The City of Red Deer Parks department used goats as a tool to manage invasive weed species at Piper Creek Garden site, including Canadian thistle, the primary noxious weed they were trying to control, and Yellow Toadflax.
Representatives, including President Jeannette Hall with Baah’d Plant Management & Reclamation and her 185 goats, came out to the site to mingle with members of the community, telling them about what the goats do and letting people interact with them in an enclosed area.
Ken Lehman, ecological services operations coordinator with the City of Red Deer said they had Hall bring her many goats down to the one-acre parcel of land on the bank of Piper Creek not knowing how long it would take them to get at the weeds.
Their guess was maybe three of four days, but it was much less.
“In 24 hours, her goats chewed that thistle right down to nothing,” said Lehman.
And the goats, Hall said, prefer broadleaf plants, so they just utilized their natural desire to eat, placing them on top of different weed areas that her and her team identified.
“This is a really great project here for the City of Red Deer because we’re utilizing the goats to target invasive species in sensitive areas like repairing areas that are near bodies of water,” she said.
Hall said typically you wouldn’t be able to use herbicides in the region they were at, and being able to come in with the goats, she said, helped them create more of a restoration to the sensitive spots.
“This is a great idea because it reduces our reliance on herbicides and helps us create a healthier environment.”
Hall specializes in target browsing with goats as well as other environmental services and does work all throughout the province.
The goats used on site ranged in variety.
“A lot of the time the Spanish goat is one of the more common ones for brush control. I like to have some good dairy goats in their as well. Our Nubian can clear up to six feet for fire smart programs,” she said.
Lehman, who originally contacted Hall, said they wanted to show members of the community that using goats is a really effective tool, especially in the context of an ecologically sensitive area where you don’t want to be using pesticide.
“And part of the City’s mandate with the Environmental Master Plan is to reduce our pesticide use, so this is another tool in our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) toolbox where we can effectively manage weeds because there’s a lot in the literature,” he said.
Lehman said the goats will come back later this summer, but he added it’s dependent on what they’re trying to hit.
“So with Canada thistle, it’s when it’s at that bud stage when you need to hit it to be most effective,” he said, adding that the goats will likely be back around late August when the second flush comes in.
“This is a tool that I would like to use in the City, in other areas, and it’s something that Jeannette does with her crew in the heart of Calgary and she’s got a lot of different examples of successful weed management using goats in municipal contexts.”