Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

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Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Korto » 2012-01-06 04:53am

Trying to think of a good animal to keep the backyard grass under some kind of control, you know, to save me the annoyance of actually having to mow it. Yes, I'm a lazy bastard.
I have something approximately 300 sq metres of backyard inside a six foot high wire fence (which can be dug under), I'm in a residential area, and the animal's got to be safe for small children. It's also got to be quieter than dogs. I see the animal living permanently within the backyard, so it can't need more space than is available. I don't plan to take the damn thing for walks.
I don't mind bringing food in for it, but I want the grass to fill the bulk of its diet.

Nothing's really leaping to my mind, except maybe geese. But they're a bit noisy as far as I know.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Patrick Ogaard » 2012-01-06 05:41am

Would a Babydoll Southdown or two fit the bill?

http://www.roblin.com.au/Australian_babydoll_sheep.htm

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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Executor32 » 2012-01-06 06:18am

Pygmy goat, maybe? They tend to be quieter than sheep, in my experience, and they're great with kids (har har) and people in general. That and their small size is why you'll find them in almost every petting zoo.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Broomstick » 2012-01-06 08:23am

I was going to suggest a goat as well.

Get a dairy goat you get lawn-mowing AND milk, but that's only useful if you like goat's milk and want to deal with additional stuff involved. If you just want lawn-mowing get a non-lactating goat.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Lagmonster » 2012-01-06 09:13am

Get a mower, man. To think you can toss a goat in your yard and it'll be a trouble-free automatic lawnmower that's less hassle than a machine is, well, stupid. Hell, get a riding mower if you're tired or, for the perfect win, get a residential robot mower (they exist, look it up).
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby S.L.Acker » 2012-01-06 10:06am

Or, assuming your kids aren't old enough, give a local youngster a few bucks a week to do the job for you. It'll cost less than dealing with an animal and you'd spend as much time dealing with goat shit as you would mowing anyway.

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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Darth Fanboy » 2012-01-06 11:51am

Wallabies do the trick if you have enough room. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are good also if legal. Your problem with geese is that they are not only noisy but shit runny nasty foul (no pun intended) smelling shit all over everything and can be aggressive.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby aerius » 2012-01-06 12:32pm

Lagmonster wrote:for the perfect win, get a residential robot mower (they exist, look it up).


That's what I'd do. All you need to do is plug it in and it does everything else for you, it's the ultimate in set & forget lawn maintenance.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby LaCroix » 2012-01-06 12:54pm

Take some advice from someone who does professional animal husbandry... ;)

For that yard size, you would need something like a bunny. Any other animal would have your yard stripped to the bare ground within a couple of weeks. So while you will have a bit less lawn-work, there is a lot of extra work that will come up.

1) The resulting poo has to be taken care of, and it will be as much in volume as the food consumed, so be prepared to have a big, steaming pile of poo in the corner of your yard... And you need to take time to muck the yard from the poo, or it will be a 'minefield'.

2) A suitable stable for the animal. Rule of thumb - a building of at least 4-5x the size of the animal for shelter - and the twice again as corral, if you don't want it running around in your yard all the time, which you don't want if you still want grass on the ground. (Fair warning: Goats are known for chewing on anything they can get. Also, smell is a factor if you get a male goat - don't do it. )

Oh, and mucking the stable/corral is mandatory... Animal health related, and olfactoric reasons.

3) Also, the animal has to be fed extra after the grass is gone, which means you need a small barn-like structure as well, as you rarely can buy hay in small quantities, and you'll need a lot. I estimate 3-4 lbs of hay per day for a goat, which means one bale per week. So you'll need about the space of a car to store hay-bales. You could store it under a tarp, or in your garage.

So, you have lost about 50m² of your yard, have tripled or quadrupled your weekly workload, and have a garden that smells of animal poo.
Conclusion: Get yourself a robo-mower, if you're that lazy. They are designed for gardens that small.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Korto » 2012-01-06 06:06pm

I'll have you know, LaCroix, that my back yard is not small. That 300 metres was a conservative estimate after subtracting pathways, garage, and other wastage, and I've seen houses built where the entire property was little larger. So there. <Sticks tongue out>.
However, as a place to keep a goat, it's tiny. I already knew that. Particularly since goats are gregarious so unless you're into wanton cruelty to animals you really should get two. I did however, after it was suggested, check up on miniature goats. Suggested minimum size for a pair, 1 acre. Only off by one order of magnitude.
I've also sent an email asking about the sheep, but I assume they would be the same.
It's a shame, because I like goats.

I am curious though, LaCroix, for later reference for if I get a place with a bit of paddock, could you estimate how much acreage of grass (and shrubbery) you would need per goat to support them indefinetly?

