Ed Bellamy let his Cecil Lake goats out at 9 a.m. this morning, and while the animals were eager to start munching, the first battle was getting them down the hill, and keeping them there. This is Bellamy’s first time grazing his goats on the Peace River, after Conrad Lindbloom got a longer contract to work in the city of Kamloops year round.
It’s the third year now that the Peace River Regional District has used the approach to get rid of infestations of Dalmatian toadflax, a weed that has a beautiful yellow flower, but can produce up to 500,000 seeds each year, that can lay dormant in the soil for up to a decade. Invasive Plant Program Manager for the PRRD Elaine Armagost says hand pulling or herbicides are not an option due to the size of the infestation and the steep slopes of the banks.
“It’s a really aggressive plant,” she explains. “We really don’t want it getting into our agriculture sector up here, because with one per cent of the province’s population, we make half the food,” adding, “Last year the graze was very successful. The year before we were a little late and they didn’t eat as much as I wanted, but last year was really good.”
The approach of using goats is seen favourably by the PRRD, as it’s both cheaper and more environmentally conscious than simply using chemicals to kill weeds. Lindbloom, who’s been working his goats as weed eaters for about 14 years, is working to expand the industry and get more goat producers involved in Canada. The practice is currently much more common in Europe and the United States.
“It’s environmentally friendly,” he argues. “They’re telling me it’s cheaper than herbicides, they do just as good if not a better job, and it’s just good for the environment.”
“It’s really good to go and showcase that there is something else out there that works other than herbicide,” adds Armagost.
Before the Regional District, Lindbloom spent much time helping the logging industry, as well as the City of Grande Prairie. He adds that it works especially well along creeks and rivers, where spraying is not an option and there’s no alternative.
“A herd of goats is just perfect for that,” he says.
This graze will take a little longer than the previous years, as Lindbloom had a herd of 500 to 600 goats taking 10 days. Instead, Armagost says they’re going to keep them there until the plant starts to flower, and it’s expected the goats will be gone by June 21. Bellamy will be staying on the hill, and anyone curious is welcome to come take pictures and see the goats at work.