City's Parks Division Hires Goats to Manage Vegetation

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The Madison (Wis.) Parks Division has a new tool for removing invasive plants in two of its parks this spring and summer: goats.

As reported by Wisconsin Public Radio, about 40 adult and young adolescent goats from a nearby farm will be periodically put out to graze in the parks this spring and fall, with timing dependent on weather conditions, analysis of existing vegetation and management goals. It's part of a trial program to manage invasive species and promote the establishment of native vegetation in the city's parks. 

Goats eat an average of 8 pounds of vegetation per day, including invasive plants such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and garlic mustard, which according to the Madison Parks Division pose a threat to the whole ecosystem. A benefit of using goats is a reduced need for herbicides, he said. Plus, goats can reach places where large equipment can't. 

"There are a lot of areas that we can't get into with a tractor just because of large logs on the ground or the terrain itself," parks conservation resource supervisor Paul Quinlan said. "Goats are great at all that. They can just come in, climb around on places. So they're really all-terrain." 

HaakHagan Goat Grazing in Poynette, 27 miles to the north, is providing the goats. The herd will be enclosed in a temporary electrified fence while they are grazing, and will remain there for 10 to 14 days two times this year. They will remain in the parks overnight during grazing periods, with parks division staff checking on them daily.

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