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PNS Daily News - September 20, 2017 


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Goats: MN's Friendly New Form of Weed Control

Goats were used to thin buckthorn and other invasive plants in both Minneapolis and St. Paul this year. (Sam Greenhalgh/Flickr)
Goats were used to thin buckthorn and other invasive plants in both Minneapolis and St. Paul this year. (Sam Greenhalgh/Flickr)
August 30, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Goats are catching on as an effective and sustainable alternative to chemicals for controlling buckthorn and other fast-growing invasive plants.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has started using the animals on steep hillsides in state parks. Farmers, cities and towns are following suit.

University of Minnesota horticultural science professor John Erwin, vice president of the Minneapolis Park Board, said that this year the city is using goats to clear brush in some city parks.

"The first trial, they did such a good job that we actually had to remove them early, because they were starting to eat the good stuff," Erwin said. "So, that's the first thing we learned."

Erwin said goats are not only great weed-eaters but their "output" makes good fertilizer and they also can be sources of milk and meat.

Jake Langeslag has 218 goats in Faribault and calls his company "Goat Dispatch." His goats worked in the Twin Cities and suburbs this year, as well as on college and corporate campuses. He said he got into the goat business almost by accident, five years ago.

"We have 10 acres in the country and were just really fighting buckthorn, and borrowed some goats for the weekend," he said. "They did a great job, (so we) started expanding it. Pretty soon, my neighbors wanted it done, so we grazed some of my neighbors' properties and then got into some parks around here. Next thing you know, we're all over the state."

Langeslag said it's easy to control goats with portable electric fences, adding that it can be harder to control people who want to play with them.

Regulators, researchers and rule-makers across the country are working on what many say is a promising new, "green" industry. Erwin said the animals are not just environmentally friendly - but friendly. He said it's time for towns to reconsider ordinances that prohibit them.

"I'd suggest that they do something like make an adventure out of it, have a goat festival," he said, laughing.

Information on goats from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is online at mda.state.mn.us.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN