Goats on the Go!

It was a small job for a client, but one I’d never done with the ponies, so it required preparation beyond fitness. We needed to move sixteen cubic feet of gravel down a steep rocky trail. The trail went into a roadless area to a building site near a large lake. I chose an experienced pony and a novice for this job, and they confirmed my admiration for working ponies.

ponies packing
Moments after being released, the goats have found their favorite plants and start consuming them.

Before the goats are released, Chad and Aaron lay out temporary electric fencing strung on plastic posts they push in by pressing down with their feet. The fence is hooked up to a portable solar-powered electric fence charger.

When introduced into a new area, the goats immediately go after their favorite plants. Once those have been picked clean, they turn to their next favorite. Because they maintain a dense saturation in the temporary paddock, the goats mob-graze the available vegetation, choosing to eat the grasses last.

ponies packing
To help ensure the goats are unmolested by loose dogs or people, Goats on the Go puts up signs warning the public as well as informing them of the purpose of their new temporary neighbors.
ponies packing
The goats approach the trailer which will carry them to their next assignment.

They eat European Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, Poison Ivy, Eastern Red Cedar, Garlic Mustard, Reed Canary Grass, Sericea, Wild Parsnip, Mulberry, Thistle, Oriental Bittersweet, Autumn Olive, Leagy Spurge, Ragweed and more. They are then removed until the brush starts to recover, they are put back again, and they eat it down again. After about three or so cycles, the plants die.

Using goats in place of more conventional means of vegetation control has many advantages. They are able to work on highly treacherous ground landowners try to avoid chemical herbicides and the goats provide an organic alternative. Rather than using power equipment such as chainsaws and gas-powered weeders and risking injury, many property owners send in the goats.

ponies packing
Aaron Steele strings a section of temporary electric fence netting down a rocky hillside where goats will soon be grazing the shrubbery.
ponies packing
This photo shows the dramatic difference between before (left) and after (right) goat activity of one day.

Once the goats are in place, they are checked on regularly, and their watering tanks are kept filled. Being so close to Iowa State University in Ames, Goats on the Go was able to find excellent large animal veterinarians that are well prepared to care for a large goat herd.

ponies packing
This breeding buck shows the variety of coloring Boer goats display. While this male sports a white belt, its offspring might be tan, dark brown, white or striped.
ponies packing
Honeysuckle is a favorite among goats. They strip the woody plant of leaves repeatedly over time, killing it.
packing fjord with pannier
The plants the goats seek provide them with excellent
sources of nutrition.

In addition to protecting the significant financial investment of their herd, it's important that the goats are and appear healthy and well-cared for. They are often being placed in suburban neighborhoods, and the goats serve as something of an emissary to these people mostly unaccustomed to livestock.

 As more property owners learn about the benefits of goat-powered land management, the demand continues to exceed the availability of goats on the go. Affiliate opportunities are available to qualified candidates who wish to keep and deploy their own herds of goats.

While Goats on the Go serve most of Iowa and surrounding states, other businesses offer similar services. To reach Aaron and Goats on the Go in Ames, Iowa, call 515-257- 6846. Or visit www.GoatsOnTheGo.com.

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