How Ottawa County is reducing herbicides for invasive species and cutting costs with goats

As part of the #MIspecies campaign, Science Around Michigan tours Eastmanville Bayou Park with Ottawa County Natural Resources Management Supervisor Melanie Manion where goats are being used to eat away invasive species. Manion heads the innovative three-year pilot program, which she hopes will spur further exploration of the voracious eaters as an effective land management tool.

The goats, all female with the exception of a single neutered male, roam free within an area designated by a crackling electric fence. It’s not lethal, but Manion advised that I’d certainly notice if I made contact. The goats thrive in the thick undergrowth, feasting on the pervasive oriental bittersweet. In fact, they seemed to enjoy the invasive species the most.

One of the goals of the pilot program is to reduce herbicide use next to the Grand River. The results showcase the value of goats as land management tools for either barely accessible areas or locations where heavy herbicide use would be inadvisable. Ottawa County works in cooperation with Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Agricultural and Environmental Science Program, providing opportunity for students interested in veterinarian and agricultural program tracks to work hand-in-hand with professionals in the field.

While the program is proving to be successful at cutting costs and providing an effective, efficient land management tool, she explained, Ottawa County is weary of the long-term implications of and necessary resources for properly caring for a herd of animals. The county hopes to find an entrepreneurial individual willing to take on “goat renting” as a full time business.

Learn more about how Ottawa County manages invasive species.

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