Tall Grasses and Goat Trainers
by Melissa McLaughlin
I have been spending the early mornings and evenings pulling weeds in the lavender while the boys play various games throughout the large lavender plants.
I work my way up the rows, clearing out the tall grasses within the plants so that, when we harvest, the bouquets will be clean and grass-free. It feels like summer and the work has been pleasant. The boys run to pull the California Red Oats out of the aromatics, as they know that it is a favorite treat of the goats. They run down to the pen and deliver the delicate seeds. They gave me a lesson in plant identification so that now I, too, can delight our horned friends.
This evening we let the goats out to browse for their dinner.
They quickly made their way into the Helichrysum and started skillfully pulling the long blades of grass out of the plants by the mouthful. Their deft browsing skills made my weeding hands feel feeble in comparison. They are a pleasure to watch.
One reason we have these beautiful French Alpine goats, in addition to companionship, is that they are excellent browsers and their hooves work well on our largely sloped land. When we take them on walks, they love to eat leaves along the way (including poison oak of which there is an abundance). It’s also useful when they browse through the aromatics, which we let them do at certain times of year.
That’s not to say that the occasional goat doesn’t get out of line. Dasher with her bold ways will try to rub her horns through the bushes, and Lilly will occasionally nibble some sprouts off the top of a plant.
That is why, when you let your goats browse, it is sometimes helpful to have a goat trainer on security detail…water squirters (or “goat trainers” as they are known around here) are a gentle herding technique in lieu of a herding dog.