Kids’ Work – Conservation Grazing with Baby Goats

This spring, Nature Change returned to Leelanau Conservancy‘s Clay Cliffs Preserve to find out how such incredibly cute baby goats could be part of a war on Garlic Mustard.

Originating in Europe and parts for Asia, Garlic Mustard is a harmful, invasive plant capable of spreading at an astonishing rate across forest floors and other disturbed lands, replacing the native plants to become a monoculture, preventing the growth of wildflowers and other plants needed for a diverse ecosystem. Preserve manager, Becky Hill says this invasive plant has been a really big problem at Clay Cliffs for years despite lots of effort by crowds of volunteers and staff members to remove and destroy this infestation.

This spring, the Leelanau Conservancy enlisted the services of Amy McIntyre of City Girls Farm to help control this disruptive plant. Using portable fencing and a small herd of goats and sheep, McIntyre specializes in Conservation Grazing to rid large areas of unwanted invasive plants and other bad actors like poison ivy. The folks at Leelanau County’s Idyll Farms helped out by donating 30 baby goats to to this effort.

Guided by McIntyre and some carefully placed mobile fencing, the baby goats make a meal of most plants they find. In fact, they eat almost continuously all day. Better still, the goats and sheep thoroughly digest the garlic mustard, leaving no viable seeds in their manure. Still better, the process requires little human effort and no herbicides are used.

Leelanau Conservancy Executive Director, Tom Nelson says that Conservation Grazing represents an important new tool in the battle to control the spread of invasive plants. Look for more goats and sheep working in the preserves of Leelanau County over the summer and beyond.

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