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Targeted grazing: using goats for weed control

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Targeted grazine

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Targeted grazing

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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.

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:

The City will be using sheep grazing in a special area of Weaselhead called the “rescue the fescue” grassland for approximately two weeks beginning November 26, 2019. This grassland is a patch of rough fescue habitat, a native grass species that has declined across the prairie region over the last 100 years. Rough fescue is used to being disturbed periodically by fire or grazing animals. In the absence of fire and grazing, the rough fescue chokes out its habitat over the years by filling in the open ground with dead material (litter). Sheep grazing will boost the health and longevity of this habitat.

Why sheep?

Goats prefer woody material and flowers over grasses. Sheep prefer grass for grazing and are more likely to graze down to the surface and remove the litter.

Why during winter?

Rough fescue goes dormant in the fall, putting all its reserves into underground roots. Removing the dead standing grasses and the litter will let the plant rejuvenate, grow and move into open spaces in the springtime. The site will also be drier and more exposed which helps it outcompete non-native grasses.

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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