Carefully trained goats go head-to-head with Rundle Park weeds

Using a herd of goats to control noxious weeds in a park is way more complex than just turning them loose and letting them eat.

Jeannette Hall’s herd of nearly 200 goats are spending this week in Rundle Park where they are tackling swaths of yellow leafy spurge and other weeds.

But there’s an art and science to guiding them through the hills, penning them in to focus on really infested areas, then dancing lightly across other hills to avoid damaging the native species, she said.

“There’s at least seven different grasses here,” she said Saturday, pointing to a green hillside. “This will be open. We’re not going to fence them in at this spot. It will be lighter browsing but more frequent visits.”

Edmonton’s Rundle Park has a major problem with weeds. Since the city cut out almost all traditional herbicides, leafy spurge has taken off. It sends seeds flying several metres when the dry pods explode and has rapidly expanded its territory across the park.

It’s “problematic,” said Joy Lakhan, who’s overseeing the pilot project for the city. The city is paying $30,000 for the goats to eat the weeds throughout the summer and Olds College researchers are helping to measure the efficacy of the trial by counting weed density before and after.

Hall’s goats are specially trained to eat 70 types of noxious weeds before they go for the native plants and grasses. It’s something the young goats learn from their mothers, who were originally trained by university researchers.

Goats battle noxious weeds

Nearly 200 goats eat noxious weeds in Rundle Park as part of the GoatWorks project through the City of Edmonton and Baah’d Plant Management in Edmonton on Saturday, July 15, 2017. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

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Ian Kucerak, Postmedia

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Source:: Edmonton Journal

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