No Kidding: Using Goats to Control Vegetation

At Whippoorwill Club in Armonk, buffer strips around ponds on the property had become overgrown and encroached upon by invasive species. Because of the rocky, steep hillside, chemical control was not an option and physical removal difficult.

To control the growth, an innovative approach to vegetation removal was utilized: goats. Goats are browsers who prefer brushy vegetation and vines (including poison ivy) versus other species like sheep who prefer to graze on grass. Goats are also unique in weed seeds are left unviable after being digested and will not grow out of their excrement. Green Goats, a company out of Rhinebeck NY, was used to introduce goats and set up fencing. Three foot livestock fencing powered by a solar powered fence charger was used to enclose the area for the goats.

The project was very successful and areas that were completely overgrown were cleared of  foliage within a couple of weeks. It also provided a significant cost savings – estimated at $15,000 less than what would have been spent to remove the overgrowth physically. In addition, because of the conservation easement on the property, goats were the only viable option for clearing the overgrown areas. The area cleared by the goats will be replanted with native species.

Because of the project’s success, goats will be brought back to new areas. Though very successful, the goats did have one unintended side effect: they slowed play. As members passed the area, many would stop to see the goats and take pictures.