Plymouth Brings in Goats To Get Rid of Buckthorn
If you’ve heard goats will eat just about anything–you may want to check with Tom Sonenstahl, who raises them for a living.
“I have never seen a goat eat a tin can,” said Sonenstahl, whose 200-plus goats raised at Midwest Goat Mitigation are contracted out across the state this summer to eat as much of what they do like to eat–invasive plant species like buckthorn, cocklebur, goldenrod, poison ivy and prickly ash.
“It’s going green, and it’s productive,” he said. “The results are there immediately. Long-term too, but you see it immediately.”
More than 20 of his goats are currently chomping their way through a stand of trees bordering a city park in Plymouth. The city contracted with MGM to clear the spot this week.
“This site here is on a pretty steep hill, and to get our personnel on that hill to clean that buckthorn out it’s really hard and arduous work,” said Brian Swartzer, parks infrastructure manager for the city of Plymouth. “So let the goats out and they do the work for us.”
Swartzer said this is the first time the city has hired goats to mow through as much invasive species growth as possible, but he said it wasn’t possible until the city changed its grazing ordinance last summer. He said his full- and part-time parks grounds crews spent too much time in previous summers trying to eradicate the weeds.
“You can’t just go in and cut it down. You have to stay on top of spraying it and mechanically removing it and it’s really difficult to manage for a small team like ours,” he said.
Sonenstahl said his goats are happy to graze all they can. They do have to be trained to offload a trailer safely once they reach their destination, and it’s not like they can come straight from a farm to the woods and know what to do. He and his staff train them on what to eat.
“If you just went to a farm that had grain-fed goats, they might not eat the foliage, because they’re not used to it,” said Sonenstahl.