While the phrase “goats in the garden” may sound like a way to describe a complete disaster, it can actually be a blessing depending on the season. If you have goats in your garden during August you have a major situation on your hands, but you should welcome them in the winter and early spring. Goats will chomp down dead plants, their hooves aerate the soil as they tromp around, and they leave behind a lovely trail of nitrogen rich manure.
All poo is not created equal
According to the Ohio State University Extension, goat manure contains more than twice as much nitrogen as cow manure (22 pounds of nitrogen per ton in goat manure, compared to 10 pounds per ton in cow manure). Goat manure is also much drier, smaller, easier to work with and spread around, and it has much less odor. Cow manure is also widely used as a fertilizer, but considering the size, volume, moisture, and odor it is more difficult to work with. Cow manure is also used as a fuel source and for thermal insulation.
In addition to offering a cost-effective way of adding high-quality nitrogen to your garden’s soil, goat manure improves and diversifies soil texture which allows plants to use water more efficiently while allowing more oxygen to reach plants’ roots.
All fresh animal manure can contain harmful pathogens which can potentially contaminate your crops and make people sick. It is recommended to use fully composted manure, but it you must use manure that is not fully composted it is recommended to apply at least 120 days in advance of harvest. Animal manure can also contain unwanted seeds that can sprout in your garden. Fully composting manure kills most seeds, but not all. When using manure as a fertilizer be sure to pull weeds early before they go to seed.