Understanding the benefits and limitations of using goats for invasive plant control
Tiffany Wolf, Veterinary Population Medicine
Managing invasive plants is expensive and labor-intensive. The high cost of conventional tactics like mowing and herbicide application has led managers to look to less traditional methods of control, including the use of browsing goats.
Goat management has surged in popularity, but proof that it works in the long-term is lacking. This project will evaluate the lasting benefits of goat defoliation for buckthorn management and determine if feeding poses harm to the native plant ecosystem.
Finally: an area of concern with goat management involves the deadly snail- or slug-borne parasite Parastronguloides tenuis. Goats who eat an infected snail or slug while grazing can suffer a number of neurological symptoms ranging from paralysis to death. Some universities have recommended the use of grazing geese for snail and slug control, and this project will test that method for the first time on a goat grazing system.
- How effective is goat browsing for long-term invasive species control?
- What are the effects, if any, of goat browsing on native plant diversity?
- Does goose grazing lower risk of the P. tenuis parasite in goat herds?
This project will provide realistic estimates of goat browsing service costs, environmental impacts, and control benefits to guide managers towards the best decision for their land.
This research will also evaluate a relief strategy for a deadly parasite that threatens goats in the field. By protecting goat herd health and limiting parasite exposure at management sites, the costs of goat browsing services may be reduced for everyone.
Goat Dispatch, University of Tennessee
Tiffany Wolf, principal investigator
Daniel Larkin, co-principal investigator
Katie Marchetto, post-doctoral associate
Sara Nelson, field technician and Masters student
News & Publications
- Goat Digestion Leads to Low Survival and Viability of Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) Seeds (Natural Areas Journal, 2020)
- "Meet the goats and humans fighting invasive plants, one munch at a time" (Pioneer Press, 2018)
- "Buckthorn-eating goats to debut in Minneapolis parks Tuesday" (Star Tribune, 2017)