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Horses and Goats
 By Winniefield Park   •   3rd Sep 2017   •   877 views   •   0 comments


Several recent new stories have featured the use of goats to eat up the weeds in parks and other green spaces. Goats are just one way to rid your pasture of weeds, or at least keep them under control. There are herbicides that you can spray on weeds that will kill them. But, who wants to be exposed to it? And, who wants to take a chance that their horse will eat some of it?

Getting a goat is a commitment just like any other companion or livestock animals. They take some care but really are pretty low maintenance. They’re good around horses, although some horses might harass a goat. Goats have been known to chew off a horse’s tail because goats like to sample and nibble things. That’s why they are handy for getting rid of weeds too.

Goats will eat plants that your horse won’t. They’ll even eat some things that aren’t great to be around, like poison oak and ivy. It doesn’t seem to hurt the goat, and over time, the plant will weaken and die. This actually may take several years, because the only way to really get rid of these noxious weeds is to spray them with herbicide or dig them out by the roots. Not a job you probably want to take on yourself. But, by chewing down the plant, they will eventually stop growing. And, according to research from UC Davis, it’s perfectly fine to drink the milk from a goat that eats poison ivy, oak or sumac.

Like horses, there are a few things goats shouldn’t eat. Some plants and trees are toxic to goats, as they are to horses. Yew, lily of the valley, nightshade, oak leaves and other things that are also toxic to horses should be cleared out of your pastures, or away from where horses and goats can reach.

Ideally, you should have more than one goat, because goats, like horses, are herd animals and need companions. They also will need a bit of grain and some good roughage. If they’re pastured with horses, they can share any bits of leftover hay and the salt lick. And of course, they need water and some shelter. These are things that you’re probably going to provide pretty easily anyway if you’re already got a horse.

Because goats like companionship they live happily with most horses. Lots of famous horses have had goat companions. There are some horses that are nasty to goats and other small animals. You’ll probably know this before you even think of getting a goat. But, a horse can really hurt a goat, who isn’t as big or fast a horse, and has few defenses.

The fact that goats love to climb on things is both amusing and annoying at times. They’ll stand on anything they can hop up on and that includes a horse lying down or a fat old pony’s back. They’ll also climb on the fenders of your horse trailer, the roof of your car or jump into the bed of your truck. Once up there they may poop. If your goats climb your pile of hay, it may get soiled. Because they are nibblers, they’re as likely to sample garden plants as the weeds you want them to trim down. Because they are good climbers and jumpers they are good at escaping fenced areas.

You don’t have to worry about goats and horses trading diseases. They don’t have many common susceptibilities. Your goat will need some different vaccines than your horse, and your farrier may not be equipped to trim its hooves. Your vet can help out with this.

Can you ride a goat? Most are too small. They are used as pack animals in some places. I know from experience they don’t carry a bit well. They can be driven, however, and pull a very small load. Somewhere there is a photo of me doing just that, with a modified horse collar and traces hitched to a wooden wagon. After being run away several times with I decided that it’s best to stick to riding or driving your horse, and let goats spend their energy eating down the weeds in your pasture.
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