Sunday, June 28, 2015

Using Goats in Ottawa County Parks to Eliminate Invasive Species

This is a neat post about goats.  I could use one in my yard -- we have garlic mustard to pull.
A recent post in the Holland Sentinel praises goats for helping with invasive plants.  Per the article, "Using goats to eat invasive plants reduces the need for herbicide applications, is cost-effective, and allows access to locations where mowers or machinery can’t reach, parks officials say.

Goats munch on weeds during the county parks system's project to use the animals to control invasive plants.
Goats munch on weeds during the county parks system’project to use the animals to control invasive plants. The county plans to use the goats at three different properties this summer. Tribune File Photo
By Alex Doty - Grand Haven Tribune 
 Don’t be surprised if you see a goat chowing down on weeds the next time you visit an Ottawa County park. “We were very pleased — it was very effective,” Ottawa County Natural Resources Management Supervisor Melanie Manion said of last year’s project. “They did a great job during the first year, and the growth that came back is less than anticipated.”
Using goats to eat invasive plants reduces the need for herbicide applications, is cost-effective, and allows access to locations where mowers or machinery can’t reach, parks officials say.
“Anytime you can manage invasive species without using herbicides … is a real positive,” County Parks Director John Scholtz said.
This year, six young goats and two nanny goats will be munching on Oriental bittersweet, honeysuckle, autumn olive, multi-flora rose and buckthorn at three locations.
“We want to be good neighbors and stop them from going onto other properties,” Scholtz said. “Goats give us one tool to attack invasive species without herbicides.”
The first stop is Bur Oak Landing in Polkton Township. From there, the goat project moves on to Riverside Park in Robinson Township and then to Eastmanville Bayou.
While the goal remains the same — get rid of invasive species — there are some new parts to this year’s goat project. The parks system has partnered with Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Agricultural and Environmental Science Program. “Not only is this a stewardship program, it’s also an educational program,” Manion said. “This is the perfect example of how you can have a symbiotic relationship between agriculture and the environment." Students and their advisors will manage the health and well-being of the goats throughout the season, offering a hands-on educational opportunity for the students while reducing staffing costs to the county. Scientific data collected by the summer intern will help create a model for the project, as well as information to create a viable business model in the area. “We’re hoping that if it’s a success this year, they’ll continue the program into the third year of the project,” Manion said.
The Ottawa County Parks Department provided the initial funding for the students to purchase the goats, which will be reimbursed when the animals go to auction at the end of the season.
The Friends of Ottawa County Parks purchased additional fencing that will give the goats a larger area to work and require them to be moved less frequently.
The public is welcome to watch the goats at work in the parks, but you are advised not to touch the animals and to stay clear of the electric fence in which they are enclosed. Oils from plants like poison ivy do not harm the goats, but can be transferred to humans."

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