Pygmy goats can be used to clear land. BUT whether they do a good job will depend on what’s growing on the land that you want them to clear. Goats aren’t lawn mowers, and while they’ve got a reputation for eating anything and everything, they can be really picky eaters.
When you’ve got a large amount of overgrown land, you’ll naturally look for the least labor-intensive way to get it cleared up and transformed into a usable, productive state. And goats are the obvious solution that springs to mind.
What could be easier than turning a few goats loose on those wild areas and letting them do their thing?
The goats get to eat their fill, and in return, that brush-land is put on the road to becoming pasture or tillable ground.
Maybe, you’ve got wooded areas that are chock-full of bramble thickets, and you can’t get in to chop firewood.
Two or three pygmy goats would get the job done, wouldn’t they?
Well, as an owner of pygmy goats, I have to tell you that you are kinda, sorta, almost right. And, also a little bit wrong.
Bringing goats (or any livestock) to your homestead is a big decision, and it’s vital that you weigh all of the pros and cons before you take the leap. Pygmy goats could be the answer to all of your land-clearing problems, or they could bring a whole new set of problems into your life.
Are pygmy goats good for clearing land? Let’s find out.
What Is A Pygmy Goat?
The Pygmy goat is a breed of small goat. Short and stocky, this breed measures 15 – 20 inches (38 – 50 cm) at the shoulder (the withers). They’re a similar size to a medium-large breed of dog.
Originally from West Africa, these goats were bred as meat animals. The other popular breed of dwarf goat, the Nigerian Dwarf, is slightly smaller and was bred to be a mini version of the dairy goat.
While these goats are much smaller than meat or dairy goats, don’t let their small size fool you. These stocky critters are seriously strong. And they’re good jumpers too. These are both factors you should consider before you make your decision on getting goats.
Being able to jump over a 5-foot fence means they will escape regularly unless the fence surrounding your land is taller than that.
Being strong enough to pull you off your feet, means you’ll need to take care if you plan on tethering them instead of setting them to browse in a fenced area. Being dragged around by a strong-willed goat isn’t fun, and on uneven land, you can easily stumble, fall, and hurt yourself, and then you still have to go and catch the runaway.
Are Pygmy Goats Good For Clearing Land?
Their willingness to clear land for you really does depend on what’s on the land. Goats are browsers, and they’ll sample a little bit of this and a little bit of that. If they don’t like a plant, they’ll ignore it.
Pygmies will happily eat the leaves off brambles, but they’ll mostly leave the woody stems untouched, for example.
One really great thing about goats, is they prefer invasive plants. I’m not saying they wouldn’t eat your rose bushes, but if the rose bushes were next to a mass of bindweed, they’ll eat the bindweed first (most of the time).
If you’ve got a lot of English ivy, they will eat the lot, leaves and vine, they absolutely love it. But if you’ve got several acres of bracken fern, they won’t touch it. And they shouldn’t, it’s toxic for all animals.
How about trees? Pygmy goats will mow down young saplings, and they’ll take leaves and slim branches from larger trees.
They’ll also eat the bark off trees. So, if you’ve got trees in the area that you prefer to keep, you might want to install some tree guards to stop the goats from stripping the bark.
A pygmy goat will eat the bark all the way around the tree, as high as it can reach. And if you didn’t already know, goats will stand on their rear legs to reach forage overhead.
If your land is overgrown with thistles, they will eat those, but they eat them a little bit at a time. Don’t expect them to eat the thistles down to the ground in a methodical manner.
Japanese knotweed is another plant they will readily eat, so if you’re overrun with that nuisance plant, the goats will be a big help.
And while poison ivy and poison oak are things that humans keep well away from, goats will happily gobble them up.
Clearing The Growth that The Goats Don’t Eat
Once your pygmy goats have stripped the area of everything they want to eat, you’ll almost certainly be left with some plants that they don’t like to eat, as well as plants that are toxic for goats.
As an example, I’ve got foxgloves and creeping buttercup in areas that I use my goats to keep tidy, but my goats never touch them, because they know those plants are poisonous.
The best way to deal with any leftover brush and weeds, is to take a brush cutter, chainsaw, or a scythe to them.
Cutting a large, heavily overgrown area with either of those tools would be a big undertaking, but once the goats have been through, clearing out the plants they’ve ignored is a much smaller task.
How Long Does It Take For Goats To Clear One Acre?
Well, that depends on how many goats you plan to put on that acre.
The type of environment your land is in will play a huge role too.
With a drier, more desert-like environment, the plants the goats clear will struggle to reestablish themselves once they’ve been eaten to the ground.
But if you’re setting the goats to graze in spring or summer, in an area with plenty of rainfall, the plants will often quickly regrow, so the goats will need to pass through again and again.
Plants with big or deep root systems will also need repeated grazing to use up all of the regenerative energy stored in the root system.
Because pygmy goats are smaller than the large meat and dairy breeds, they eat less, so the land clearing will take longer.
If you were planning on hiring in a herd of goats to mob-graze the land, it wouldn’t take very long at all.
But if you’re a homesteader looking at bringing in 3 or 4 goats over spring and summer in an area with plenty of rainfall and rapid plant growth, you would be looking at 6 months at the least, and possibly much longer.
What’s Your Plan Once The Goats Have Cleared the Land?
This is really the most important question, unless you’re renting the goats and they can go back home once their work is finished.
Do you plan on keeping the goats or selling them?
If you plan on selling them, is there a ready market for goats in your area? If not, you’ll be responsible for feeding and caring for unproductive animals, until you can sell or give them away.
If you plan on keeping them, will you have enough land for them, land that isn’t needed for other purposes?
While pygmy goats do give a good quality milk, an acre or two of land can be put to more lucrative use in many cases.
Although one option, if you keep your goats as part of your homestead, is the possibility to hire your goats out as a land-clearing enterprise.
And because of their strength, you can even put them in a harness, attach a small cart, and have them haul heavy loads for you.
Goats live a long time. Twenty years isn’t unusual for goats that aren’t used for breeding and milking. Does that lifespan fit with your plans for your property?
Pygmy goats are friendly, hardy animals that certainly have a productive role to play on many homesteads.
Given enough time, they will clear overgrown land of all the growth that they are capable of eating. You may need to run the goats over the same piece of ground multiple times as regrowth appears.
Before you take on a little herd of goats, make sure you have a firm plan for how long you want to keep them, and where you will keep them once the land is cleared.
As long as you make realistic plans, you’ll enjoy having these friendly and mischievous small goats around.