When your slope is steep and the weeds are tall – who you gonna call? GOAT POWER!
At least, that’s what Briana Murphy and other goat graziers hope. During a March 17, 2016 webinar, Briana detailed how she contracts with conservation districts, local government agencies, colleges and others to harness the grazing power of goats to clear and control invasive species with minimal impact on the environment.
Hosted by NACD’s Urban & Community Conservation Resource Planning Group, the webinar showed an actual grazing program run by the Benton Soil & Water Conservation District in Corvallis, Oregon where they used goats on a portion of the property to clear ivy that was choking out other vegetation.
Crystal Durbecq, Willamette River Restoration Coordinator, explained how they strategically selected a steep area next to a waterway for the goats to clear. “We left a buffer strip between a busy road and the area with the goats,” she says. She explains the goats and Briana attracted the media, but her group stressed that the goats were working animals and showed Briana’s sign telling people not to feed the goats or touch the electric fence.
Briana stressed using sound science to determine if goat grazing will work for your project. “What species are there and what need to be controlled?” She emphasized that, while goats may clear a property, they’ll tend to clear everything, so the timing of grazing is all important if you wish to leave certain species. “If you time your grazing until after seeds on native plants have set or perhaps they’ve gone dormant, then a goat can come in and clear the invasive plants with minimal damage to natives.”
Briana said goats can be a good choice in areas with difficult access, thick, heavy brush, steep hillsides, rocky areas or areas that could harbor hidden hazards. “They are nimble creatures with small hoofprints, so goats work around hidden hazards easily. After intensive grazing, humans can see the hazards and remove them more easily and in a safe manner.”
Briana talked about the difference between a professional grazier and a hobbyist grazier. “A professional should be able to tell you what species their goats will and won’t eat and what species are poisonous. That person should have an idea how long their herd needs to graze an area to achieve your goal. A professional will have their own fencing, insurance and be easily available.” In Briana’s case, she camps near the herd to try to head off problems. “I can watch their behavior and know when they think they’re ready to move on.”
So, how do you find a professional goat grazier in your area? You can start by visiting this website. That also contains good information about using goats for grazing.
NACD’s Urban & Community Conservation Resource Planning Group holds webinars on the third Thursday of each month on a variety of issues relating to developed and developing areas. The webinar series is sponsored by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.