Grazing of weeds and brush by goats allows for increased grass production, which in turn, allows for more available forage for your cattle and the ability to adjust stocking rates due to more efficient pasture forage production. The differences in feeding behavior among cattle and goats uniquely fit each species to the utilization of different feeds available on a farm. Goats are browsers and typically prefer brush and forbs often referred to as weeds. Because of this preference to weeds over grass, goats can serve as a compliment to a cattle operation. According to Gipson et al, most studies indicate greater production and better pasture utilization are achieved when sheep and cattle or cattle and goats are grazed together as opposed to grazing only sheep or goats or cattle alone.
Internal parasites (stomach worms) are a major problem with goats. While cattle are more resistant to internal parasites than goats, parasites do lower gains in cattle. The parasites that infect cattle do not infect goats and those that infect goats do not infect cattle. Thus grazing both cattle and goats on the same land not only reduces the grazing pressure on the favorite forages for each species, but also reduces parasite contamination from each, making it easier to control parasites without worm medications. If worm medications are used too much, the parasites become resistant to them and the medications become less effective. Most worm medications also kill dung beetles which clean up the droppings left by cattle and goats.
The benefits from grazing both cattle and goats on the same pastures include: more meat produced per acre, less money spent for weed and internal parasite control, less adverse effects of herbicides and worm medications on the environment, and healthier livestock. For more information please contact Rebecca Schafer at Rebecca.Schafer@sdstate.edu.