There is a notion of getting a kid, fattening it up on the yard, and then getting someone to butcher it when the job is done. Rinse and repeat. Although it would need to be reasonable from the viewpoint of the price of meat.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby madd0ct0r » 2012-01-06 09:05pm

guinea pig or gerbils, or voles maybe?

your neighbours won't thank you though. pay a local kid.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2012-01-06 09:39pm

This is just a dumb. Get a solar powered robot mower, and or just let the grass grow in the more remote parts. Any animal that will do the job will make lots of noise, lots of shit, demand vet care and generally be a pain in the ass. A goat will not work, goats do not eat all kinds of random grass, they only eat specific kinds of plants. Animals that do eat all grass will give you a crappy uneven lawn and likely lots of small holes and divots. As others have said you don't really have enough space to support a grazing animal full time in the first place, and grazing land will not be fit for other use.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Alkaloid » 2012-01-07 06:46am

Also, anything that eats grass probably eats other vegetation. Have rose bushes? Ferns? Cos I had a pet lamb when I was a kid, and it ate six rose bushes, two climbing roses and a whole goddam tree fern in one week and it never touched the grass. The only thing it didn't go after was the lemon tree for some reason.

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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Col. Crackpot » 2012-01-07 09:14am

Instead of buying an animal and having to care for it, wouldn't it just be cheaper to pay a neighborhood kid twenty bucks to cut the grass every week or two?
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby LaCroix » 2012-01-07 09:46am

Indefinite support is a hard nut to crack, as I have no idea what climate and vegetations we're talking about. Either way, we are talking about huge areas.

Goats eat about 3 kg of grass per day (young do as well, for growing reasons, so there isn't any difference.) If we take an average grass density and height, a pair of them would (in a sustainable way) go through an acre in about 20 weeks, so to have them permanently on a meadow, you'd need about 3 acres, divided into at least 3 parts, switching between them in a bi-weekly or monthly rythm to decrease parasitic density and allowing regrowth. With occasional fertilizing and re-seeding the useful grass types (as they do get eaten before shedding seeds, themselves), you should be fine.

(For relation, a single horse would easily go through 6-8 acres per year if it had to live of the land.)

Still, you might need to add a hay reserve for winter, as I don't know how much snow you have, and frost-resistant water supply is essential.

In general, if you are looking to raise them for meat purposes, I'd recommend having like 20 on those 3 acres, giving them a big paddock and only 4-5 hours out on the meadows daily, giving a good hay supply in the paddock instead.. Meadow-husbandry is much too expensive in relation to modern hay prices.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Akhlut » 2012-01-07 03:19pm

Korto wrote:I am curious though, LaCroix, for later reference for if I get a place with a bit of paddock, could you estimate how much acreage of grass (and shrubbery) you would need per goat to support them indefinetly?


A book on homesteading I have suggests a minimum of a quarter acre per goat, depending on conditions. Is that accurate enough, LaCroix? The book does also mention feeding each goat about 4-5 pounds of mixed grass and legumes a day, as well, so is that figured into the area calculation for the goats?

There is a notion of getting a kid, fattening it up on the yard, and then getting someone to butcher it when the job is done. Rinse and repeat. Although it would need to be reasonable from the viewpoint of the price of meat.


You could do it yourself, you know. A rimfire .22 for adults or a sledgehammer for kids would work out well, and while the act of skinning, gutting, cleaning, and butchering is a bit rough and rather dirty, it could cut costs considerably. Some quick googling suggests over a hundred dollars per animal for butchering.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Mayabird » 2012-01-07 05:02pm

If that much grass is too much, get rid of some of the damn grass. Plant some big [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] shrubs and/or [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] trees to keep the grass from growing. You've cut down on the problem, and if it's hot and you planted trees you've made yourself a little shade.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Darth Fanboy » 2012-01-07 05:20pm

Mayabird wrote:If that much grass is too much, get rid of some of the damn grass. Plant some big [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] shrubs and/or [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] trees to keep the grass from growing. You've cut down on the problem, and if it's hot and you planted trees you've made yourself a little shade.


Top it off with artificial grass that requires no watering, that the first thing i'm doing when I get a full sized house later in life.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby LaCroix » 2012-01-07 07:00pm

Akhlut wrote:A book on homesteading I have suggests a minimum of a quarter acre per goat, depending on conditions. Is that accurate enough, LaCroix? The book does also mention feeding each goat about 4-5 pounds of mixed grass and legumes a day, as well, so is that figured into the area calculation for the goats?


