by Bill Luckett | Casper Star | April 13, 1998
CHEYENNE -Sometimes tried and true methods, no matter how primitive, are the best methods, particularly when it comes to weed management.
For thousands of years, Cashmere goats of the Eurasian continent have feasted on Leafy spurge that grows in that part of the world.
When the spurge was brought to the Rocky Mountain area about 100 years it ran roughshod over native vegetation, because its natural enemies -the goats and flea beetles- did not travel overseas with it. Worse yet, Leafy spurge is a “noxious” weed, a legal designation that means, among other things, that it’s detrimental to agriculture or wildlife.
Leafy spurge is the dominant, most expensive noxious plant in the state of Wyoming,” said Bob Lee, who has been director of the Cheyenne Environmental Management Weed and Pest Department since 1973.
Battling spurge infestation across Wyoming with chemicals has been costly and ineffective, but an Alpine company offers a relatively cheap, environmentally-friendly solution to the problem.
Ewe4ic (pronounced “euphoric”) Ecological Services, owned by Lani Lamming, rents Cashmere goats to governments and private landowners in the region.
Lee plans to use some of Lamming’s goats to help control Leafy spurge and other noxious plant species in and around the Crow Creek drainage this spring.
He said the idea, while never used in Cheyenne, is not exactly new. “They were doing it 5,000 years ago,” Lee said. “This is the ancient weed control.”
He said he heard about Lamming’s goats about three years ago, but this is the first year he was able to secure money to launch a pilot program to use goats to control spurge.
Plus, the federal government is considering giving Crow Creek a new designation that would restrict the use of chemicals for weed control in the creek’s drainage, which Lee must control, he said.
“State law is telling me that I have to do this work, but federal law is telling me, ‘I don’t want you putting chemicals inside of ditches,'” Lee said.
Roy Reichenbach, weed and pest coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, said the state estimates that Leafy spurge in Wyoming has grown from about 42,000 or 45,000 acres in 1978 to roughly 60,000 acres today, while efforts to control it have spent an estimated $27 million during that span.
Meanwhile, he said, states such as Montana and North Dakota have seen their spurge acreage grow from a few: hundred thousand acres to about a million acres each while spending less money to fight it.
“I think our $27 million was a pretty good investment,” he said.
Fred Lamming, who helps his’ wife run the business, said they began it four summers ago and have rented the goats out to people and governments in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah.
“We look forward to taking care of invasive species in Wyoming, our home state,” he said. “It’s an exciting way to take care of an ailing land.
It makes you feel like you’ve got some good stewardship going. …It’s the ultimate recycling, environmentally-friendly machine.”
He said Ewe4ic Ecological Services has about 1,700 goats and “adding every day.” His wife was in Oklahoma late last week helping the nannies produce kids, he said.
The Lammings’ unique weed control business has been featured in the New York Times, the CBS News Sunday Edition, The Discovery Channel, and other news media stories.
Fred Lamming says the attention has been exciting, but so has seeing others learn about the benefits of using goats for weed control.
“It’s just an exciting tool to use,” he said. “I have never had anybody come up and hug my spray truck in Jackson Hole, but they love the goats.”
Depending on the terrain, topography and other factors, Lamming said the business charges about $1 per goat per day to its customers.
Lee is estimating that 100 goats will eat an acre each day, “so I would suspect that we’ll probably not have them much more than 14 days at a time,” beginning in early May, he said.
Lee said he may bring the goats back to the Cheyenne area in autumn for another go at whatever Leafy spurge springs back after the goats eat its leaves in May.
He explained that, by eating the leaves, the goats weaken the spurge, causing it to use up more of its energy to stay alive. Native plants in the area then have a better opportunity to grow, because the dominant, spurge is weakened.