July 12th, 2024

Goats getting back to business

By Lethbridge Herald on June 11, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman The grazing goats take a break after munching on weeds all morning as part of the grazing program run by the City of Lethbridge Tuesday at Indian Battle Park.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

The goats are back to graze residents with their presence in various parts of the river valley while clearing the area of weeds throughout the next several weeks. 

Jackie Cardinal, Parks Natural Resources coordinator,  spoke about the grazing program Tuesday late morning while the goats took a well deserved break nearby at Indian Battle Park. 

“This is our sixth season of grazing. We started off in 2019 with a full grazing program. Our pilot was in 2018 and since 2019 we’ve been grazing at Indian Battle Park, Botterill and Alexander Wilderness Park,” said Cardinal. 

She said the goats usually come in towards the end of May or beginning of June to target mostly leafy spurge, some thistle wormwood and a few other weedy species.

This year the goats did not have their babies around as they had already been weaned off – unlike last year when they were around their mamas being very vocal and playing around. 

Cardinal said one of the reasons why the City continues to bring back the goats is because they do a fantastic job getting rid of weeds without harming other vegetation in the area. 

“They leave very little impact, they are very nimble, they can get to where we can’t get people to, so we are really happy to bring them back and have them as part of our program every year,” said Cardinal. 

She said as of  Tuesday they had 125 goats butwere expecting to have all 200 by the end of the week to help target a larger area at a time. 

Cardinal explained that the goats usually spend two weeks in each area, with the first week of grazing being the most difficult as the grass is tall and it is hard for them to find the weeds. 

“We’ll do two weeks here (Indian Battle Park) and then two weeks in Alexander Wilderness Park. This year we’ve also added Pavan Park,” said Cardinal. 

She said they added Pavan because it is one of the worse areas for weeds in the city and the goats are needed there. 

“It’s next door to Alexander Wilderness so we don’t need a lot of extra resources to spread to Pavan. We’re actually going to walk the goats there, we’ll move camp with vehicles and whatnot but we can actually just go up the coulees and down so it’s kind of the next progression,” said Cardinal. 

She said in an ideal world the goats would graze the entire river valley but unfortunately the City is restricted by budget, therefore they choose areas that need goats the most. 

She said after that they go back to Indian Battle Park for the second round of grazing, which is easier than the first. 

“When we come back, usually about the beginning of August or end of July, it goes a lot quicker because lots of the native grasses have got dormant from the heat and the weeds stick out really easy and the goats can really pick and choose,” said Cardinal. 

“We choose places that are very bad for weeds, as well as where they’re going to get a lot of traction, where people are going to see them. There’s that public education piece that’s really valuable as well,” said Cardinal. 

She explained that even though the City is educating the public, allowing the goats to be visible, they will not be able to touch them or come too close. 

“It’s not a petting zoo, they’re here to work,” said Cardinal. 

She also reminds residents to always keep dogs on a leash while visiting Indian Battle Park and Pavan Park. Dogs are not allowed at Alexander Wilderness Park, she said. 

“They’ve had issues with off-leash dogs in the past in this park and we don’t want that, we don’t want any of the goats to get hurt, we don’t want the dogs to get hurt if they get kicked or whatnot, so keep your dogs on a leash,” said Cardinal. 

She added that when people approach the herd the goats scatter and that will make things difficult for them as well as for their herder. 

“You’re welcome to take pictures and if Trent is available, you can approach him to ask him questions as he is always happy to answer questions, but we ask that you keep your dogs on leash,” said Cardinal. 

Goatherd Trent Cahoon said the goats were taking a break during the interviews because they had been grazing since 6:20 a.m. and he had learn a valuable lesson. 

“Note to myself, never leave before 7 in the morning, goats like to sleep in a little bit,” said Cahoon. 

When talking about his job he said his favourite part is being outside all day with the goats, his furry companion Jip, walking, sometimes running and enjoying nature. 

“Jip is a little rough with the goats, she is usually working with cows and she likes running, so today she is bored out of her skull,” said Cahoon. 

He explained that Jip has helped him trained the goats into a herd mentality, as that is not in their nature. 

“Goats generally do not stick together like this, but because we simulate a predator with the dog, and we simulated really well with Jip because she loves to chomp on goats legs, so they are taught that the only safety is in the herd,” said Cahoon.

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