Controlling Cedar Tree Invasion by Rotational Grazing Goats through Pasture

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $6,793.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Hanson Homestead
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Adam Carlson
Hanson Homestead

Annual Reports


  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems


    My main work activities this year involved a lot of fencing, and a lot of learning the behavior of goats. I also experimented with a portable fence system made of t-posts and cattle panels which worked, but was too labor intensive to be cost effective long term.

    No cedar trees have been completely consumed so far. Many have been nibbled on, but I have not been successful at getting the goats to concentrate on a small batch of trees until consumed yet. That will be the objective for next year; to learn how to get the goats to concentrate their efforts on a few trees without hurting their health.

    January 2018 update:

    There has been a lot learned over this past year. The problem this grant addressed is thousands of Cedar tree seedlings on 33 acres of pasture. The original goal was to use goats to eat, and thus kill, the seedlings. Unfortunately, it has not panned out as hoped. But there was still a lot learned. I have discovered a lot about goat behavior, as well as some alternative methods to clear Cedar tree seedlings. I also cut down mature Cedar trees to prevent the future production and spreading of seeds. 


    My goats were also taken to the local county fair. Two members of the local 4-H club worked with some of my goats and learned all about the care and handling of goats. One of them went on to win a purple ribbon at the fair! I was happy to use this grant as a way to educate young people about animal husbandry and proper handling of livestock.

    Project objectives:

    The proposal for this grant is twofold. First, introduce 6 goats onto the west 33 acres of pasture, containing them to small areas of the pasture at a time with electric fencing. The objective would be to manage grazing pressure so that goat browsing would result in cedar defoliation. Cedar trees do not regrow after all the green is removed.

    The portable electric fencing will allow great flexibility in controlling the grazing pressure of the goats in an area of pasture. Secondly, rotational, multi-livestock grazing will be implemented on the same pasture. Using a combination of permanent and portable electric fencing, the pasture will be broken into paddocks, and each paddock will be strip grazed using the portable electric fencing. The goats can run over the area first, eating the cedar trees. The cattle will follow behind, eating the pasture grasses, encouraging them to sprout new growth. By rotational grazing the cattle  behind the goats, the pasture soil will become more vigorous and healthier than it currently is, giving the grasses an upper hand over the invasive cedar trees. By weakening/killing the cedar trees and simultaneously strengthening the pasture soil, the spread of the cedar tree seedlings could be halted and reversed.

    January 2018 update:

    The objectives of this grant were mostly the same, with the addition of finding other alternative methods to control Cedar trees. Read the research sections to learn more about my success finding other methods of control.



    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.