Sunday, June 12, 2011
Summer Fun with Eco-Goats
As many of you are already aware (via dozens of Facebook posts, Flickr uploads and tweets), I think that grazing goats for invasive weed control is the greatest idea since solar power and have the continued pleasure of working with the great folks and herd at Eco-Goats throughout the summer. Yesterday, I got to welcome the newest member of the herd, pictured above in her first hour of life, on site in Historic St. Mary's City. As tempting as it is to post dozens of pictures of the little cutie, I like to make sure posts on Just Saying are not only entertaining, but also serve to educate our readers. So please enjoy the following information courtesy of the Eco-Goats website:
It is easy to see that our roadsides, open fields, woodlands and backyards are becoming overrun with invasive species and other unwanted vegetation. Machines often can't get to problem areas, humans hands are very labor intensive, and herbicides are dangerous to our waterways, soil, and desired vegetation, not to mention animals and humans.
If left alone, invasive plants take over our woodlands, strangling valuable trees and threatening important diversity. Open grasslands and neighborhood backyards become overrun, creating a loss in farming productivity, habitat for birds and other wildlife, and enjoyment of outdoor space. Enter Eco-Goats!
When it comes to clearing unwanted vegetation, goats can provide an ideal alternative to machines and herbicides. They graze in places that mowers can't reach and humans don't want to go (yes, they love Poison Ivy). In fact, goats eat a wide range of unwanted vegetation, which on the East Cost include Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Ailanthus, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Mile-A-Minute and more.
Goat Grazing Facts:
- Goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans about 9,000 years ago. Today, there are some 200 different breeds.
- Goats have been used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. State, county and city contractors (such as the city of Seattle) have also used goats for weed and invasive species control.
- Goats love broad leafed material, which means brush and invading field vegetation are consumed. But they don't prefer grass, so it is left to flourish.
- Corporations such as Google are using goats for vegetation management. Google wanted a clean air alternative to noisy gas powered lawn mowers and didn't want toxic chemicals for their weed control. Since the cost of using goats was about the same as mowing, using goats allows Google to show their commitment to low-carbon, non-toxic alternatives.
- Goats are agile and light on their feet, so they can be gentler than machinery when working on historical sites and other areas that need special consideration.
- Herbicides seep into water and soil, affecting other vegetation, animals and humans. They also can encourage mutations among vegetation, creating greater and greater problems instead of solving them.
- Goats will graze all day, going through very dense material at about a quarter acre per day per 30 goats (this can vary widely, depend on many factors including density, location and vegetation species).
- Goats respect electric fences, making this an easy and effective source of mobile containment.
- Grazing goats are very effective at eating the kinds of excessive weeds and brush that pose a risk of unwanted fires.
- Goats can be stubborn, but they are docile. When effectively led and fenced, they go only where you want them to go.
- Goats have a narrow, triangular mouth that allows them to crush what they eat, so seeds that might otherwise get passed through to fertilization are not viable. This is a true advantage, since machine cutting only encourages further growth in the next growth cycle.
- Goats fertilize as they graze, then trample the fertilizer, so that the wanted grasses and other vegetation left behind are given a natural boost!
- Goats have special enzymes in their guts that allow them to eat plants that are poisonous to other animals.
- Goats have been used to graze as small a plot as 12 x 60 foot backyards and as large as 20,000 acres.
- Goats don't like water, so it is a natural fence.
- Goats can climb, allowing them to reach invasive vegetation that grow in hard to reach places. And, since they eat vines and stems, they can graze at a lower level of a tree covered in invasives and as a result, either kill the vines systems that reach higher into the trees or reveal them so that they can be cut.
- Goats eat year round, but the best time to use goats depend on the vegetation to be removed.
- Goats will eat Christmas trees after the season has been celebrated.
For more information, check out the website and click here to see a few 'before and after' videos of the Eco-Goats in action.