100 goats can eradicate weeds from 1 acre per day
by Jason Gewirtz | Daily Camera | June 11, 1999
SUPERIOR -Goats chomped away pleasantly in the foreground. Out of view, nestled somewhere in the rolling hills of the Lastoka Open Space, weevils and beetles feasted on the same enemy.
For those advocating non-chemical approaches in the war against noxious weeds, the scene Thursday marked the wave of the future.
With more than 50,000 acres of Boulder County-owned open space, the question of how to handle rampant weed growth has come to the forefront of public policy.
“Control measures on large tracks are the issue,” said Tim Seastedt, a University of Colorado biology professor.
Boulder County and other local governments use an integrated approach to handle the growing problem of invasive weeds, which compete with native vegetation on thousands of acres in Boulder County. Weeds such as knapweed, leafy spurge and Mediterranean sage can be killed by hand-pulling, mowing, burning, insects, goats or herbicide application.
But herbicide critics say that governments are too quick to go the chemical route before exploring other options. To highlight other possibilities, the Boulder chapter of the Sierra Club invited supporters of alternative methods to show off their weed-be-gone stuff on the Lastoka property Thursday.
Seastedt has been conducting an experiment on the Lastoka property since 1997 using insects to kill the weeds.
He released four weed eating insects onto the 160-acre property to see how effective they can be in dwindling the weed count. Seastedt said initial results show that areas with the weevils and beetles have shown a 50-percent reduction in seed growth compared to areas without the insects.
But that percentage should be higher, he said. “Asking why it’s not doing better is a research question,” he said.
Weed-eating insects have proven successful at reducing the weed count at Chatfiled Reservoir near Littleton, said Jerry Cochran, a program coordinator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Since 1991, the department has been measuring the growth of diffuse knapweed and found the insects have spread and done their job.
But insects are just one means of weed control.
“I liken the whole thing to a jigsaw puzzle,” Cochran said. “You don’t have a complete puzzle until all the pieces are in place.”
Another piece that is gaining popularity is goats.
Lani Lamming, who owns Wyoming-based Ewe4ic Ecological Services said that 100 goats can eradicate weeds from about 1 acre of weed-infested property per day. Lamming said federal, state and local governments as well as private property owners have begun hiring her goats to eat away at the problem for about $100 an acre.
‘They like weeds, especially noxious weeds,” she said, as dozens of goats chomped weeds nearby. “They love leafy spurge, it’s one of their favorite foods.”
Sierra Club member Kurt Cunningham said that as governments continue to acquire more public land, the issue of providing a range of weed-killing methods will remain important.
“It’s a matter of emphasis,” he said. “Given their restraints, they may not be doing a bad job. But we want to push them toward more non-herbicide uses.