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Photo Stories

May 10, 2002 - This week's photo was sent to us by Lani Lamming of Ewe4ic Ecological Services, Inc. in Alpine, WY. Ewe4ic Ecological Services specializes in using cashmere goats to graze and naturally remove noxious weeds and return the land to a healthy, natural ecosystem. Invasive weed species are a problem in certain parts of the country, because they often displace valuable forage plants that livestock and wildlife depend on. Some weeds are also toxic to livestock and wildlife, although special enzymes in goats syliva quickly detoxify the same plants. Ms. Lamming's company provides a non-toxic and more effective alternative to using herbicides to erradicate invasive weeds.

Lani shows her goats working a job at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Ms. Lamming, who describes herself as a displaced cattle rancher, explains the role of her herd as more than a method of erradicating weeds, but as restoring a healthy ecoysytem. "The goal of the land is to build the soil so it can produce the kinds of plants that we want to grow there. What we need to be looking at is the water cycle, mineral cycle, energy flow and succession. Weeds are symptomatic of a problem. The problem is sometimes poor soil having no organic matter that cannot support good growth. We want to make the grass the best competitor and stress the weed at every turn. Goats help with this problem because everything they eat is then recycled as fertilizer and laid back down on the grasses. As the goats graze, they trample in the fertilizer."

Aside from clearing weeds, goats provide valuable wool and new goats.

Typically farmers, ranchers and other property owners rid their property of noxious weeds by using herbicides, often Tordon (picloram and 2,4-D) on it, which costs about $100 an acre. Aside from the health problems associated with herbicide use, there are many other problems. First, herbicides not only destroy the target weed, but often reduce a number of non-target plant species as well. In addition, herbicides can increase the toxic poisons, including potassium nitrate and cyanide, in some plants. These poisonous chemicals have been demonstrated to be toxic to livestock as well as wildlife, so increasingly the levels of these poisons is surely detrimental to the animals that live among these plants. Furthermore, some herbicide-tolerant plants may be physiologically affected by the herbicide. Ms. Lamming recalls seeing land in the West barren of any plant life except the diffuse knapweed the herbicides were intended to kill.

The goats work to rid the land of noxious weeds 365 days a year. (Photo by Larry Brinlee)

The first thing goats do when they walk through the pasture is snap off all the flower heads. Then they pick the leavesoff one at a time, very quickly, leaving a bare stock. Once the goats graze the weed, it cannot go to seed because it has no flower and it cannot photosynthesize to build a root system because it has no leaves. Grasses are their last choice, which means the desirable grass species are left behind with natural fertilizer to repopulate the land.

Of course, it's the good help that makes it all possible. (Photo by Larry Brinlee)

For more information on invasive weeds, visit Beyond Pesticides' Ecological Management of Invasive Weeds webpage. To learn more about grazing goats for weed control, read Successfully Controlling Noxious Weeds with Goats in the Resouces and Publications section.

Beyond Pesticides launched Photo Stories on March 1, 2002. The photos are updated on a weekly basis. Read the instructions on how to get your photo story featured. To see what other visitors to this site thought about this photo story, visit the reader's comments page.