Oregon City’s experiment, which uses goats to eat invasive species, has been called off. The goats, however hilarious it may sound, have failed to perform their duties. They have also failed an odor test.
An environmentally friendly project to begin with, Set 75 rented goats that were set loose on 9.1 acres of city park to chomp and chew invasive plants, such as Armenian blackberry and English ivy, harming and taking over the native flora out of Minto-Brown Island Park.
The Oregon city of Salem contracted with Yoder Goat Rentals out of Molalla, kick-starting a pilot project last October. The project was in response to community interest in removing the invasive species.
The public works department, however, submitted a report to the Salem City Council indicating that the six-week project cost the city a whopping five times more than it would have cost had they used the conventional methods to remove the vegetation.
According to the report, the total cost to the city was $20,719, which included paying the contractor a $11,375 flat rate for the goat rental, $2,560 for goat monitoring and $540 to remove weeds in order to erect temporary fencing to contain the goats.
The city had to clear a perimeter path, rent a portable bathroom for the contractor, who remained on site, and bring in potable water, which cost $4,203. It also paid $2,041 for an inmate crew to remove blackberry canes after the goats ate all the leaves but left the bramble, reported the Statesman Journal.
The report concluded the following.
“From a cost perspective, targeted grazing using goats at this specific site was more expensive than the other two alternatives. However, in this specific case, the 9.1-acre site is mostly flat and accessible by mowing equipment and inmate crews. The cost for invasive vegetation management is highly dependent on the characteristics of the site and there are likely locations on City-owned property where goats may be more cost-effective, such as on steep slopes or areas where inmate crews or mowers cannot be utilized. City staff have not yet identified specific areas in parks where that might be the case, but as they are identified, using targeted grazing by goats will be considered.”
Mark Becktel, public works operations manager for the city of Salem, said the goats also left a “heavily fertilized area, if you know what I mean.”
In addition to being expensive, the goats also caused a few other problems. They were far from being selective when it came to what they ate. While the targeted grazing was successful with the goats removing ivy from the trees and ground areas, along with leaves from blackberry canes, the report indicates the goats devoured native plants. They were also drawn to the bark of certain trees including maples and hazelnut trees, which they ate and damaged. Becktel noted the damages.
“The trees weren’t girdled, so the goat damage was minor. None of it was permanent,”
The goats were lovely to look at but the area had a barnyard aroma during the time the goats were present. The report detailed the problem.
“The goats were almost universally welcomed by park users as a pleasant, pastoral addition to the scenery. The area, however, had a barnyard aroma during the time the goats were present.”
Rachel and Bill McCollum, who have been renting goats since 2010, said they have asked the city’s public works department for a meeting to evaluate the project and talk about ways to make the service work better for the municipality in the future.
Goats remain industry leaders in landscaping and their services have been expanding as companies and homeowners seek more eco-friendly ways to keep their yards trimmed, reports the Washington Post.
Becktel summarized his thoughts on the project.
“We made it clear at the council meeting that we would not say we would never use goats again. We consider them a special tool in our toolbox. But you’re not going to see large numbers of happily grazing goats in our park system anytime soon. They can do well on very steep slopes, hillsides and embankments, places where you can’t get a mower or a crew. So we’ll never say never. But they’re just not cost-effective for a project like this.”
Oregon City may need to evaluate its alternative use of goats in the future, but this project likely left some lingering memories with the council.
[Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images]