Quandary explains how noxious weeds can get your goat | SummitDaily.com

Quandary explains how noxious weeds can get your goat

Does Summit county use goats to clear dry grasses?

A Brother

This time of year might not be the best for getting up a goat's appettite, but Summit did indeed use goats for weed control programs for several years. However, instead of taking advantage of the hungry, local mountain goat population they decided to bring in some cashmeres from Wyoming. What, just because we're a little unwieldy? Think local, Summit!

In one season, over 500 goats were hauled into the county to work on mitigating weeds near the reservoir. Why no more goats, you ask? No, it wasn't a labor dispute, or because minimum wage hasn't been raised. The simple truth is that migrant herd was sold and a replacement has yet to be located. More than that though, the weed lost the battle.

Goats were brought in specifically to gnaw away at Canada thistle, and their chops paid off. The Canada thistle was battle-worn by the time the goats were through, and so when it attempted to grow again, its shocked little system was much more susceptible to herbicides. In this way, goats are like the Marines of the weed world: First on the ground, first out the door.

Like the armed forces, goats are just one portion of Summit County's weed management plan. According to the official plan, if left unchecked noxious weeds (the guys that don't belong) can grow at a rate of 15 percent per year, quickly taking over terrain from Summit's natural flora. In order to make sure this doesn't happen, the Summit County Weed Control program has created a list of every type of weed in the county and the best management plans to deal with each. There are only two remaining species that have been deemed manageable by myself and my goat brethren: Russian knapweed and leafy spurge. Essentially, controlling weeds is a declaration of war forcing the aggressor to exhaust all methods necessary to eradicate the enemy. Russian knapweed and leafy spurge are some of the worst enemies to try and take on and so require a multi-pronged approach led by none other than the goats of glory.

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Each weed is met with a specific plan tailored to target its strengths and stress the plants to a point of breaking — who hasn't been there right? The methods for dealing with these pesky plants vary, but can involve chemical treatment (like pesticides), introducing a fine herd to stress the vegetation, environmental controls (like introducing other plants that are native and can compete for resources) and even the introduction of bugs that can eat away the bad guys. However, each of these methods can present their own set of problems and have to be controlled carefully to make sure they don't invade the area or ruin native plants all on their own. So don't feel too bad for the four-legged weed-eaters, we might be temporarily out of work in Summit, but just wait until the thistle blows.

Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to quandary@summitdaily.com