A Comprehensive Exploration Of Targeted Grazing With Goats

Progress report for FNC19-1168

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $8,943.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Second Planet Farmstead
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Kaitlin Hossom
Second Planet Farmstead
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Project Information

Description of operation:

Before receiving the grant, invasive species on the project site were not being managed at all.


Landowners in Indiana face limited options regarding invasive plants treatments. The labor-intensive, expensive, or damaging effects of mechanical or hand removal often leave people turning to chemical treatment or quite simply, doing nothing at all to eradicate these invasive species. Luckily there is a better option- goats! Several companies across the country successfully operate targeted grazing businesses. Unfortunately, those companies don’t serve Indiana and there is not information available as to how these businesses are successfully operating.

If native species are to be preserved, targeted grazing must be an option for landowners everywhere. This means business information must be shared and easily replicated to encourage others to provide a targeted grazing service in their area.  By conducting a targeted grazing plan, examining the state-specific results, and tracking business information (startup/operating cost, client base identification, marketing information, and troubleshooting industry specific issues), this project will lay the foundation for a targeted grazing company that could be easily replicated by others. As a result of this project, farmers could offer grazing services for increased revenue, landowners would have an ecologically sound option for invasive plant eradication, and a platform for invasive plant education would be created.

Project Objectives:
  1. Determine if a targeted grazing business model can be easily-replicated in other areas using information gathered from clients and potential clients.
  2. Conduct state-specific targeted grazing research at Bradford Woods, specifically monitoring the quanitity of invasive plant species both pre and post-grazing. 
  3. Share findings through field days and educational signage at the test site.


Materials and methods:

In order to create a targeted grazing service business model that is easily replicated, I am going to start a grazing business and keep track of start up costs, operating costs, and all equipment necessary. I am going to gather information on new clients to better understand any trends in client location/land type, and marketing information. I will also record and address the problems/solutions to any industry specific issues that arise. The field days will be informational, but also serve as a platform to survey the general public to further determine service demands/potentail client trends, and understand what clients are willing to pay for the service (see attached survey Field-Day-Survey).

During this project, the area of the test site at Bradford Woods will be about 1.3 acres. I intentionally did not want a test site larger than 1.5 acres because I only wanted 10 goats or under on the site. Based on my previous research, I did not think an area larger than 1.5 acres would be adequately grazed by 10 goats in a short period of time. I also do not want to transport more than 10 goats at a time based on trailer space. I am expecting the goats to completely defoliate all plant material in the 1.3 acre plot in about 6 weeks. The results of the test grazing will be a baseline and can be multiplied or divided to get a clear picture and answer the question “how many goats will clear how many acres in how many weeks?”. The research being performed on invasive plants with the assistance of an arborist will be useful in marketing to state or local groups interested in eradicating invasive plants in specfic areas. 


Research results and discussion:

*Initally the research was going to be conducted with 10 goats, but due to medical issues, 3 of the goats had to stay on the farm in quarantine for the first part of the project, but were added in later.

The project site was 1.27 acres and grazing took place within 4 different plots for ease of setting up fence and for concentrating goats into a smaller space to encourage concentrated grazing. Each plot was rated for density of vegetation to give an idea of plant coverage. In this case “moderately dense vegetation” means that one could visually see through the vegetation, but could not comfortably walk through the plot without manual removal of plants due to plant cover. “Highly dense vegetation” refers to a plot where visibility is very low and navigating through the plot was difficult without removal of plants. “Very highly dense vegetation” refers to the plot appearing to be a solid wall of vegetation that can not be seen into or walked through without cutting a walking path. Within each of the four plots, six 6ftx6ft plant sampling sites were set up in a grid pattern to track changes in plants over time. The table below shows invasive or “nuisance” plant species present in each plot as percentages, based on the sampling sites from each plot.  Plot 1 and 2 were grazed a second time, simultaneously, after all four plots had been grazed once. This was done to determine if multiple grazing events in one season prove more beneficial than one grazing event per season. At this point, vegetation was scarce, so a larger area was given to the goats. The term “cleared” refers to complete defoliation of all plants in the area.

Plot 1 (0.55 acre, moderately dense vegetation): 7 goats cleared the plot in 16 days

Plot 2 (0.24 acre, highly dense vegetation): 7 goats cleared the plot in 11 days 

Plot 3 (0.3 acre, very highly dense vegetation): 7 goats cleared the plot in 20 days

Plot 4 (0.18 acre, Extremely dense vegetation): 10 goats cleared the plot in 9 days

Plot 1 and 2 together, second grazing (0.79 acre, lightly dense vegetation): 10 goats cleared the plot in 8 days

2019 PRE-GRAZE  Multiflora Rose  Japanese Honeysuckle Poison Ivy Wild Blackberry Garlic Mustard Grapevine  
Plot 1 44.4% 19.4% 5.5% 25% 5.5% 0%  
Plot 2 32.25% 18.75% 12.5% 31.25% 3.125% 6.25%  
Plot 3 18.18% 18.18% 12.1% 36.7% 0% 15.15%  
Plot 4 17.02% 19.14% 12.76% 14.89% 0% 36.17%  



Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Consultations
3 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

1 Farmers
3 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The 2019 field day was a community education day conducted at the project site, Bradford Woods. The event was hosted both by me and the arborist Andrew Norman, the hired arborist to assist with the project. The purpose of the event was to educate attendees on the topic of targeted grazing and showcase the SARE project being conducted on site. Social media and news (print and television) were used to alert the public of this event. Estimated attendance was approximately 75 people, including members made up of conservation professionals, students, and landowners. Two professionals from the Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District were present to provide educational tools and resources to landowners wanting information on local invasive species eradication. Not expecting a crowd of this size, a formal presentation was not scheduled and the event was set up in an open house structure where attendees could chat with me about the project, discuss details of the project with the arborist, learn about local resources from the MCSWCD professionals on site, and walk the project site and see the goats, equipment, and project process. Four attendees of the event would later call to either conduct a phone or on site consultation for goat grazing on their own property. 

https://news.iu.edu/stories/2019/07/iu/inside/08-local-farmer-bradford-woods-partner-, and goat-grazing-invasive-species.html# 


Learning Outcomes

1 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

As the project is only halfway completed at this time, I don’t want to give any conclusive reports. At this point goats have proved to do a great job completely defoliating invasive species and reducing height of invasive plants, though we did observe re-sprout of said plants later on in the project. We will have more conclusive results in the Spring regarding plant regrowth, but it appears multiple season and repeated grazings are necessary to achieve plant eradication.

I have also concluded that a goat grazing operation includes many unforeseen costs and expenses. The end of the project will contain a grand total of expenses.

Though goats appear to be a useful tool on steep terrain or heavily invasive plant infested areas, one must be strategic when using goats as a tool to fight invasive species. Goats are nondescript eaters and also have the potential to damage desirable plants, so care must be taken in certain locations to protect those plant species. Similarly, goats may be a great first step in removal of invasive plants in more sensitive areas where repeat grazings could do harm to native plants. One single grazing event could be used to visually and physically open up the area and make other methods of eradication feasible.

Project Outcomes

1 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

It would have been valuable to track grazing impact on native plants, but the unfortunately the focus of this project was invasive plants. Though data was not collected, observations revealed native plants had similar results in that multiple grazing events would need to take place to do permanent damage to the plant. Further research could be done to determine how targeted grazing could be applied to more “sensitive” areas where invasive species are needing to be controlled. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.