By Charlie Robinson, Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability
With the copious rainfall we have received over the last two Spring/Summer periods and the consequent effect on grass growth, our fuel bill for the push and ride-on mowers has often exceeded that of our car. This is simply unsustainable in a future that will be characterised by a decreasing usage of fossil fuels. So, in a fit of lateral thinking I decided that geese would be the salvation to our skyrocketing petrol expenditure.
Wasting no time, we bought three pairs of geese which soon turned into a plethora with seventeen goslings appearing over a few days in September. I was told horror stories of their aggressiveness, especially when there are goslings about, but this aggressiveness hasn’t eventuated. I even had one nesting mother take bread out of my hand, and she still likes to be hand-fed.
Watching the young goslings on their maiden voyage on the dam was a revelation – not surprisingly, they were like ducks to water! Geese mate for life and can live for up to twenty years, or more. I have a mate who lost a goose recently to a fox and he had this goose for thirty years. I was very happy to replace his loss with a brand new gander.
I’m not expecting these birds to work miracles but already there are parts of our property kept fairly under control, particularly in the vicinity of their pen where they retire to at night. For centuries geese have been bred to reduce pests in orchards and they seem to love meandering through our fruit trees snacking on grass and insects.
To give your grass that manicured look would require roughly sixty geese per hectare, so on our property the stocking rate would be roughly one hundred. I’m not that keen to achieve this number because of their main drawback – they appear to excrete at roughly the same rate as they ingest. While this is great for the soil, the olfactory glands cop a hammering. Next spring I will let the geese hatch out their eggs but the following season the eggs will be used for cake-making and other baking.
On balance, geese are a great asset. They provide free entertainment while taming the grass, eating bugs, and fertilising the soil. They are easy to care for and they wait to be put to bed every night. While they wander far and wide around our property they don’t seem interested in exploring beyond the (open) gate. I’d recommend geese to anyone who wants a low maintenance flock.