Goats for Weed Control?

The following article was submitted by Connie Tucker, who raises goats on the Ranch.  (The author is Jane Stebbins, who is not a Ranch property owner.)  Connie thought this information might be interesting for ranch owners who want to learn what alternatives there are to spraying, especially along the pond areas.

FRISCO - Five hundred cashmere goats will begin munching on noxious weeds around Dillon Reservoir this weekend, meaning residents will be required to keep dogs off nearby trails from July 6 to 18.

The goats will be released around the Old Dillon Reservoir and be herded to different areas around the lake throughout the month. Although protected by goatherders and herding dogs, the ruminants are most susceptible to dogs running at wild, which have been known to attack and kill the goats.

Closed to dogs

Areas closed to dogs include the bike path along the Dam Road, the Old Dillon Reservoir halfway between Frisco and Dillon on the Dam Road, the area between Giberson Bay the Holiday Inn and the middle school. Also closed to dogs will be the area along the Blue and Snake river inlets.

The temporary closures are for dogs only. The bikepath and other areas will remain open to bike, foot, and other regularly authorized traffic.

"We're encouraging the public to watch for signed areas denoting closures as the exact time, date and location that goats will graze is hard to tell in advance," Schreiner said.

The closures don't mean people won't be able to view the goats. An interpretive hike is slated for 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Old Dillon Reservoir trailhead. Summit County Weed Program Director Paul Schreiner will identify noxious weeds in the area and outline how weed eradication efforts are performed.

To enforce the closures, the Board of County Commissioners recently strengthened the animal control ordinance to protect the goats from domestic pets. The resolution details fines and penalties and authorizes animal control officers to take action against any animal perceived as dangerous.

Canada thistle

The primary weed goats will eat around the Dillon Reservoir is the Canada thistle, a deep-rooted perennial that spreads via its root system and seed.

"Grazing will help stress the plant and hopefully allow the grass species to out-compete the thistle," Schreiner said. "It's important to note that grazing alone won't kill a creeping perennial, but will slow its growth and reduce seed production. At the same time, it'll help stimulate growth of desirable vegetation in the area."

The integrated approach the county plans to use in the next three years include grazing, tillage, controlled burns, herbicides and the release of insects that eat the noxious weeds.

Goats are being used to manage the weeds because the Denver Water Board - which owns Dillon Reservoir, its water rights and much of the land surrounding the lake - prohibits the use of herbicides within 50 feet of the water's edge. The close proximity of many Canada thistle to the water's edge means goats are about the only option for controlling the spread of the noxious weed in the area, Schreiner said. Weeds outside that 50-foot perimeter will be taken care of by insects, mowing and herbicides.