Goats take on weed management role at Goose Island Outlook in Regina

·3 min read
Sixty goats were brought in to manage invasive weed species on Wascana Hill in Regina. (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)
Sixty goats were brought in to manage invasive weed species on Wascana Hill in Regina. (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)

Saskatchewan's Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) is trying something new this year to tackle invasive plant species.

It has partnered with No Kidding Weed Management from Elbow, Sask., to control the noxious weeds trying to take over the prairie grasslands in Regina.

Sixty goats arrived to Wascana Hill near the Goose Island Overlook in Regina this week and will move around the area for the next 10 days before returning to their flock in Elbow. The goats will return again in early August for another 10-day stretch of weed eviscerating.

"We are please to introduce a herd of Saskatchewan goats who will be enjoying delicious weeds throughout the summer," Don McMorris, the minister responsible for the PCC, said in a release.

The goats are being supervised by Florentine Maathius while onsite. Maathius is a goat herder with No Kidding Weed Management.

She and her team of border collies will move the goats from an overnight pen to a mobile pen on the hill each day. She also has a guard dog on site to protect the herd from any predators.

Matt Howard/CBC
Matt Howard/CBC

Maathius said the benefits of using goats for weed management just make sense.

"There is no use of pesticides and no noise," she said.

That lack of pesticide use is important to Jenna Schrader, executive director of the PCC.

"We are not using as many chemicals and we're being more environmentally sustainable and environmentally friendly, which is one of the pillars that we do have here with Wascana Center," she said.

Weed problem

The PCC has been working on preserving the prairie landscape in Regina by renaturalizing green spaces and reintroducing native prairie species.

Bringing in the goats will help manage invasive species like leafy spurge, absinthe, Canada thistle and common burdock, which are known for chocking out prairies plants. Keeping these weeds at bay will help conserve native prairie species and their genetic diversity.

"This area here is intended to be natural prairie landscape. Our goal is to return it back to natural grasses, natural flowers. And we do have an invasive weed problem here," Schrader said.

Matt Howard/CBC
Matt Howard/CBC

Each goat will eat up to 10 pounds of weeds per day, covering approximately a quarter hectare.

The two different grazing periods were timed to attack two different growing season. Having the goats eating weeds in June will target younger, softer vegetation and then having them return in August will have them dining on plants before they go to seed.

Sheep dined on grasses

In previous years the PCC used sheep to try to manage the weeds in Wascana Park. While they were effective at keeping the grass levels down, they weren't as good at tackling the invasive weed problem.

"Sheep tend to eat grass first while goats like to nibble on weeds. And what they do is they pick up the tops and eat the flowers. So they won't go to seed and it won't spread anymore," Maathius said.

While the goats are housed in an electrified pen, people are encouraged to come out and see the animals in action.

Maathius is on hand to answer all your goat and invasive weed related questions and said the response has been positive so far.

"The public is amazing and everyone is saying that it's the highlight of their week," she said.

 

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