Goats to the Rescue

The City of Denver is conducting a trial program that uses goats to control invasive weeds in urban parks.  Lani Malmberg, a weed scientist with a Master’s degree from Colorado State University was awarded the $50,000 contract to control weeds for Denver City Parks with her herd of Cashmere Goats.  Goats prefer eating broadleaf plants to grass, so when they are released into portions of the city’s parks, they ignore native prairie grasses and eat plants like thistle and bindweed, which are highly invasive plants in the west.

In Denver, laws require that landowners control noxious weeds on their property or risk being fined or criminally prosecuted.  If weeds are left uncontrolled, they can have disastrous effects on the native ecology, out-competing native plants, endangering the food supply of wildlife, and possibly choking out streams and rivers.

”We can lose it all if we allow weeds to take over,” said Dr. John M. Randall, an invasive-weed specialist with the Nature Conservancy in Davis, Calif. ”It’s not a stretch to say invasive species — and that includes insects and wildlife as well as plants — are the biggest threat to natural habitats next to development, the subdividing land for housing and shopping malls.”

View a list of invasive plants in Colorado.

Goats are no silver bullet for weed management, but the hope is that they will significantly reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides.  This method cuts down on air pollution from mowers and contamination of groundwater from chemicals and is economically viable, costing an average of $100 per acre using 50-100 goats.

View a video of the hard-working grazers.

9 Comments

  1. Awesome. Maybe I can get her to bring her goats to my neighborhood to eat all the weeds in the surrounding open space. I’ve also got some projects with invasive weeds taking over the landscape that need help.

    • Sure, there are some great organic pesticides and herbicides out there. For example, vinegar can be used as a safe alternative to synthetic herbicides, but it would be difficult to use this in large parks because it must be applied to each individual weed (so that it does not harm surrounding grasses). It is much more practical to use it in small areas, decks, and walkways. It seems that in situations where weed management needs to occur over a large area, goats are highly efficient…they eagerly find the weeds themselves! And, as mentioned in the article, goats are one of the many tools in the bag of a weed warrior. Maybe organic herbicides would be a good solution to catching the weeds that the goats miss.

  2. Littleton made Chickens legal now maybe they will have to add goats!

  3. Didn’t boulder/denver try using goats about 5-8 years back to control weeds along one of the roads or something?

    Also please let me know where this article from I’d like more info. THANKS!

  4. I bet there is the added benefit of goat manure fertilizing the grass!

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