How to Goat-Proof Trees - dummies

By Cheryl K. Smith

If you’re raising goats, you need to protect your garden and trees from them. Goats are browsers, which means that they eat bushes, trees, and woody plants. They also prefer variety in their diet and so try most of the plants that are available. If you want to keep any flowers or bushes and trees, make sure they aren’t growing in an area where your goats might go. You can fence them off, or in the case of trees, you can goat-proof them.

You need to remove any trees that are poisonous to goats and fence off or goat-proof any others you don’t want destroyed.

Goats will damage and eventually kill trees by browsing on the leaves and shoots, stripping the bark, and rubbing their horns on the trees. Your goats cause worse damage when they don’t have access to any other plants to eat, but they enjoy tender bark and leaves even when grass and shrubs are available.

For smaller trees or saplings, can buy five-foot-tall tree bark protectors from a garden store. These mesh or corrugated plastic tubes were designed to fit around the tree trunks to protect them from deer.

You can goat-proof a larger tree by wrapping it up to the level that your largest goat can reach when standing with its front legs on the tree. You can determine this height by holding a treat up next to the tree and measuring how high the goat can reach. (If your goats aren’t full-grown, you have to estimate.)

One downside to goat-proofing is that it can inhibit growth of the tree, so you need to check the tree to see whether the wrapping is too tight and re-wrap it every few years.

Materials you can use to wrap a tree include

  • Plastic strips designed to cover rain gutters to keep leaves out: Wrap them around the tree and hook them together with wire.

  • Hardware cloth, also called rabbit wire: It is more rigid than gutter covers and can be attached to the tree or to posts in the ground surrounding the tree. However, it’s expensive and doesn’t fit as neatly as gutter covers. If you attach hardware cloth directly to the tree, it also will inhibit outward growth.

  • Window screen netting: You can obtain a 1,000-foot roll for less than $100 and use it to wrap quite a few trees, depending on their diameter.

If you have only a few trees at risk of being debarked and want something more permanent, you can goat-proof trees with triangular wooden enclosures. A wooden enclosure requires three posts as tall as the tallest goat can reach, and wooden slats attached with screws across them. You can attach them close enough together to prevent the goats from getting their heads through the slats, or you can make the enclosure far enough outside the tree that they can’t reach even if they get their heads through.

A tree goat-proofed with a wooden enclosure.
A tree goat-proofed with a wooden enclosure.