Put away the herbicide and hire herbivores! Goats and sheep are an effective, cost efficient, and sustainable method to get your landscape back under control. Our goats and sheep have munched weeds in Richmond City Parks, Stone Brewery, University of Richmond, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Evergreen Historic Cemetery, and yards of many dozens of homes around RVA.
“These goats have done a spectacular job cleaning up all the invasive, viney plants that were threatening the health of many trees on my wooded lots. They work fast and happily and are fun to have around!”– Beth Jasper, Client
“Our property is looking better than ever thanks to RVA Goats that started the process by removing the ivy, honeysuckle and brambles. So much better and no environmental hazards from having those friendly goats around for a week.”– Mary Hobbs, Client
Want to hear more about RVA Goats? Read about our stories in the local news.
RVA Goats FAQs
Does it work? Why should I choose this method?
Yes! Goats are an effective and sustainable method to manage overgrown vegetation and restore your property. Goatscaping is a great first step to getting your land back under control, but it is just step 1 in a multi-step process. You’ll get the best results from goatscaping if you have a plan for the next steps in mind!
A few reasons goat are a great option:
- quieter than power equipment!
- engages the community!
- can navigate hidden hazards and things that make using other methods difficult – fallen trees, stumps, steep terrain, poison ivy
- ecologically responsible – disturbs the soil less than machinery and causes less pollution
- by the time seeds get through all four of their stomachs, very few come out viable!
- they promote healthy soil, fertilizing as they go
With the greenery gone after goatscaping, you’ll be able to get a good view of your property and actually get into the area for further work. Invasive vines growing on trees will be visible and able to be cut off. Bigger, older trees can store much more carbon than young trees or saplings. So, saving the mature trees that we already have by freeing them from invasive vines will result in more carbon sequestration than if you were to let those trees die and plant new ones. This is one of the best things an individual can do to combat climate change!
Plants get their energy from their leaves by photosynthesizing, and store energy in their roots. Once the goats and sheep have eaten all the leaves on a plant, it will pull all of the stored energy from its roots and focus it on creating new leaves, since that’s the only way of getting more energy. This leaves the roots weaker and more susceptible to herbicides or manual pulling. And, if you are following up with herbicides, there’s a lot less to spray.
How does it work?
First, we schedule a consultation to see the land and discuss your goals. Then, if we are compatible for the job we’ll give you an estimate and a time-frame. Before we bring animals in, we cut a path through the area and set up our temporary electric fencing.Then, we bring the animals in and let them do their work!
What animals do you use?
We use goats and sheep! They prefer different kinds of vegetation, so depending on the area we may bring all sheep, all goats, or a mixture of both!
How are your animals cared for?
We love our animals! They are our coworkers and friends, and their job comes with an excellent benefits package. Their health and safety is our first priority. We do most of our own veterinary care, and have a team of veterinarians that help and support us. All of our four-legged employees get regular health and wellness check-ups, routine hoof-trimming and vaccinations, and other supplements and medical treatment as necessary.They get plenty of snuggle time from us too! Most of our goats are with us for life – we never retire them or sell them for meat. In the rare case one of our animals does find another home, it is to a thoroughly vetted homestead or someone that is keeping them as a pet, and we usually keep in touch with their new home too!
We take complete care of them while they are on a job site as well. We go to each site daily to make sure the animals are all happy and healthy, have clean water, check on their progress, make sure the fence is sturdy, and supplement with hay if necessary. Goats and sheep, like most livestock, live outside and have higher body temperatures than us. They are accustomed to the heat and the weather that we get here. In certain circumstances they may need some form of shelter, in which case we will hang rain or shade tarps as needed. In the event of extreme weather, we may make the decision to temporarily remove them from the job site. But, we are always keeping track of the weather and making sure the animals are safe.
Why do you use electric fences?
Electric fences keep the animals in the target area, and they also keep predators out. All of our animals are trained with the electric fences we use, and it acts as more of a psychological barrier than a physical barrier for them.
The voltage on the fence isn’t enough to cause any harm, but it is enough to be a deterrent. When necessary, we will put up an extra layer of orange safety fencing to keep any curious two- or four- legged little ones from touching the fence.
How many animals will you bring?
The number of animals we bring depends on the area they are grazing. The size, thickness, and type of vegetation will all affect this. We will bring as many or as few animals are needed to get the job done efficiently, safely, and according to your goals.
What do goats eat?
Goats and sheep will eat the leaves and tender, non-woody new growth of stems, but do not eat entire stalks, branches, vines, or roots. They will defoliate nearly all vegetation from about 6-7 feet high and below. They will eat most of the common invasives and unwanted vegetation that we encounter, but there are some things that they can’t or won’t eat.
Examples of things goats WILL eat:
- Poison Oak
- Poison Ivy
- Poison Sumac
- Multi-flora Rose
- Virginia Creeper
- Winter Creeper
- English ivy
- Blackberry and raspberry bushes
- Porcelain berry
- Rose of Sharon
- Paper mulberry
- Most saplings
- Tree of Heaven
- Stilt grass
Examples of things they CAN’T or WON’T eat:
- Laurel bushes of any type
- Wilted fruit tree leaves, including cherry
- Poison hemlock
How do you keep them from eating things that I don’t want eaten?
