Rent-a-Goat weed control: coming to a verge near you…

It’s something we and others have joked about: what if we had a truck full of goats and just went around offering their weed-eating services? How cool would that be?

At one of our recent Permaculture Design Certificates  some of the students designed a rent-a-goat system as a permaculture enterprise that could be added to a farm. But as I’ve just discovered, this concept is already up and running. And chewing. And bleating.

Firstly we have Goat Renter Guy. Sorry about the insurance ad above, but he doesn’t seem to have a website currently. He does however have a twitter account, if you like lots of updates about, um, goats.

© spruitergoats.blogspot.com

© spruitergoats.blogspot.com

Then we have The Goat Lady. She hires out goats and sheep as weed and grass control, on short or long term contracts. Apparently she has many happy clients, one of whom blogged all about it.

Lastly, you might be pleased to hear that because of some strange loopholes to do with goats being essential to children’s development (to do with goat carts, i believe), it is perfectly legal to keep goats in urban areas, in Sydney at any rate. So what are you all waiting for?

Biological vegetation management systems unite! Whoohoo!

Thanks to the Oct 2011 Milkwood Farm Permaculture Design Students who did the woody weed whacker enterprise design. May your blackberries be chomped and your pastures manured…

27 Comments

  1. Posted March 17, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    Now all I have to do is get the goat’s to ONLY eat the blackberries and I will be ready to rumble! :o)

    • Philip Hinton
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink | Reply

      Or perhaps, ready to bramble?

  2. Posted March 17, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink | Reply

    I remember there was a similar idea with sheep to manage urban lawn. I’ve also heard of guinea pigs being used but the idea has never spread.

    Goats are probably not acceptable in urban parks because people would complain of their droppings, though it would be good to get local government to replace glysophate, the goat alternative in common use. I know there are alternatives to that such as pressurised stream, however one report I had was that the heat and moisture injected into the soil using this method stimulates weed seed regeneration.

    The goat solution should work in rural and perirural areas and could be used when reclaiming disused urban land, though the time factor could be a disencentive here as could objections from bushland regenerators who could fear the potential loss of remnant native vegetation to the hungry grazing cloven-footed mobs.

    Good thinking by the students though… an example of lateral thinking applied to a real world need.

  3. alternateroute
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Arrrrggggghhhhhh, the dreaded apostrophe.
    The plural of blackberry is blackberries. You would only use blackberry’s if you were referring to something the blackberries owned or an attribute of the blackberries, such as the blackberry’s flavour.

    • Posted March 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Granted, but as you might remember from school, doing posters in texta doesn’t allow for spellcheck or correcting mistakes unless you want to start again… once it’s there, it’s there! The team got their point across, apostrophes notwithstanding…

  4. Kate fraser
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    Are there any of these near port Stephens or Newcastle . We had our own goat until the local dogs got it. We would love to try again with better fencing now. We have two spare blocks of land that need some biological control

  5. Posted March 17, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    Love this!! The city of Knoxville, in Tennessee has recently taken on attempts to hire goats for eradicating Kudsu in the area. That nasty stuff is killing some of the oldest of legends in the Oak tree family of early history in our area.

  6. Posted March 17, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    I had an idea to do that too. They are great at eating woody plants, its just hard to keep them contained without LOTS of work. We get them to eat the shoots and leaves off and then cut the blackberry stalks down with a scythe or brush hook and then regraze it once it comes back. Usually the grass outcompetes it then. I would love to see goats on the roadsides, instead of it being all yellow….

  7. Posted March 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have used goats on blackberries they’re great! I had a couple of goats on a property down the Sapphire Coast back in 2004 during the drought. My dairy farming neighbour was astounded when I called him to ask if I could pull out some thistles from his paddock to feed them. (Astounded because usually neighbours called to complain about the cows or the noise of the pump.) Watching goats eat thistles has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen!

    Russ, I’ve got guinea pigs but they don’t mow fast enough! BEST recyclers of kitchen and garden scraps too. I know of someone who used to free-range them in Tassie. She lost the odd one to hawks but they breed so well it didn’t matter. Not sure how well they kept the lawn down though. Couldn’t do that here because of foxes but I have visualised being a guinea pig rancher and mobstocking them through backyards….

