I'm interested in learning more about the pro's/con's of having goats in the woods.  I have a block of woods, circled by pasture.  I'm thinking of permanent fencing the woods and giving goats free range access in the woods, with rotated access to different blocks of pasture via electric fencing.  

What are the risks?  Benefits?  Risk Mitigation activities?  


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Thomas,  I think there are numerous potential benefits to grazing your goats in the adjacent wooded area if managed properly.  This is generally known as "silvopasturing", which is a widely-accepted agroforestry practice in many parts of the world - but not so common here in the Northeast where we can still see the effects of decades of minimally-managed livestock grazing in wooded areas.  There are numerous silvopasturing resources posted on the publications page of www.forestconnect.info , or you can visit: www.silvopasture.ning.com to seek input from others who may be doing silvopasturing with goats. 

If the goats are allowed continued access, you'll want to monitor the woods for damage to the older trees (particularly, bark stripping).  They'll clean out most of what's in the understory, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're not concerned about regeneration at this point in time.  Parasite buildup over time in the wooded area (if not rested) would be the main risk.  Consequently, you may want to look for a practical way to rotate and rest the wooded areas the same as the open pastures.   

Hi Thomas:

Brett offers great advice.  Note the importance of not allowing sustained continuous access as this typically results in degradation of the trees because of soil compaction and the stripping of bark. 

We ran the "Goats in the Woods" project from about 2000 to 2003 at the Arnot Forest and throughout NY with a variety of private cooperators.  Do a search for "goatsinthewoods" for some background.  I'll post a link below to the technical manual (not really logistics as you request).

Snail populations can cause problems as a vector of deer brain worm.  I recall that snails were more common in wet areas.  You might consider mixing in some other livestock such as some species of duck that would eat the snails but tolerate exposure to the parasite.  The Cornell Small Ruminant program may have more information on this subject.




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