plants that other animals are likely to avoid.
It’s hard to say exactly how many brush goats you need. A lot will depend on how much property you want to clear and how quickly. You don’t want to get too few goats because they are herd animals. You should keep a minimum of three to four goats, so they don’t become lonely.
Yes, goats will eat grass. However, grass is not what goats prefer to eat. Goats prefer to browse higher up among shrubs and small trees rather than eat grass. Goats can eat woody branches and leaves. If you are looking for an animal to eat grass, you may want to check out sheep. They graze lower to the ground than goats.
You can estimate that it will take 8 to 12 goats roughly one month to clear one acre. But that number is truly an estimate. There are too many factors that affect the final outcome to give an exact number.
How much brush is growing, how large are your goats, and how hungry are your goats? These are just some factors that affect how quickly your goats will clear your land.
- Breeds of Livestock – Goats. Boer. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/boer/index.html/
- Breeds of Livestock – Goats. Alpine. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/alpines/index.html/
- Breeds of Livestock – Goats. Pygmy. Retrieved from:https://goats.extension.org/goat-breeds-pygmy/
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.