Charming billy

Credit: Carol Pope


Driving home nowadays I know to slow down on Garden Bay Road when the stretch ahead looks lumpy. Here, a herd of goats like to soak up the heat of the day’s sunshine by lying out on the warm asphalt in the evenings.

And while one has no choice but to pause and give them a chance to move over, it’s also better not to dilly-dally too long (while you get your camera out) once they’re up on their hooves again – as at least one of these billies does not hesitate to hop up against your vehicle and pop his head right into your window!

Recently, I noticed the head of another goat protruding between the fence posts of my neighbour’s yard and she explained that this was a strategy to eradicate the blackberry bushes that were threatening to invade her entire property. So far, though, my neighbour has been disappointed with the results of the experiment, for instead of the blackberries, the goat seems to favour the flavour of her cedar hedge.

Nonetheless, for those with large spaces where weeds predominate, goats can be wonderful for clearing unwanted foliage. These adaptable creatures are capable of gobbling up brambles, woody vines and even thistles and thorns. And while they should not be given clippings from azaleas, yew, delphinium, lily of the valley and larkspur, they will chomp down pine needles, dead leaves, acorns and a wide assortment of bitter and high-tannin weeds. In fact, goats prefer all these things to grass, and if there is enough brush for their browsing will leave the turf behind.

Certainly, a herd of goats (with portable fencing to keep them contained) is an excellent environmental alternative to herbicides or to using heavy equipment for clearing fields for grazing cattle or the land below power lines.