Goats ate back arbor vitae (primadellas). Will they grow back?

Asked June 21, 2016, 2:02 PM EDT

I hope you will help me even if we are in Seattle. At the suggestion of an arborist, we hired goats to eat back a huge mass of blackberries that were taking the water from near the roots of our condominium's long row of arborvitae during our hot dry summer last year, and many of them were dying back. Well, the goats did a fine job on the blackberries, but when they ran out of blackberries they could reach within their enclosure, they stopped ignoring the arborvitae and did a number on them before the goat man returned to pick them up (see photos). I've been reading online and get varying information - some of which says the arborvitae will not replace growth that has been "pruned." I hope that isn't true - we were trying to save them, not denude them. Please tell me what to do. Thank you, Theresa

King County Washington

1 Response

Yes, goats can be quite destructive. As you have experienced if this is harnessed or directed properly it can be quite effective. Your shrubs may have some regrowth along the lower portions. It really depends on if some of the lateral growing points were left intact or if the branches were chewed back all the way to the trunk. I would recommend to not prune quite yet and to provide adequate water this season. Hopefully some new growth will be initiated this season and you can prune out the dead material this winter or early next spring.
I do not see much future for those really brown specimens along the hedgerow. Those do appear to be entirely killed off and likely best to be removed.