City's got their goats
They're munching on the green stuff, they cost less green and they themselves are green. Goats are on the job in Kenna Cartwright Park, working to rid the area of noxious and invasive weeds.
The animals are being used by the City of Kamloops as a green alternative to spraying chemicals.
"What can be more natural than animals consuming something?" asked Karla Hoffman, integrated pest-management co-ordinator for the city, noting letting the animals do what comes naturally does not appear to have a downside.
Their cost is also very reasonable, at only $300 per hectare.
"Goats are working cheap," she said. "Yes, I was very happy to find that out."
This is the first week on the job for the hundreds of goats the City of Kamloops has put to work as part of an eight-to-12-day trial, which will see the bovids eat through 33 hectares of weed-infested land.
There were 300 goats at work on Tuesday, July 10, but that's just the starting lineup as there are 440 of the animals at the city's disposal.
As with any job, the goats have management, too.
Three shepherds on horseback and three dogs — which act as security to keep predators at bay — keep the goats in line, herding them toward the weeds and away from all the other delicious items Kenna Cartwright Park offers.
The main target is a yellow-flowering weed by the name of Dalmatian toadflax, which Hoffman said is an invasive species that has sprouted up in the park.
The goats have been brought in as the plants flower, prior to them sprouting seeds. Even if the plants had seeds, the goats' stomachs would take care of it, said Hoffman.
"With their digestive system, they pretty much render the seed non-viable, but we have arranged for them to be here prior to seed set on the plants, so it's not even an issue."
Knapweed and other weeds are also of some concern, but the primary concern is toadflax because it has been getting into areas of the park relatively undisturbed by man.
Erin Head, one of the shepherds keeping track of the goats, said it's a method that is great for the environment — and good for the goats, as well.
"The goats love it, they get out, they eat, they love the attention," she said, noting the animals respond very well to the horses, who, in turn get along with the goats.
"They try not to step on them all the time," Head quipped.
Though the experiment is in its infancy, Kelly Johnston, the city's natural-resources section leader, likes what he has seen so far.
"I think it's going well," he said. "I mean, it looks like it's going well."
Johnston wants to see what impact the goats have on eliminating the weeds, particularly the yellow and green toadflax, which has become quite widespread.
"It's getting into places where humans don't usually go, whereas weeds such as knapweed stays closer to trails, he said.
"The knapweed is essentially staying in places that we can predict it to be and we can manage it.
"It's still tough to manage, but it's a little easier to manage in those areas because it's right next to trails. This stuff [toadflax] is spreading into areas that we don't want to be spraying — and it's so widespread that handpicking it is quite a job."
This will be it for the goats this summer, said Johnston.
The city will look to expand the project for next year, depending on the success of the trial run, budget and public input.
People are advised to keep their dogs on leashes during these next two weeks when walking in the park.