[ad#125-right]Many communities in the Kootenays face massive problems with invasive weed species, particularly along rural road shoulders and on the fringes of urban development. A recent article by CBC describes a study lauding the benefits of goats in combating this problem – which is likely to get worse with climate change.


The study, led by University of Northern British Columbia professor Annie Booth, tracked the eating habits of goats for two summers in Prince George. The study found the goats effectively cleared properties of hearty weeds including thistle, hawk weed, dandelion and horsetails.

“As soon as we unloaded them, they turned around and started eating dandelions,” Booth said. “They do their job — which is clear up and clean out the weeds here.”

“We were very pleased to discover that goats do provide a very effective form of weed control, particularly for some tricky weeds that are difficult to eradicate even with the use of herbicides.”

Source: Forget herbicides, weed-whackers: get some goats, study says

Irish Goat. Source: http://www.flickr.

Goats were a domesticated animal before dogs – yet with the rise in industrial farming, the concept of keeping a goat or two has fallen out of favour, despite their usefulness in vegetation management, natural fertilizer, milk and meat production.

A few months ago, when I suggested that goats and hens could be beneficial to a community like Castlegar, I was effectively ridiculed by much of Council despite support from many people around the community.

Long term reliance, (or even the planning to rely) on oil-driven solutions for weed and vegetation management, fertilizers and food production is foolish. Communities need to revise their expectations of normality as they attempt to be greener or build sustainability into their systems and structure.

And if you think this is just for rural municipalities, check out the City of Seattle’s program. Should I start a goat petition?

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

5 replies on “Goats on the Front Line of Weed Control”

  1. “Goats are coming to a town near you” – the rise of the urban goats certainly makes sense in many parts of North America, particularly those with larger lots, rural fringes and fairly temperate climates. I think you are right that in a few years these will be a standard feature of urban areas – except in those places too gentrified to realize that goats will not decrease land values, or whatever their nimby attitudes would be.

  2. Consider how much money and time is spent dealing with weeds just in a community like Castlegar. Have you seen the variety of weed killing products at Canadian Tire – and that doesn’t even include the “Lawn Care” section!

    Change can be a good thing – before you reject change, consider how sustainable the “standard” practices are, and whether we would be doing any of them without cheap plentiful oil.

  3. But do people have animal husbandry skills? Willingness to commit to many years of care (look at all the pets in shelters)? Room to store feed? Access to small animal vet? Fencing, housing etc? Lots of coyotes, loose dogs, raccoons and bears that need to be kept away.

  4. Eva, I agree with your question about animal husbandry, however, these skills, lost generations ago, can be learnt in a few seasons with suitable guidance from experienced farmers.

    The others are all logistical questions that need to be determined one community at a time. The simple fact is that we will have neither the products or the means to continue dealing with agriculture and weeds in the post industrial manner we are accustomed to for much longer. Our urbanized landscapes are much more susceptible to weeds, and they will be some of the hardest hit under a post peak oil economy – experiments such as these open the door to solving many of the logistical problems before they become a necessity.

    The way we go about our daily tasks will change, probably forever, when the supply of oil is lees than the global demand. People should be concerned that we are adapting our lifestyles and methodology to match the needs of our families and communities for the future. The Federal and Provincial Governments should not be relied upon to help us get through the rumblings of peak oil – they’ve known about the possibility of it in one form or another for nearly forty years and we are not in any better position, possibly we are in a worse position, than we were then.

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