Cities employ four-legged munchers to eat up invasive plants

Laura Oakes
October 09, 2018 - 4:37 pm

A growing number of Twin Cities communities are turning to goats to help them restore natural prairie land, and get rid of invasive plants like buckthorn.

One city using goats in a pilot project this fall is Burnsville, where Natural Resources Specialist Caleb Ashling is in charge of a few dozen new, four-legged friends.

"There's a lot of invasive species out there, and it's a big challenge to get rid of them. So, any different tool like goat grazing that you can put in your tool box is helpful for managing it long term. The general public is also really excited about goats as well. There's just something about them that people really get a kick out of and enjoy. So using goats if we can control buckthorn and also get folks out here learning more about it, that's a win for us too."

Ashling says they're already seeing progress in just a few weeks.

"In the short term, we'll measure the results basically by seeing how much buckthorn they ate. That's kind of our one-year evaluation. Then, if we're successful in the short term, we'd like to repeat it for a couple of years and then evaluate not only if the buckthorn is decreasing, but if we are getting those native plants back that we want."

Ashling says the goats they're using came from a Faribault, Minnesota company appropriately called "Goat Dispatch" at a cost of about $900 per acre. (Burnsville's pilot project includes two acres.) Other communities like the City of Minnetonka and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux are also employing goats to do some targeted munching this Fall.

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