Edmonton turns to 'goatscaping' to help manage noxious weeds
Two years after banning herbicide use in parks, city hoping billies will a put a bite on weed problem
Goats have the unflattering reputation that they will eat just about anything, a truism the city hopes will help solve its dandelion problem.
Two years after banning the use of herbicides in parks, the city is ready to turn to "goatscaping" as part of noxious weed control program.
Next month a herd of almost 200 goats will be begin browsing on dandelion, knapweed and thistles in Rundle and Hermitage parks in northeast Edmonton.
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But these billies and nannies are not just any goats.
They are trained to eat only undesirable plants, says Jeannette Hall, owner of Baah'd Plant Management.
"You couldn't just do this with any farm goat," she said.
Hall's goats have seven years of experience in target browsing, she said.
"They learn how to eat from their parents and what I expose them to."
The goats quietly go about their business, as they are gently herded along by Hall on horseback and a border collie.
"You want to keep everyone calm and eating," she said.
Coyotes take notice
Three other dogs will keep an eye on curious coyotes and stray dogs, Hall said.
The coyotes "do come and say, 'Hi,' but we've never lost any [goats]."
The herd will consume any of 75 different weeds "reliably and consistently," she said.
Her goats are now eating a nasty weed called black henbane, she said.
"It's so wildly toxic, some kids from a golf course tell me they're not allowed to weedwack it.
"It's so poisonous."
Hall is quick to run down why her charges are superior to herbicide.
Herbicides alter the pH balance and nutrients in the soil opening it to even more weeds.
Goats however return the soil to its original state, helping native plants take over.
Each goat consumes about 10 pounds of weeds daily, digesting even the seeds, Hall said.
"Considerable when you consider how much that would be if they were pulled and bagged," she said.
The goats, she said, do a really great job.
"Well, it's actually me managing the goats that's doing a great job," she said. "The goats would eat everything."