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Targeted grazing: using goats for weed control

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Targeted grazing

Using goats for weed control

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During 2016 a herd of goats was used to control weeds in a portion of Confluence Park as part of a pilot program to look at the practice of targeted grazing. The goats helped to encourage biodiversity, the growth of native vegetation and enhanced health in this natural area. This pilot was part of an integrated approach to managing invasive species.

Specific successes of the pilot 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.

In 2017, we decided to extend the program and study the long term effectiveness of using goats as a form of weed control and vegetation management. We hired an environment consultant to design and implement a scientific study using a series of treatment and control monitoring plots. The aim of the program is to document and evaluate the effectiveness of goat browsing for managing the occurrence and spread of the target weed species in Confluence Park. The program will run until 2019.

Expanding the program

Council approved an amendment to the Parks and Pathways bylaw in 2016 to allow for alternative land management tools, such as livestock, to manage vegetation within City lands. Other city parks using goats for weed control and vegetation management include:

Why we use 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.

The City has developed Targeted Grazing Project Guidelines to allow us to accomplish specific invasive plant species and management goals.

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 targeted grazing because of a specific exemption for The City of Calgary that permits livestock grazing on City-owned land.

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