How are Goats Better than Poisons?

How are goats better than weed-eaters?

They’re more efficient and effective, they’re cleaner and greener, and their sound is much more pleasing. Seeing as how I just got re-elected volunteered onto my HOA board, I think I might see if we can get a couple goats to clear our field.

What follows is a story of someone who needed some invasive species cleared and the person (and goats and dogs) who provided a happy solution.

Goat Busters!

When I read this email from a friend/client last week, I couldn’t wait to see the goats. I’d heard about Goat Busters in passing and read several stories about them from the HooK to the Newsplex to the Daily Progress, but had never encounter the goats in person.

Nina wrote

“I got the goat busters onto our hill! After spending weeks pulling out vines because I do not want to use poisons, I joined my neighbor to get the goats. We pitched together and now are enjoying 60 goats grazing away on poison ivy, asian bitter-sweet and honeysuckle.

They have only been here for a day and a half and I can already actually see to the other side of the hill, which so far had been impossible.

A big attraction in this area is the natural beauty, Virginia is so rich in natural beauty, ginger ginseng, mayapples etc are all native to this area.

Various invasive species overpower them, and if we the inhabitants of this area do not prevent them they, the vines, do swallow everything up.

The goats are environmentally friendly, fun and it is a lot cheaper than man power!

These are some after shots, after 5 days of eating! I did not used to be able to see down the hill ( picture with the tree), or the meadow of my neighbor.”


All that eaten up in under a week, pretty awesome.

I traded emails with Jace Goodling, owner of Goat Busters to learn more about what he’s doing. One of his follow up emails said something remarkable and somehow gratifying.

“Feel free to use whatever you find informative. The one fact that I did not include is that Goat Busting is about one b’zillion times more fun than construction, since everything is “green”, everyone is HAPPY, and the results are always positive.” (bolding mine)

Have you seen a lot of growth in the business?

~ The general reception by the public of Goat Busters has improved slightly each year. The business season has gotten longer each year, starting earlier (especially this year), and lasting longer into the Fall ~~~ last year we were on jobs until well after Thanksgiving.

How long have you been offering this service?

~ This is the fifth summer season that Goat Busters has been offering brush clearing services. I am a Class A licensed general contractor who has been building in and around Wintergreen for over 25 years, but with the recent economic downturn, construction at Wintergreen and Stoney Creek came to a screeching halt. I had to do something…..

What is the smallest number of goats you “deploy”? What’s been the largest?

~ How many goats we send to a job depends totally on the individual job. Last year, I had a client who wanted to have the goats around when their grandchildren came to visit for a week. We had to get creative about where she needed goats, finally fenced them in around a small pond, and installed five friendly yearlings for the grandchildren to enjoy. Larger jobs have experienced up to seventy animals at once, eating stuff away much like a bunch of starving locusts. We aspire to have enough goats on the job so that it takes no longer than one week to complete. We can clear an acre of thick stuff in a week or less ……..sometimes taking only a few days if the vegetation is especially yummy to the goats (like the kudzu patch we are going into tomorrow in Amherst ~ which I expect they will absolutely scorch in 2-3 days.)

Have any neighborhoods in the area hired you?

~ The only neighborhood that has hired me was last year, a small neighborhood off of Elliott St in C’ville (I forget the name now) hired us to clean up about a quarter acre of kudzu……that took less than 6 hours! They were amazed.

What is the most common misconception you run into about the goats?

~ It is hard to pinpoint a specific misconception about using goats. Lots of folks are confused as to how we contain them, thinking that maybe we use electric collars and invisible fence. That does NOT work with goats. I have heard some absolutely gut-splitting funny stories of people who tried. Generally, people are just unfamiliar with the concept at all and have no idea of how things work ….. so everything is new and different.  

Pricing is always a dicey subject also …. and one I have not totally figured out. There’s a lot of work that goes into 1] going around and finding people who are willing to give us a try, and then giving quotes on jobs, 2] getting the perimeter fence line cleared sufficiently and setting up the electric net fence, 3] gathering goats and guard dogs from wherever they have been working/eating, setting up a net chute, getting everyone onto a 16′ stock trailer and hauling them to the new job site, set up an off-loading chute, and finally getting them into the new area. THEN, after they’re finished, everything needs to be done again…in reverse…..and then we’re off to a new job site to do it all again.

Eventually, I aim to be able to duplicate Dr. An Peischel’s model with Goats Unlimited, wherein she brings in 200-300 Kikos and charges $2-3000 (per DAY!) to clear land. Currently, my average job costs my clients around $800-1200 per acre. Most jobs are well less than an acre.

On second thought, perhaps the biggest misconception is that goats can eat anything. False. In fact, I have had to turn down three jobs already this summer due to presence of toxic plants. In these cases, Goat Busters offers manual labor by “two-legged goats” (me and a helper) for a set fee. Japanese Yew, mountain laurel, rhododendron, azalea, and the duel presence of wisteria and English ivy are all bad news for goats. They love kudzu, poison ivy, poison oak, Asian bittersweet, ailanthus, privet, autumn olives, and many other invasive species. But curiously enough, if they eat English ivy and wisteria at the same time, it’ll kill them in less than 75 minutes (I found out quite by mistake on a job in C’ville last year….. and Va Tech didn’t even know about this).


All this talk of cleaner and greener, I couldn’t help but think of this commercial:

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