Depending on where in the area it is, we may be able to exclude it from the fence, or put a small fence around it. We do this for anything that is toxic to the animals as well. If there are a lot of plants you want to save in the area, goatscaping may not be the best option for you.
Do they stay overnight?
Yes, the animals stay overnight while they are working on your land.
Do they fertilize the land they are on?
They do! This can mean unwanted vegetation may grow back thicker the next year. But it also means the soil will be healthier for anything else you plant, and over time healthy soil leads to less weeds and better ecosystems.
Do you use livestock guardian dogs?
Yes, if there is a threat of predators in the area, we may choose to bring a livestock guardian dog along with the herd. Livestock guardian dogs are working dogs – they are bonded with the herd and are there to protect them. Just the presence of a LGD is usually enough to deter predators. They are wary of strangers and prefer for them to keep their distance. If you hear them bark, they are doing their job. If we do bring one with the herd, they will be fed and cared for daily along with our daily site and herd checks.
How long will it take?
The amount of time it will take is completely dependent on the area the animals are working on. Size, type of vegetation, thickness of vegetation, and terrain will all have an effect on how long the job takes. We will be able to give you a time estimate at the time of consultation.
How much will it cost?
The price is very dependent on the area, but the base price is per day of grazing, and per 100-foot fence section The fence set-up fees are dependent upon the difficulty, and the human labor required for set up. Things such as steepness, presence of obstacles, and thickness of vegetation will affect this. The price per day that animals are working on your land is $350. We will provide you with a cost estimate after doing a consultation.
How long will it take for vegetation to start growing back?
You will probably see things start to sprout new leaves in about 2 weeks. It is important to have a plan for maintenance or next steps for very soon after the grazing takes place.
What can I do to keep things from growing back?
There are many different plans of action you may choose to keep your land under control after grazing, depending on your goals. Here are a few options you might consider:
- Use goats again! We can set up a maintenance schedule for repeated grazings. After some time, the improved soil health and repeated weakening of plants will lead to less undesirable vegetation.
- Manually cut and remove roots and vines yourself, or bring in a landscaping company or individual(s) to do it.
- Bring in a tree removal company to remove trees and grind stumps.
- Hire a licensed herbicide company or individual to follow up with spraying – after an area has been grazed, broadcast spraying would no longer be necessary and much more thoughtful and controlled herbicide application can take place, using much less chemical – such as cut and paint methods or limited sprays.
- Use Natria (a more eco-friendly alternative to herbicides such as round-up) and carefully spray new growth only as it pops back up.
- Use a weed dragon to flame weed. Here’s an instructional video.
- Heavily mulch or use landscaping fabric to prevent new growth from photosynthesizing.
- Use a clear tarp to heat the soil to temperatures that will kill weeds and weed weeds. This is called solarization and this is how you do it.
- Plant native plants to take the place of and outcompete invasives and unwanted vegetation!
We collaborate with several arborists, landscapers, and land management companies regularly, and can provide you with recommendations for individuals and companies that do this work.
Where do you do work?
We work in Richmond City and surrounding counties. We can do all sorts of landscapes from parks, cemeteries, vacant lots, wooded areas, fields, and residential yards.
What do I need to do?
To prepare for your estimate, know what area you want worked on and where your property lines are. Know if there are any plants in the area that you don’t want munched on. Tell us if you have applied, or do apply, any herbicides, pesticides, or sprays. If you know of any Laurel, Rhododendron, or Yew in the work area, let us know about that as well.
To prepare for the animals, please do not apply any herbicides or pesticides to the area. If you have an outdoor outlet and a water spout, having those available is helpful. Clear any trash, fallen fences, or other potentially dangerous debris from the area that will be worked on if possible.
We take complete care of the animals while they are on your property, but If you are open to keeping their water full throughout the day, we always appreciate that!
I have dogs!
We ask that you keep your dogs away from the goat fence while our animals are there. While your dog may just want to play or look at them, dogs are natural predators and unfamiliar dogs are scary to goats and sheep who are natural prey animals (horns or not!). And, while the shock from the fence is not strong enough to harm your pet, it’s still no fun and better to keep them away.
I live in a neighborhood/ have an HOA.
If you live in a neighborhood we ask that you talk to all neighbors adjacent to the area that will be grazed before we come in to do work. Goat grazing can be a great way to bring the community together, but we’ve found that some people prefer to have a heads up!
If you live in a community with an HOA, you should talk to the board to check on your specific HOA’s regulations surrounding goatscaping.
What times of year can you graze?
This will vary based on type of vegetation. Some things like English Ivy and Winter Creeper can be grazed almost year-round. Other things like wisteria need to be eaten in the spring when it is more palatable to the animals. We take the plants’ life cycle as well as the nutritional needs of our animals into account when scheduling. Most things can be grazed between April-October.
Why is there a waitlist to get an estimate/ why don’t you work in my area?
This is a young industry, and we are the only business in the area that does this. We wish we could do every job, but we simply don’t have the resources. We hope to expand someday!