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.