  8. Monique
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    There’s a house in St Ives (a very wealthy, prim and proper suburb of Sydney) that I remember passing every day on the school bus, and they had a pet sheep on a long rope on the large front lawn, constantly mowing it.

    I don’t every remember seeing the sheep sit down and having a rest… it was always working. Do you reakon the sheep was living to eat or eating to live., When one is a sheep, how does one separate eating, working, and enjoying ones self?

  9. Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    love a goat!

    has anyone mentioned this?
    maybe it’s too obvious/bigscale?

    –> google using goats as lawnmowers. i think they’re a hire-a-goat scheme too.

    http://mashable.com/2010/04/15/return-of-the-google-goats/

    by the way, i really like the idea of including entrepreneurial design as part of permaculture courses!

    • Posted March 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Luca! I was trying to find reference to your goat foray for this post but couldn’t find it (was it in the tending blog?) – could you enlighten me as to where that post is? The one about the guy with his goat in Sydney somewheres?

      Yep we’ve been doing enterprises as designs sometimes on PDCs and it’s really interesting what comes out…

  10. Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    lol on the sheep comment Monique. I guess that’s the ultimate combination then, from a ‘job’ point of view.

    Would love it if it could work here. Honestly though I think the goat would run out of food here if it was permanent… though rent-a-goat sounds quite appealing :)

  11. Posted March 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    thanks kirsten, your question made me go repair the goat blog, which seemed to have momentarily ‘slipped its chain’ !

    it’s here:
    http://www.lucazoid.com/bilateral/projects/gruffling/

    or at: http://gruffling.com

  12. Posted March 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hah thanks Kirsten – am proud our idea made the blog :)

  13. Maree McCarthy
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    I love goats and I used to keep them – they can produce milk, meat, wool and cashmere, eat weeds…and are such cute personalities! Through experience and reading though, I decided not to keep them anymore because it is really impossible to guarantee that either I or someone I sell/rent/loan a goat to will never have one or two escape and cause harm to the environment eventually.
    The problem is they eat far more than horses, cattle or sheep. They eat the orchids off the trees, they ringbark and kill shrubs and trees. They eat everything they can reach! They are already costing us as a country, $25 BILLION /yr just in shooting them from helicopters – let alone the costs in other ways.
    Sustainable living methods is what we are about as I see it so perhaps we could discuss this complex issue?
    It seems weird that these days we are losing so much of our natural environment to feral animals and yet then you read articles about how in the UK there are people breeding and renting out Kangaroos as lawn mowers…?? – see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1181951/Meet-lawnmower-legs-Why-wallabies-taking-Englands-gardens-leaps-bounds.html
    ?

    • Posted March 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      yep like any grazing animal they can do heaps of damage if managed badly – but we’ve seen many successful operations where goats are moved regularly and so don’t get a chance to eat everything – it’s a management issue! In spain there are shepherds who stay with the goats and tell them off if they eat the wrong thing…

  14. brad
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    hiring them out with a goat proof pen would stop the roaming damage and be an option rather than petrol driven mulchers where backyard ones are small and slow and commercial ones expensive

  15. Bowerbird
    Posted March 20, 2012 at 2:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten,
    I’m an avid reader of your blog and all things Milkwood. Where would you suggest is a good starting point to research the legality of keeping a goat in suburban Sydney? Do I contact my local council? Interested to know where you found that tidbit that it’s ‘perfectly legal to keep goats in urban areas’.
    Regards,
    Ali

  16. Posted March 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh God, I want rampant weeds everywhere to just see the woody weed whackers arrive. What sort of crazy world is it now where we can google goats as lawnmowers and have them arrive on queue. It keeps getting betterer and betterer.

  17. Bowerbird
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you Kirsten!

  18. Michella
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The idea of making a movable fence for a goat is a bit funny. You could never make a fence strong enough to keep them in if it was light and portable enough to move. And as others above have already stated, these darling creatures want to eat everything but what you hope they will. And if you have a garden near by… Forget about it. I’ve found the best natural lawn mowers are horses. They are easily tethered, will clip the grass and weeds down to the ground, and can take down a huge area in record time.

One Trackback

  1. By A Weekend Of Yard Work | Mark Spearman on March 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

    [...] Rent-a-Goat weed control: coming to a verge near you… (milkwood.net) [...]

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