How did John Bennett transition from a marketing career to full time goatscaping?
It started with his partner coming home with three baby goats in the back of their station wagon. Goats of Dover, G.O.D., mainly raises Nigerian Goats, a smaller breed compared to Swiss Dairy Goats seen in California. They offer non-harmful services, such as goat yoga, goat-o-grams, zoom calls, and grief therapy work. We talk all about goatscaping in this week's The Grower and the Economist podcast episode!
John explains the first step of goatscaping is to walk every square foot of a site to confirm plant species, required fencing, and weeding. On the first go-around, they cut a path with a pair of loopers to cut the tall stuff down and then again with a weed whacker. Then, they set up portable electric fencing that will be monitored and moved throughout the timeframe. Goats eat dense woody material, such as poison ivy, bittersweet and buckthorn. If the site contains mostly grass, they integrates goats and sheep together. The fencing uses 7 joules of energy, powered by solar, because goats love to get out of fences. They will stay overnight covering about 1/4 acre in 7 days. This means they eat a third of their body weight every day. Here are three key takeaways:
Goats hate the rain.
Goat manure has no viable seed product in it. Most of nutrient happens in the digestive product.
Cornell Department of Animal Science has an extensive list of toxic plants for goats.
Here the main questions we get into with John about goatscaping.
Are goats selective about their diet?
Yes, goats will avoid Pachysandra in a patch full of poison ivy! We have to be careful about wild cherries. Goats can eat as much as they want when green, but when the leaves turn brown they create a chemical reaction that generates cyanide and will cause the goat to die.
Do you research mosquito/ tick treatment services before accepting a job?
Yes, we ask questions like Are you using pesticides, What are they? How long ago? We lookup the ingredients to see what their half life is and make a decisions based on that.
Are public mosquito treatment services using softer chemistries on residential properties?
They say they are using more natural ingredients than the 70's; however, the impact to the land and waterways over time is not good. One benefit of goats is reducing the need for herbicides. Goat manure is high in nitrogen and decomposes on its own and has very little odor.
How many goats make up a team or job?
Herds of 10 and no less than four, depending on the plot size. We started setting a minimum at 1/4 an acre, which is a week-long job to decrease transportation and labor.
How do you manage coyotes if the goats are on a location for a week?
Defense starts with the fence. If a dog hits the fence, they wont come back for days. "If I know we are in an area with dense coyotes, we will put up motion sensors with light and noise as a deterrent. If I know there is an active pack of coyotes, we will put up a fence within a fence." Goats can protect themselves too. We have never seen a coyote on camera.
What is the goat's diet in Dover?
We feed them hay 2-3 times/day and a little bit of grain in the morning and to get them to bed. The price of hay has gone up from $9.50 to $16/bail.
What is their life expectancy?
12 - 15 years. We haven't been in the business long enough to retire a goat.
Will goatscaping completely eradicate invasive species?
Goats of Dover recommends to have a plan for when the goats leave. Dig out anything that is in there and replant with native indigenous plants. If you can't replant everything, pick your spots and laydown two layers of landscape fabric with mulch or wood chips. Re-establish
with indigenous plants overtime. "Keep the carpet tight and gradually push a little bit of the carpet away." Goats are one step of the integrated approach to eradicating invasives.
"Go small or go in the fall" meaning cut off invasive species' food supply when they are still trying to get established or go in the fall when they are trying to store their energy for the winter.
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