Botanist's Lens: Got Goats on My Mind
Gardens and goats? Well, that doesn’t go quite together, but invasive plants are always on demand on the menu for goats!
In the Pacific Northwest, it is a rather common sight to see goats as a control measure for eradication of invasive plants, mainly on steep hills covered with blackberry and multiflora rose. This practice is now getting much more attention in several different states.
Here is a good read from Clemson University (https://newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/war-of-wills-clemsons-goats-battle-invasive-plants): “Where we see kudzu, goats see dinner. It’s like candy to them,” Clemson Extension water resources specialist Cal Sawyer said. Clemson researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of using goats to lessen the spread of invasive plants. These non-native species include the aforementioned kudzu, along with Chinese privet, silverthorn, English ivy, nandina, liriope, Japanese stiltgrass and Japanese honeysuckle". Now that’s quite a menu, isn’t it?
Utilizing goats for brush control is probably one of the best biological control methods. Of course, the goats don't entirely eradicate the invasives, but can make an otherwise impassable area, clear enough to tackle from the roots. Also, goats are natural browsers, which keeps them moving from one weed to another. Repeated defoliation of a plant can eventually stress out the plant, making it weaker. But goats will eat every shrub in sight and in order to avoid accidental browsing, they are usually kept in a fenced area during control treatments.
Goats eat the most difficult and unwanted weeds such as Multiflora rose, Blackberries and even Poison Ivy! "Goats have a high preference for poison ivy and it is one of the first woody species to disappear when goats are introduced into an area". https://goats.extension.org/goat-vegetation-oklahoma-browse/
Here is a neat link that talks about a native Maryland forester, Brian Knox's use of goats as a biological control: “Goats are like herbicides with legs. If you’re over water, goats are certainly a green smiley face and there are no residual issues in the soil.... Most of our invasive plant species will produce a lot of seed, some early on and some years later. If you ‘nuke’ the site with herbicide, you’ll deal with seeds later on.... Goats eat the seeds along with the plants,” he said. “Their mouth shape helps them to digest and remove the seeds from the seed bank. A goat can get to places that people and machinery can’t. Where there are steep slopes, rocks, and downed woody debris, they’re unmatched.” https://www.fs.usda.gov/naspf/sites/default/files/profiles-in-conservation-brian-knox-rev_0.pdf
At London Town's gardens, there are some peripheral areas of the woods where multiflora rose, blackberry and Ivy seem to have established well and maybe goats would be a good biological control to try out?
After learning about many success stories about goats as a biological control method for invasive control, aren't goats on your mind now as well? Sharing with you today, some pictures of Ivy and goats (clicked at Homestead Gardens).