Hi folks, our farm is considering a pig, goat rotation (keeping species separate) through our 80 acres of woodlands to manage invasives. I was wondering if anyone has trialed/attempted that. I was thinking of beginning with the goats then following with the pigs.
I hope you've had a good season since we spoke last summer. I just breezed through this site, saw your query above, and thought I would offer some thoughts. Of course, I do not have decades of experience under my belt and my ideas are by no means authoritative. Better late than never, I hope.
Most old-timers around my area seem to have a negative view of putting livestock in the woods, and I think that view is not without some justification. It can be done poorly and yield undesirable consequences. But I presume most everyone on this site also believes that it can be done well. I certainly do. I'm a big proponent of putting livestock in the woods, ON THE CONDITION that there is a plan to foster continued lush growth of greenery within reach of the animals. Usually this means herbaceous forages, which usually require thinning the canopy to increase light penetration, but perhaps with the right management it could also apply to shrubby plants that are already present. I would not advise putting animals in the woods with an intention to clear out shrubs, vines, or young trees without also having a vision for how they will be replaced.
This ties into a greater question - what is an invasive species? How do we decide what's invasive and what's not? Do we want to make judgements on a species based on whether or not it was present on this land before white folks began to colonize? To this final question, my personal answer is clear: no I don't. I want to look at every species with an open mind and understand it based on how it's behaving, on the ground, here and now. The only constant in our world is change. The land we inhabit will never again look like it did 500 years ago. My goal in land management is not to restore the ecosystem to any previous state of being, but instead to build health into the system - to increase its capacity to capture solar energy and support life - as efficiently as possible, using whatever means may be at hand. Sometimes I find that plants commonly considered invasive, such as Japanese honeysuckle or multiflora rose, are performing these healing tasks more effectively than any other plant could, given the specific conditions of the site. All this by way of saying that there are many reasons that I'd recommend utilizing a tract of woods as silvopasture, but the suppression of invasive species, in and of itself, is not one of them.
I'd love to think more on these questions, and also to hear the latest on your farm projects. Please feel free to give me a call if you ever want to.
I think that going with the goats first and following with the pigs is a better idea than going with pigs and then following with goats but you'll need to do some experimenting to see what works for your woods. One thing I do want to point out is that the combination of these two species can be pretty devastating so you will really want to watch how long you leave each species in a particular area of the woods and evaluate their effect on the vegetation you want to keep versus the invasives you want to eradicate. The combination of pigs rooting and goats girdling can be a deadly one on perennial vegetation. I remember being shocked years ago on Catolina Island at the erosion caused by the combination of overgrazing by pigs, goats and deer. So plan on daily walk throughs and evaluation of the sites you are targeting.
I agree with Tatiana and yourself on the rotation schedule, as mentioned above, keep a close eye on the pigs they can turn a thicket into a moonscape in a heartbeat.