“Our grazing goats have been loving their special New Year treat and it’s a great way to recycle our unwanted Christmas trees!” said grazing officer Jo Saunders.
“While it’s not true that goats will eat anything, they are very curious and will eat a wide variety of plants. They’re able to eat very prickly plants easily - favourites include gorse, bramble and of course Christmas trees! This makes them excellent scrub managers.”
The Trust now has a herd of nearly 20 goats, which originated from feral populations on the coasts of Devon and North Wales back in 2009. The animals are used for conservation grazing, which is the most natural way of looking after the landscape – and goats can access areas that machinery can’t. The animals also have less impact than burning or cutting would, so allowing slower moving species to thrive.
“The goat's job is simply to eat!” added Jo. “We put them out onto nature reserves in small paddocks to eat woody species, which stop them from taking over precious habitats such as heathland and chalk grasslands.”
In the summer you may find the goats on heathland sites like Wisley Common and nearby Esher Common, where they munch through young pine and birch trees, conserving habitats for ground-nesting birds such as nightjars and Dartford warblers.
The goats are also used on chalk grasslands like Hackhurst Down and Betchworth Quarry, where they eat invading brambles and ash saplings, protecting the precious chalk grassland for butterflies and orchids.
You can help the Trust continue its vital conservation work and help protect our special habitats by adopting a goat for just £25. Each adoption will contribute to the care of the animals through the purchase of fencing materials, medical equipment and winter feed.