Trish Notes

Biological Weed Control

Will Goats Control Your Weed Problem?

Contrary to popular opinion goats do not eat everything in sight. Some weeds such as Scotch Broom, Sweet Briar, Blackberries and Thistles are highly palatable to goats and will be selectively eaten. Due to their dietary preferences goats eat a variety of undesirable plants and shrubs that sheep and cattle avoid. Often the nutritive value of these species is quite high. Other weeds are highly toxic to goats, such as Gidgee and Deadly Nightshade, however these are also unpalatable and rarely eaten by goats.

To find out if goats will eat your weeds there are 2 excellent publications which may be useful for reference:

  1. "The Palatability and Potential Toxicity of Australian Weeds to Goats" by Helen Simmonds, Peter Holst and Chris Bourke. This book was published in 2000 by RIRDC.

  2. "Weed Control Using Goats" by Cameron Allen, Peter Holst and Malcolm Campbell. This booklet was first published by NSW Agriculture in 1993.

How Goats Control Weeds

Goats help control weeds by:

  • Preventing the weeds from flowering and dispersing seed.
  • Preventing regrowth after use of other weed control techniques eg. burning
  • Preferentially grazing the weed and so placing it at a disadvantage.
  • Ringbarking or structurally weakening some shrub species.

Research has shown that very few of the seeds ingested by goats remain viable, thus efficient control is achieved by goat grazing.

Eradication requires several years of efficient control and is seldom achieved (even after several years of goat grazing) if the goats are permanently removed. ie. A maintenence crew of goats is required after control is achieved, to graze any regrowth which may occur.

How Will Goats Save You Money?

Goats can usually be introduced to any but the cleanest pasture without reducing the stocking rates of existing livestock, thus goats can turn costs (weed control) into Dollars in the bank.

Goats have a pasture improvement effect on established pastures as they tend to graze the coarser grasses (and woody weeds), giving clovers and softer pasture species a competitive advantage.