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Targeted grazing: using goats for weed control

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In 2016, Calgary Parks used goats to control weeds in a portion of West Nose Creek/Confluence Park. Approximately 100 goats ate invasive weeds, helping to encourage biodiversity, the growth of native vegetation and enhanced health in this natural area. The City will be continuing this pilot program in Confluence Park during the summer of 2017. This pilot is part of an integrated approach to managing invasive species.

Phase one of the pilot program confirmed that it is feasible to put livestock like goats into a Calgary Park for invasive weed control. Specific successes of the 2016 program included:

  • The goats grazed on the majority of the target invasive species.
  • Goats were able to safely access hard to reach areas (e.g. unstable steep slopes, bluffs, dense vegetation, rock piles and riparian areas).
  • The shepherd was able to mobilize, over-night the goats and gain access to drinking water in the park with no issues.
  • The shepherd was able to keep control of the goats and herd them using dogs and horses.
  • Responses from the public and interactions with parks users were generally positive.

Phase two of the goat grazing pilot will comprise of a scientifically designed study to monitor the long-term effectiveness of controlling target invasive species, controlling woody species encroachment onto the native grassland plant community, and mitigating impacts on non-target native species. Information gained through phase two will be used to provide direction on using livestock for land management and invasive weed control in the City of Calgary.

Goats will return to the Confluence Park for three separate weeks in the summer/fall of 2017, beginning on July 19 for one week. The goats will be monitored and managed 24 hours a day by a professional shepherd, herding dogs and horses. There will be signage about the project at each parking lot and throughout the park.

It is important that Calgary Parks and park users comply with The City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw and The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. We are able to use goats in this pilot because of a specific land use designation that permits livestock grazing in this park.

Have questions? Check out ourFrequently Asked Questions fact sheet.

Why we used targeted grazing

Targeted grazing has proven to be an effective land management tool in other municipalities. It is cost effective, and offers numerous benefits, including:

  • an environmentally friendly and effective method to manage invasive plant species; and
  • a feasible solution for controlling weeds near water bodies and on slopes.

Next steps

On July 31, 2017, Administration will present a proposal to Council to amend City bylaws which will allow The City to use goats for vegetation management (targeted grazing)on City-owned land. If Council approves the amendments, The City will look to expand its targeted grazing program to other parks spaces where it would make sense to use goats as a weed management tool.