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Targeted Grazing - Goats in the River Valley

We're not kidding! Throughout the summer of 2019, the City of Lethbridge is once again utilizing the power of goats to help control invasive weeds and cut back overgrown brush in select areas of our river valley parks. The use of these animals is part of a pilot program that began in October of 2018 at Cottonwood Park to look at the practicality of targeted grazing within City of Lethbridge river valley parks. 

 

Why Targeted Grazing?

  • Long before people settled here, the plains including river valley areas were periodically grazed by bison, deer and other ungulates, keeping vegetation growth in check.
  • Research and best practices show that grazing is both an environmentally friendly and cost effective method to managing weeds, grassfire risk and the overall ecosystem health.
  • Periodic grazing helps encourage biodiversity, promote healthy growth of native vegetation and enhance the overall health of the area. 
  • It is a chemical free way to control weed species while leaving native grasses and plants less impacted.

Why Goats?

  • Goats prefer broad leaf and flowering weeds and can target the particular species of invasive vegetation that we are looking to control, namely leafy spurge, absinthe wormwood, Canada and nodding thistle, and several knapweed species.
  • Goats tend to really grind their food and their stomachs are highly acidic, therefore their digestive system will destroy any seeds that pass through their systems.
  • They are nimble! Many areas where invasive weeds are found in our river valley are along steep slopes and tricky terrain. The goats have no problem climbing and getting into those hard to reach places! 
  • Goat droppings fertilize the soil and their hooves work the soil, helping to till and aerate the ground.

What Weeds Are We Targeting??

Leafy Spurge

This plant species is listed as a noxious weed in Alberta, and is very prevalent in many natural park areas. Leafy spurge is notoriously resilient and hard to eradicate once established. Multiple treatment methods are being used for management of leafy spurge in Lethbridge including grazing with the goats, chemical applications and mowing where practical. For more information about leafy spurge, click here.  

 

Wormwood or Absinthe

Absinthe is a perennial, woody plant that is currently unregulated in Alberta but quickly invades rangelands, river valley parks and other sunny prairie ecosystems. Its presence is abundant within all Lethbridge river valley parks. Absinthe resembles a number of native sage and wormwood species and identification by an Agricultural Fieldman is recommended. For more information on absinthe/wormwood, click here.

 

 

Thistle

Canada, nodding, marsh and plumeless thistle, are all designated noxious and prohibited noxious weeds in Alberta. These purple flowered prickly invaders are native to Europe and Asia but have made themselves readily at home here in southern Alberta. For more information on thistle, click here.

 

Contact Information

Jackie Cardinal
Parks Natural Resource Coordinator
403 320 3108
jackie.cardinal@lethbridge.ca