Weed control goes to the goats in Kenna Cartwright Park

Forget pesticides, weed whackers or good old-fashioned manual labour; the latest weapon in the war on noxious weeds has four legs and is one of the oldest domesticated animals.

That's right - goats.

Which is why the City will introduce about 200 members of the Bovidae family into Kenna Cartwright Park next week as part of a pilot project to control 33 hectares of invasive weeds.

The City has hired Alberta company Rocky Ridge Vegetation Control to complete the project. Kelly Johnston, the City's natural resources section leader, said owners Conrad and Donna Lindblom are prepping the goats for transport from a cutblock they've been working at near Fort St. John for delivery to Kamloops.

The goats are expected to arrive on Monday, with the media granted a look at the herd in action Tuesday, said Johnston.

"We did some research in finding out that they are using goats in northern British Columbia and northern Alberta for noxious weed control," he explained Thursday. "Mostly they are using them in forest cutblocks but in some municipal areas as well."

The City was looking for a way to control weeds - specifically toadflax - in terrain that is difficult to manage due to topography, vicinity to water and size. After much deliberation, the decision was made to try the goats, said Johnston.

The pilot project will last eight to 10 days and, if it proves effective, goats will be used in other municipal green spaces.

But why goats? Johnston said the animal is agile and, when they digest the plant, the waste produces no viable seed to spread the weed.

"That was a big thing for us. We didn't want them eating a plant that has gone to seed, going somewhere else and pooping it out and having the plant grow there," he said.

Goats are also cost effective, costing the City $300 a hectare. If the City were to spray, it would pay $1,000 a hectare. Using inmates from Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre to pull weeds by hand runs $800 a hectare.

If City staff were used to do the same, the work would cost $5,000 a hectare, said Johnston.

Lindblom's team includes two shepherds on horseback and seven dogs to keep the goats under control. The City does ask dog owners to keep their pets leashed up and under control for the duration of the project so as not to interfere with the herd.

The goats will be penned up at night at the old navy bunkers near Thompson Rivers University.

ALL ABOUT GOATS

* Goats were the first animals domesticated between 7000 and 10000 B.C.

* Goats live eight to 12 years.

* They eat about four pounds of food a day.

* Goats prefer to eat leaves of woody plants to grass.

* There are more than 200 recognized breeds of goat.

* The animal's size is variable based on breed. Females can range from 22 to 300 pounds with males slightly larger at 27 to 380 pounds.

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