The discerning human palate prefers caviar, pinot grigio, and foie gras. Lani Malmberg’s goats like noxious weeds.
Toadflax, Canada thistle, poison hemlock — they’re all delicacies for Malmberg’s 504 cashmere goats, all neutered males, who arrived in Colorado Springs on Sunday in a four-deck tractor-trailer. They’ll have plenty to devour this week at Bear Creek Park East.
The Bear Creek Garden Association brought in the goats to devour noxious weeds on 19 acres surrounding the group’s organic garden at 21st and Rio Grande streets.
“They have a unique set of bacteria and enzymes in their gut that allows them to detox all the stuff that nothing else can eat,” said Malmberg, who runs Ewe4ic Ecological Services based in Lander, Wyoming.
Goats don’t graze — they browse, said Malmberg, who holds a master’s degree in weed science from Colorado State University. “Browsers such as goats and antelopes eat brush and twigs and leaves and broad-leafed plants,” she said. “That’s their first choice, and the grass is their last choice.”
The goats have been to Bear Creek before — six times from 1999 to 2003, said BCGA president Char Nymann.
El Paso County paid for the goats’ services the first couple of times, Nymann said. This year, they’re being funded mostly by a $10,000 grant from Denver-based Colorado Garden Show Inc. The goats made their debut Sunday afternoon in front of dozens of camera-wielding spectators.
Snorting and snuffling, the brown, black and white horned goats snacked their way across the grassy field north of the BGCA garden, wagging their tails like dogs. When they reached trees, some jumped onto the limbs or stood on their hind legs to bite branches.
When it was time to move to a new spot, Zippy the black-and-white border collie rounded up the herd, coaxing them into a rumbling run that stirred up dust.
“You say get ’em, sometimes they’ll come up and bite ’em,” said Malmberg’s son, Donny Benz. But Zippy showed a tender side with the young goats new to herding. “He can walk a baby from a mile,” Benz said.
Members of the public are invited to watch the goats work this week, although an electrified fence will ensure visitors — both human and animal — keep their distance. Nymann plans to watch the goats’ progress. “I’ll be here every day,” she said.
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Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Originally posted July 2, 2007 By Jennifer Wilson | The Gazette (Colorado Springs)