GRAZING GOATS: Herd grazes on invasive plant to save Brule River State Forest

A herd of goats in the Brule River State Forest is grazing on an invasive plant to promote native plant growth.
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 5:02 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - A herd of goats in the Brule River State Forest is grazing on an invasive plant to promote native plant growth.

The group of about 30 goats is contracted with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, who manages the forest.

The goats were given by a northwest Wisconsin company. They offer their goats to eat plants that land owners don’t want or want to stunt.

“As we fell in love with raising goats, we just kept adding more and more from other farms,” Jake Reina Williams, one of the owners of Regenerative Ruminants said.

The goats graze in a pen on pesky plants that the DNR is trying to weed out.

“So we go in an area where a land owner has some plants or brush that they don’t want around as much,” he said, “and we set up temporary pens like this.”

Daniel Kephart, the Property Manager of the Brule River State Forest, said the DNR is trying to use more natural ways of removing invasive plants.

“We’re exploring alternative methods for managing invasive species without using herbicide, and grazing is one of those methods,” he said.

Red pines stand tall above the buckthorn, a small tree-like plant that can prevent the growth of other plants here in the forest if left unmanaged. The goats feast on it, lowering its impact on the environment around it.

“We want to make sure that the native trees are growing well and that the buckthorn is not out competing them,” Kephart said.

The plant can get tall, up to about 6 feet in height. A few feet taller than the average goat.

“A lot of times you’ll see the goats kind of lean up against it,” he said.

The Wisconsin DNR has tried several methods to get rid of the buckthorn but they’re hoping the goats will stick a thorn in the invasive plant.

“It’s a long process, it’s not something that happens overnight,” Kephart said, “it’s something that we have to stay on top of for years to control invasives like buckthorn.”

The goats will be in the forest for a few more weeks to graze on the land. The DNR and Reina Williams ask that you do not touch the goats, but you are more than welcome to pay them a visit.

The department will go back to the grazing sites in coming seasons to evaluate whether or not the goats were able to effectively manage the buckthorn.

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