They are excellent at weeding and vegetation management too, particularly where brambles are too thick to get through. They also convert unwanted vegetation into useful fertilizer. Goats are remarkably versatile and useful machines around the garden.
The goat in this picture is no ordinary goat. She is a pygmy fainting goat. Her kind were bred to faint when startled, in order to keep a predator occupied instead of eating other more desirable livestock in their herd. What a strange job description! When we went to Oklahoma a few years ago, we stayed on a farm with quite a herd of these small and pleasantly mannered goats.
It was winter while we were there, so there was not much to do in regard to vegetation management or gardening. There were a few blackjack oaks near the homes that I pruned up for clearance and just to neaten them up a bit. The goats came over to watch what I was doing, and seemed to know to stay back when branches fell. Nonetheless, the commotion of some of the larger branches falling was enough to cause some of the closer goats to faint and fall to the ground. They would get back up within a few seconds and proceed to eat the twigs from the branches. By the time I was finished pruning, only the larger stems remained to be dragged off and staged next to a burn pile of other debris that had accumulated earlier in the year.
Late one evening, my friend Steven decided to burn the burn pile. ( https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/oklahoma/ and https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/birthday/ ) I do not know why Steven thought that it would be a good idea to burn it in the dark. The neighbors off in the distance were probably wondering the same thing. Once it was started, there was no point in extinguishing it for a more convenient time. I went out to help him finish the job.
The initial pile flared up pretty well, and then took some time to die down. All the goats who happened to be in the main pasture at the time came over and gathered around to watch. They all seemed to be so interested, and formed a very neat and uniform circle around the fire. Their happy faces glowed like those of a really big troop of Boy Scouts.
It took a while, but the fire eventually died down enough to start throwing on the staged limbs of the blackjack oaks. The goats did not seem to mind as Steven shooed a few of them aside to get a nice hefty limb. From a few feet back, Steven innocently dropped the limb onto the fire.
The limb went down.
The flurry of sparks went up.
The entire herd of goats went down.
Neither Steven nor I saw much of what happened after that. As fast as the goats got back up, we both went down, laughing too hard to stand. The neighbors must have thought we were crazy. The goats were more certain of it. By the time we recovered and got back up, all the goats were gone . . . off into the distance and the darkness of that cool winter night in Oklahoma.