Goat a blackberry problem?

Goat a blackberry problem? Dry Creek Farm's pest solution growing in popularity

Opinion
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These hungry, hungry goats are part of an environmentally-friendly approach to getting rid of pesky blackberry problems.

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These hungry, hungry goats are part of an environmentally-friendly approach to getting rid of pesky blackberry problems.

Over a couple of weeks, the goats made a Portland property their home.

The goats, from Dry Creek Farm near Mudgee, are part of a small business making its mark in the region.

Owners Billie Johnstone and Michael Blewitt have been called on to provide weed reduction services around the region and were finding their services increasingly in demand in the Blue Mountains.

Having the goats take the blackberry plants down gives property owners the opportunity to plant them out, Billie said.

"They don't like growing in the shade," she said.

Before relocating from Sydney three and half years ago for a lifestyle change, Michael and Billie completed a permaculture course.

So, when they found they had a pest problem on their new property, goats were their go-to option.

It wasn't a little problem - it was an 18 hectare blackberry nightmare. But out of the process of controlling it came the herd and a small business idea.

It's been a learning experience. Billie remembers in their earliest days watching a whole herd of goats slip through the strands of electric fencing.

"It all happened within minutes. I was filming on my phone and you can hear my voice in the background saying "Michael, there they go"," she said.

Then came the laborious process of coaxing them back to the yard.

"We learned they loved Weetbix," she said.

Investing in new transportable fence designs largely solved the Houdini goat situation.

After taking care of their own blackberry problem, Dry Creek Farm began offering their services further afield.

One of their earliest jobs was for Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew and her husband Neil Varcoe at Warramba.

Word of mouth had been a powerful way for their business to spread, Billie said.

The goats were useful in clearing all sorts of pest species, as well as grass in areas that are difficult to access with machinery.

People would share their experiences about using goats to deal with weeds on a gardening Facebook group, for example, and the interest would spread.

There was a limit to how far the goats could be delivered, as they required close supervision and checking every second day.

Dry Creek has now built up the herd to about 50 goats.

There was quite a demand for the service, Michael and Billie said, which had seen their herds booked out over the next few months.

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