Yes, that sounds about right. If you are feeding the animals at a stable, and only use meadows as "recreational facilities", as usual, you would be ok with that. Ration sounds right, as legumes carry higher nutritional value than grass, so you can use slightly lower amounts of food daily. The ration will be augmented slightly by what the goats can graze during the hours on the meadows. You will want to regulate grazing time tightly with that acreage, though.

tl,dr;
Keep them at the stable, feed them 4-5 pounds mixed (soylent?) green and let them out to play on the meadow a few hours a day.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Korto » 2012-01-07 07:33pm

I said wrote:Yes, I'm a lazy bastard

I really must remember not to just go with the quick, flip, statement and then leave it at that. I also like animals, I like them meandering about, and I don't mind a small bit of care.

madd0ct0r wrote:guinea pig or gerbils, or voles maybe?

The problem with guinea pigs, mad old pal, is that they'll slip straight through the fence. It's 40mm holes. Or, to be sensible (but who wants to be that?), they'll be in a portable hutch with a wire bottom. I've done it before, but I would prefer animals that can roam the yard rather than be locked up.

Alkaloid wrote:Also, anything that eats grass probably eats other vegetation. Have rose bushes? Ferns?

Vegetable gardens already under covers. No roses. Really wouldn't care if they ate the goddamn weed fern.

Akhlut wrote:You could do it yourself, you know. A rimfire .22 for adults or a sledgehammer for kids would work out well, and while the act of skinning, gutting, cleaning, and butchering is a bit rough and rather dirty, it could cut costs considerably.

This is Australia, mate. I don't own a rifle, and I don't personally know anyone who does (although I do know people who know people who do). I've got no problems pulling the trigger, but I don't like the thought of trying to knock something on the head with a hammer, somehow stuffing it up, and causing needless suffering.
As for the cleaning and butchering work, I've done chickens before, and while completely different it was still messy and time consuming. I'd give goats a go.
This is all hypothetical, of course.

Mayabird wrote:If that much grass is too much, get rid of some of the damn grass. Plant some big [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] shrubs and/or [native, pretty, and low-maintenance] trees to keep the grass from growing. You've cut down on the problem, and if it's hot and you planted trees you've made yourself a little shade.

I've planted a black mulberry, plum, sour cherry (which may or may not be dead. It's the middle of summer and there's no leaves, but someone more experienced than me said that with the unseasonal cool we had, it's probably just confused, the poor dear), pomegranate, two apples (well, I planted three, but an idiot managed to run over them), and an orange. There's also a huge tree, but it's a pest species (currently can't remember its name) and I wouldn't mind cutting it down so I could put in a couple more fruit trees in its place. Oh, and a stand of rampant banana.
I'm planning to replace the front grass with bushes and decorative plants, weed-matted and either stone or wood-chip mulch. It may end up wood-chip, as despite the stone being more appealing, I think I can get the wood-chip free from council.

And Darth? You have no idea how unappealing the thought of fake grass is :lol:

I could get two more chooks, although most of the grass suppression they do is measured in ripping up, not eating. When I had a dozen, they stripped the yard, now I've got four it's overgrown. They make a lot of mess, but they do lay eggs, which is more than I can say for the kids. :wink:
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Mayabird » 2012-01-07 07:49pm

Nice selection of fruits there. Sounds yummy.

I don't know much about goats, but wouldn't they want to try to eat the trees too? And we'd have to make sure IF we talk about animals we don't pick one that likes stripping bark off trees.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Col. Crackpot » 2012-01-07 07:55pm

you know, after they eat the grass, it comes out. So you'll have to pick up that grass one way or another. So if you are as lazy as you say, you'll be ankle deep in goat shit in a month.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Darth Fanboy » 2012-01-07 08:01pm

Korto wrote:And Darth? You have no idea how unappealing the thought of fake grass is :lol:


There are some really good artificial turfs made from recycled rubber that have come out in the last few years, and when I go to property ownership I am going to be looking to save as much water as possible. But I understand, it's not everybody's thing.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Broomstick » 2012-01-08 08:29am

Darth Fanboy wrote:
Korto wrote:And Darth? You have no idea how unappealing the thought of fake grass is :lol:


There are some really good artificial turfs made from recycled rubber that have come out in the last few years, and when I go to property ownership I am going to be looking to save as much water as possible. But I understand, it's not everybody's thing.

Out in Arizona I've seen some very nice gravel and rock ground cover that would also work, and that some would find more appealing than fake grass.
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Re: Trying to think of a Grassmuncher

Postby Darth Fanboy » 2012-01-10 02:52am

And I would agree with that in Arizona, but depending on where you live there are either homeowner's associations and/or municipal ordinances about what you can and can't put in your own yard, and the artificial turf at least looks like grass.

Plus where I live a rock/gravel cover would be pretty hazardous at least once or twice a year when the winds start coming in.
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