Living with nature’s brush hog

MD-Gloria and her goat friends_girl and goats

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
3-year-old Collette Campbell catches “Boots” taking a taste of her hemline. Boots and his brother Penny were put on to clear brush at the Campbell farm—a job they do well!

What do you do when your yard is being overcome with briers, tall grasses, and poison ivy? Most of us would think about a weed-whacker or a brush hog, or weed-killing spray. Not Donna Campbell. She wanted an ecological solution for the weed problem on the Dorchester farm where she lives.

Donna figured she’d get some “kids” to do cleanup — not the kind you pay wages to, but kids, you know, baby goats. Off she went to Sudlersville with her granddaughter, 3-year-old Collette Campbell. They returned to Dorchester County with two more kids; Boots, a small white goat with brown boots, and Pendleton (aka Penny), a black goat with white ears and a matching white spot between them.

Popular belief says goats eat anything, like tin cans and such. Not true. They eat all kinds of plants and anything that comes from a plant, like paper. They might even try to nibble on the hem of Collette’s blue cotton dress! Boots and Penny are ruminants, which means they have stomachs of four chambers to digest their diet; so the briers can run through their systems and the brambles can run through them and so can the bushes where a rabbit wouldn’t go.**

They may never run out of that diet, but Donna Campbell says they’ll also eat fortified food like Purina Goat Chow, with essential vitamins for goats. In warm weather, they have a fenced pen with a river view and safety from foxes. In winter, they will call a warm shed home.

These two kids will become adult goats, but they won’t grow very much. They are Nigerian Dwarf goats, characteristically small, affectionate and intelligent. They can be walked on a leash, even by a child as young as Colette. So what if they chew on your shoelaces! They are as gentle and cute as can be.

This dwarf breed is one of 300 recognized breeds of goats. Archaeologists have found bones and concluded that Neolithic farmers domesticated goats 10,000 years go. While they are a novelty on this Dorchester farm, they are very common worldwide. Goats live on all six inhabited continents. The United Nations statistics counts over 900 million goats worldwide, used mainly for milk, cheese and soap. Donna’s goats will never be useful for those contributions, they are both billy goats (males). Instead, add lawn mower and weed-whacker to a goat’s list of gifts to humans.

**with apologies to Johnny Horton and “The Battle of New Orleans”

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