When should goats be released to control blackberries?
I am the president of a condo HOA and we have been asked to share with a neighboring association a blackberry removal using goats. (I am quite familiar with goats and their eating habits, having raised them in a previous life!) My question is: when is the best time of year to do this? The goat contractor wants to begin next week and I wonder if it would be effective NOW or if we would be wasting money. Should it wait until spring? Thank you.
Multnomah County Oregon
Hi -- I asked a commercial goat grazier for his input; here is his response: "It depends on what the homeowner’s plans are for managing the blackberries. If the goats are being used as the first treatment to open up the site so the next step can be taken such as a human crew coming in to remove the root crowns then the timing of the goat treatment is not critical. This time of year weather becomes a bigger issue as the goats do not like rain so if it is quite rainy while the goats are on site it will take them longer and the goats will not enjoy the experience. If the goats are being used as the primary means of managing the blackberries for the long-term, I would wait until spring so the goats would be eating the new tender shoots coming up as well as defoliating the old canes. It will take at least two treatments per year for a period of 2-3 years to get a significant reduction of blackberries using only goats."
I just received more information on this topic from a weed control specialist: “It would be helpful if the old blackberry canes could be burned off (or cut down by hand) during the late winter or early spring, which would eliminate a bunch of the biomass and the new growth would be more appetizing to the animals. Another suggestion is to take a brush hog and mow areas so fencing can be put up to pen the goats in, then let them intensively graze paddocks or cells and follow that with hogs to root out the crowns. This can make the area looked like a tilled garden plot. At that point maybe the area could be seeded and maybe put the goats in and feed some hay in areas that were seeded so the goats could trample the seed in. It’s fairly labor intensive to fence and move the animals regularly but requires no chemicals, some machinery and a lot of management in order for it to succeed.”