Lethbridge residents could see a pretty unique sight if they venture over to Cottonwood Park in the next few weeks. The area has been taken over by 200 goats as part of a pilot project to help manage vegetation.
Goats have a key strength that makes them ideal for this role.
“They seem to eat everything that nothing else wants,” goat herder Robert Finck said. “The biggest plus is that they are the only animal that does not pass the seeds.”
Finck brought his 200 goats to Lethbridge from his ranch in Magrath, after approaching the city with a land management proposition.
“Everybody is excited to look at new ways of having proper management, to graze for weeds in different habitats,” Finck said.
If all goes smoothly the city would like to see a goat herd help deal with invasive plant species in parts of the city.
In this particular pilot project, the animals would primarily focus on clearing vegetation around pathways at Cottonwood Park.
“We’re kind of out of the way here. There’s not a lot of traffic. We’re not interrupting public use very much,” City of Lethbridge Park Natural Resource Coordinator Jackie Cardinal said. “We wanted to get the logistics on how do we move these animals? How do we keep them contained? How do we manage them?”
Flick plans to keep the goats within an electrified fence while they graze around pathways to protect them from predators. When they begin to move down by the river in Cottonwood Park, Flick will put the fence away and a Border Collie will help guide the goats in the right direction.
“There’s 100 acres here. We’ll see how much we can get around it,” Finck said. “As they’re grazing we can follow with them and turn them whichever direction. I can make them go into brushier areas, or wherever. The Border Collies do the work.”
Lethbridge is certainly not the first community to do this. In July, the City of Calgary unleashed about 130 goats to deal with weed concerns.
The idea is not only environmentally friendly; it’s also cost effective.
“If we were to come in and treat all this for invasive species with chemical, man power, mowing, machinery, your bills are going to be massive,” Cardinal said. “And we simply don’t have the man power to do that.”
Right now, goat power is doing the trick.
The city will look into the viability of doing this type of work long term after the project wraps up in a few weeks.