Use of goats for sustainable vegetation management in grazing lands

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $172,210.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Arthur Goetsch
Langston University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - continuous, free-range, grazing - multispecies, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities


    This investigation was a collaborative study between the E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research and six Native American Nations using goats for vegetation management and providing for technology transfer using goat field days. We visited potential sites at the six Native American Nations and proposed experimental plans for each site and secured approval of the plans from the Native American Nations. The areas were then fenced into pastures to accommodate the experimental plans and means to provide water for goats were developed. Existing vegetation, both woody and herbaceous, was characterized and were animals taken to the field in early summer where they stayed for the growing season. Approximately 300 animals were used the first year and 200 in the second year. Animals were weighed monthly to measure live weight change and fecal samples were taken for microhistological analysis (a technique to determine what plants the animals were eating) and fecal egg counts. At the end of the season woody vegetation less than 6 ft high was measured to determine the degree of defoliation of woody species. Because two years is a short time relative to the time required to shift vegetation, we observed only the beginning of changes in vegetation. Goats did successfully defoliate most of the woody species and forbs. Poison ivy was controlled, as was greenbriar. Goats did kill many honey and black locust trees at several sites. At some sites, they killed eastern red cedar in the short amount of time. Winged sumac was readily consumed and killed at several sites. Plant vigor was noticably reduced for blackberries, dogwood and sand plum. Problems with excess accumulation of litter were solved. One revelation was that the same species were consumed to different degrees at the sites, suggesting effects of the unique soil or rainfall conditions on palatability. At one site there were noticeable differences in consumption of particular plants in different areas. Another revelation was that as most readily consumed vegetation was controlled, there was increased presence of lesser palatable species or ones growing in the cool season. Fecal egg counts demonstrated that goats used for vegetation management did not have worm problems as long as they had vegetation up off the ground. At one location, there was a significant worm problem due to goats patch grazing bermudagrass close to the ground. Field days were held at the end of both grazing periods at each site. The Native American Nations were involved in the field days, providing a meeting place, coffee and donuts and a tribal representative to give the welcome. Notices were also posted in the tribal newspapers as well as farmer meeting places in the community. Tribal council members attended the meetings at each location. Presentations included a general outline of studies and vegetation at other sites, a detailed description of the study at the local site, and general goat management principles. Then there was a tour of the site so that participants could observe the vegetation that was consumed as well as seeing and petting the goats doing the work. There was good attendance at the meetings both years and we had two request for goat field days this year. Also, producers that attended these field days have requested us to speak at local producers groups to address local goat problems. Schools at the Cherokee site and Caddo Nation sites were involved in the studies. At the Caddo site, a Science class used both GPS and a tape measure to measure the field and divide the field into research pastures. GPS data were shared with the students for analysis and seeing the usefulness of GPS for doing research and other GPS applications such as surveying. Also the data revealed the limitations of GPS and which moved beyond theory into the real world application.

    Project objectives:

    1) Investigate effects of various goat management methods for vegetation rehabilitation/control in different grazing land settings in the south-central US.

    2) Demonstrate and display appropriate means of vegetation management with goats in south-central US grazing lands, as well as to provide education in other related management areas.

    3) Develop an information package on optimal use of goats for grazing land vegetation management to ensure long-term, sustainable, and widespread project impact.

    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.