The Goats Are Baaaack At Ottawa County Parks

Ottawa County Parks launched its third and final year of the Prescribed Browsing Project, a unique initiative utilizing goats to combat invasive plants. This innovative, yet simple method reduces herbicide applications, is cost-effective, and allows access to locations where mowers or machinery could otherwise not reach. The project began in 2014 as a three year initiative and will conclude for review after this year.

Six goats are currently at Eastmanville Bayou munching on Oriental bittersweet. This invasive plant grows and spreads rapidly and can quickly choke out native plant life. The woody invasive wraps itself around branches and trees and can eventually become so heavy that it pulls over mature trees. At Eastmanville Bayou it has taken down trees and is so prolific that it obscures the view to the river along the east trail.

Goats at Ottawa County Parks - Michigan. Photo Courtesy of Ottawa County Parks.

The goats won’t eradicate the invasive, but they push it very far back, making it more manageable to treat and remove. Plus, they love it! They have amazing digestive systems… they can even eat poison ivy.

Later in the summer the goats will work at Riverside Park removing Oriental bittersweet and honeysuckle.

Goats at Ottawa County Parks - Michigan. Photo Courtesy of Ottawa County Parks.

Ottawa County is one of the first park systems in the state, and the nation, to test this method of invasive species management. The scientific data collected by the County Park’s summer intern will help create a model for the project, as well as information to create a viable business model for local goat contractor. This creates an interesting opportunity for students working on the project.

“In many places out west and down south you can rent goats on Amazon to do this work, but currently there are very few places in the midwest where you can find goats to rent. We hope to change this!” said Melanie Manion, the Natural Resources Management Supervisor for Ottawa County Parks.

“We have been grateful to have such excellent partners throughout this project,” said Manion. “Much of the cost has been funded through private donations and grants, and we have had so many amazing volunteers donate their time. A special thank you to Friends of Ottawa County Parks, whose donations provided us with the fencing and shelters to keep the goats safe. Partnership is what makes initiatives like this possible.”

Goats at Ottawa County Parks - Michigan. Photo Courtesy of Ottawa County Parks.

Residents and visitors are welcome to visit the parks to watch the goats at work, but are advised not to touch the goats and should stay clear of the electric fence in which they are enclosed. Oils from plants like poison ivy do not harm the goats, but can be transferred to humans.

We headed out to visit the goats at Eastmanville Bayou Park recently to visit the goats. We are happy to report that they are hard at work and adorable! Check out a clip from our latest Snapchat story:

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Learn more about all of the cool things going on at the Ottawa County Parks at www.miottawa.org/parks

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