If you are considering goats for your project there are a few things to be sure of when hiring a goatscaping company. Goats are very intelligent, very curious and certainly a challenge to contain if they decide they have seen something better on the other side of their fence. Goats also, on occasion, get injured or sick. They can do a lot of damage to a neighbor's garden or eat an unfamiliar toxic plant, ornamental plants have this potential, if they get loose. Goats also require water at all times and a place for shelter. Please review the list below and be certain that every criteria is met before hire a goatscaping company. Goats work really hard and should be treated as well as their human counterpart in the field, not as livestock.
1) Goats should ALWAYS be attended by a herder. Most bad situations can be avoided by an experienced herder. When things do go wrong the situation can be diffused and corrected much more quickly with an experienced person on site.
2) Veterinary care. Goats should be cared for by a Veterinarian , have annual check ups and yearly vaccinations including tetanus and rabies vaccines. Health certificates should be available upon request from ANY goatscaping company, especially if travelling across state lines. EMERGENCY care should also be available on site 24 hours a day 365 days per year.
3) Only healthy, physically fit goats should be working. Injured and sick goats need to be in a stable, secure and comfortable situation, a job site is none of these.
4) NO pregnant or lactating does! Clearing brush is tough work and some plants can be harmful to these girls or their fetus. A birth on a job site is in no way a good idea, it can be deadly and therefore inhumane in every sense of the word! Lactating ladies can have extremely large utters that are low to the ground, do not have a heavy fur protection and are easily cut, scraped or caught up in brush.
5) NO kids ( goats less than one year old )! They appear to be cute smaller versions of the adults but their senses are not fully developed, it takes a much smaller amount of plant toxins to make them sick and their immune system is far from matured. They can be injured more easily, of their own accord or by another goat and they cannot "compete" with the big goats for food.
6) BUCKS, intact male goats, typically used for breeding, SHOULD NEVER be on a job site!!! While we consider our bucks to be sweet loving companions we also know they can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Most books on keeping goats strongly recommend not keeping a buck even on your own premises unless you are very experienced, have a special reinforced paddock and carry pepper spray and a cattle prod when interacting with them. They may try to dominate men and have their way with women. We take a slightly different approach with ours, no pepper spray or cattle prod, but have had to use a 2x8 board to block oncoming attacks during breading season just to feed one. It seems obvious that it would be inappropriate to bring one of these guys out in public, but some companies do! Be aware, these guys could hurt someone. See item 7, insurance, and imagine the lawsuit. Even worse, children love goats and want to see them, getting too close to a bucks heram could be seen as a threat and electric fences won't hold these guys back.
7) INSURANCE, this is a biggie for all involved !!! Let's just say a goat knocks down a sapling and that sapling goes across the fence. Now imagine the herder sees this happen as do the other goats. The herder sprints to the incident, as do the rest of the goats. Most likely the goats make it there first and several will jump out, if not all. The herder reaches the area removes the debris, rounds up the escaped goats and returns them to the work area. Now lets imagine the herder got tangled up in brush and twisted their ankle, calls for help and then proceeds much more slowly to the now ongoing incident, removes the debris from the fence but now must wait for help to arrive to return all the goats. Let's figure it's an hour that the herder can do little more than keep the goats from running off before help arrives. In that time that group of goats can destroy topiary gardens, Japanese weeping maples, rose bushes and any other variety of very expensive ornamental plants that your neighbor cherishes and has worked countless hours on cultivating. If the goats are not insured, the property owner may be responsible for these damages, it could be many thousands of dollars. NOT worth taking a chance here, make certain the goats you hire are insured.