Eating away at weed problemsThe city of Red Wing recently brought in an unusual bunch - or herd, more precisely - of employees to work on a parks project.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
The city of Red Wing recently brought in an unusual bunch - or herd, more precisely - of employees to work on a parks project.
Goats from the Hay Creek-based Goat Peak Ranch are feasting on buckthorn and other problem plants at A.P. Anderson and Bay Point parks to clear out the weeds and brush.
"We thought this would be an environmentally friendly way to get rid of buckthorn," said Lynn Nardinger, deputy public works director.
In the past, the city mainly has used Sentence to Service crews, spraying, cutting or burning to get rid of the troublesome plants.
But the goats offer a more natural option, said Lynnette Nadeau, owner of Goat Peak Ranch.
"A lot of places are so into spraying and burning or using heavy equipment with weeds," Nadeau said. "It's just not as effective as it is with goats."
Buckthorn can take over in place of regular plant species and drive away wildlife, Nadeau said. The goats eat the berries on the buckthorn, which is what spreads the plants, Nadeau said. They also clear out other weeds and brush.
The process helps the native plants come back, Nadeau said, by clearing the ground of plants and brush.
Goats instinctively eat the invasive species.
"They want the weeds and the brush," Nadeau said. Goats are not "grazers" like sheep and cattle, but are "browsers," looking for food at eye level and above, she said.
Crews use fencing to keep the goats to the specific problem areas and away from landscaping and trees. The goats take a few days at each location to clear the weeds, and, depending on the size of the area, that can take 300 to 400 goats.
Nadeau raises goats for all kinds of uses, including meat.
"People do not realize how healthy goat meat is," Nadeau added.
The meat goats work on the plant-clearing projects. That food source is better for the goats than hay or grains, she said, and doesn't affect the quality of the meat.
Nadeau, a Red Wing native, worked in Arizona for years where she also did invasive species projects. More recently, she has worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in Hay Creek and Welch, a Boy Scout camp in Rochester and on other local projects.
She went through programs at the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center, which she said "instilled a lot of important things in me, like taking care of the environment."
"When I got started with goats, that always has been in the back of my mind."
The city of Red Wing will see how the goat process works at the two locations this year, Nardinger said, and possibly continue the partnership in the future. The goat process still carries a cost and takes time, he said, but could be a better method.
"It's just a different way of looking at (the problem)," he said.