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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Goats in the Arboretum

<u have been on campus over the past three summers, you might have seen the Grounds Services department’s newest team of seasonal workers. You have almost certainly seen the products of their work in the forested areas around campus. This summer, for the third year in a row, the grounds department has used goats to manage invasive species, such as buckthorn and bush honeysuckle, in wooded areas around campus. Using goats to manage invasive species is a sustainable alternative to using herbicides and is less labor-intensive than cutting woody plants by hand.

This summer, for the first time, the Arboretum staff also used goats as a management strategy. McKnight Prairie is a native prairie remnant owned by the College, located eight miles east of campus. Like all of the Arboretum’s prairies, prescribed burns are used to keep the prairie free of woody encroachment and maintain its plant diversity. Despite this effort, some areas of the prairie have become overrun with sumac, a native invasive shrub, and aspen trees. Following their time on campus, the goats were brought to McKnight to eat the sumac. Goats prefer many other plants to sumac, and a large number of goats were necessary to create pressure to eat it. By the end of the summer, there was a total of 200 goats at McKnight prairie.

Goats browse the leaves and bark of woody plants, but do not kill the plant itself. For this reason, it takes several seasons of goat browsing to manage invasive plants effectively. The goats will return to campus for the next few summers, but will only come back to McKnight next year. Goats are voracious grazers of almost all plants, including native prairie perennials. To avoid damaging the native prairie flora, the goats will only graze the sumac and aspen stands for two summers. The management effort doesn’t stop when the goats leave. The goat grazing site at McKnight will be left for about a year, and after plant fuel has built up, will be burned to the control the sumac and aspens.

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