I picked up some ten week old goat kids today that I purchased from a small farm in Sterling. They are part Saanen and part other breeds. I fenced off about 8 acres of the woods on the other side of the horse paddock nearly ten years ago and have putting a few goats on it each summer since then. The first few years I got between 12 and 20 young goats and they did a great job of clearing out the brush. The past few years I only had 3 or 4 goats each summer because they could keep up with the growth. Pretty much any leafy vegetation a 7 month old goat could reach by October is gone and even after the first year the stone walls around the field were clear.
That woodlot had been harvested for pulpwood 13 years ago and I'd been cutting a little firewood out of it each year since. But this is the area where we harvested the ash this past winter because so much of it was dying from the emerald ash borer insect. While we harvested the ash timber and while the skidder was in there we also had just over 60 cords of firewood taken out and placed on a pile. I'll be cutting that wood for the next few years but I'm glad I won't have to cut many trees down as I'm not really a lumberjack.
The increased sunlight hitting the forest floor will likely encourage the growth of more underbrush; so this year, when the farmer said she had 7 young male goats for sale, I purchased all of them for $100.00 each.
The goat project has worked well over the years as they keep the vegetation down and I'm generally able to make a small profit when I sell them in the fall. The goal is silvapasture, which is combining forestry and grazing animals. We left some young healthy ash in the paddock and there are various other hardwoods. Many of these provide a lot of shade when mature so this section will likely never be superior pasture; but I like the idea of what it does provide in the sense of growing livestock and forest products. I'd like to have that area open enough that some enough grass grows in there that a few head of cattle or the horses can graze out there. I haven't put the horses out there yet because there has been enough shrubs and multiflora rose that I don't want the horse to risk getting cut or even losing an eye by running through the thickets.
We own another 40 or so acres of forest land beyond this silvapasture site so the entire area has a lot of diversity; great for the wildlife.
Goats are curious and friendly animals, so are always a hit with the summer riding program kids. They love taking them for walks and if we take the time to halter train them it'll also mean it is easier to care for them because they get used to people and tame and then I can then move them around the farm easier if I need to.
Photo: The goats in their "holding" area. I'll open the gate to the woods in a couple days once they are settled in.