by Melanie Patterson | Ag Journal | December 22, 2000
LA JUNTA, Colo.- A Wyoming woman has found a way to fight weeds that seems to please everybody: ranchers, environmentalists and cashmere goats.
The goats are perhaps the most thrilled about it, because they’re the ones that get breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets of all the weeds they can stand.
Lani Lamming, who owns Ewe4ic (euphoric) Ecological Services along with her sons Heggie and Donny Benz, started the alternative weed management service in 1996.
“Four years ago, we started out with 100 goats,” Lamming said. “It took off like wildfire.” Now the operation runs more than 1,000 goats. Lamming has federal, state, county, city and private contracts in six states: Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma. Her animals are used for clearing brush to reduce fire danger, and clearing lake bottoms, sides of the road, college campuses and more.
The size and cost of each job varies according to customers’ needs. “Two jobs are never the same,” Lamming said. Her animals are used for clearing brush to reduce fire danger, and clearing lake bottoms, sides of the road, college campuses and more.
Besides the variety of jobs, there are the different western landscapes. Lamming must figure out how to clear: desert, prairie and mountains. Not to mention dealing with drought conditions.
The spread of weeds covers an average of 4,600 acres a day and 1.5 million acres a year, according to a Ewe4ic pamphlet. Weeds cause increased erosion, water run-off, and weed-control costs; and decreased biodiversity, land values and land productivity. Weeds also cause loss of native plants and wildlife habitats.
The benefits of goat grazing include reduced labor requirements, exclusion of heavy equipment, no noise and no pollution. Using goats to control weeds also conditions soil surface, covers large areas of land, recycles nutrient elements otherwise transported to landfills, and mulches old plant growth.
One of Lamming’s biggest projects was a five month job in Montana’s Madison River Valley. The goats cleared a 20,000-acre ranch, then “we did the whole valley,” Lamming said. “We marched along the river” for 20 miles, clearing brush.
Some of her small jobs take only a few hours. “We’ve done backyards with 30 babies clearing dandelions,” she said. “Goats love dandelions.”
Lamming said her business is successful because goats like to eat what other livestock won’t. “A goat’s diet preference is directly opposite to most grazing animals’,” Lamming said. “Cattle and horses eat 90 percent grass. Grass is goats’ last choice.”
There are more weeds out there than there are Ewe4ic goats to eat them. “At this point, I need about 100,000 goats” to handle all the solicitations, Lamming said.
Lamming said there are three other important aspects of her business. One is herd management. The animals must be properly fed, doctored, and cared for.
Talking to the public is also important. “We have to know what we do and how to explain it,” she said.
And then there are the weeds. “You have to know weeds and how to graze them,” she said. “You have to know the good plants from the bad plants.”
Lamming has a master’s degree in weed science from Colorado State University. She also keeps up with recent studies. “There has been a ton of research on how goats eat weeds,” she said.
Lamming also participates in studies such as current research being conducted by Montana State University, CSU and Stanford University on revegetation by using only reseeding and goat grazing.
Besides getting rid of weeds, there are other benefits to Lamming’s business. Three products she gets from the business are baby goats, cashmere and organic fertilizer. “I have no waste at all,” she said.