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Goats back eating invasive plants in Ottawa County

WZZM-TV • May 28, 2016 at 7:00 AM

POLKTON TWP. — The Ottawa County Parks Department is starting the third and final year of the Prescribed Browsing Project.

It uses goats to slow invasive plant growth, while reducing the amount of herbicide used. According to parks officials, the goats are cost-effective and able to reach areas that machinery can not get to.

The project began in 2014 and is up for review after this year.

There are currently six goats at Eastmanville Bayou eating Oriental bittersweet. The invasive plant grows and spreads rapidly and potentially choking out native plants. It wraps around branches and trees and has taken down trees in the bayou. It also obscures the view to the river along the east trail.

The goats won't wipe out the plant, but can make it more manageable to treat and remove.

Later this summer, the goats will work at Riverside Park removing Oriental bittersweet and honeysuckle.

The Prescribed Browsing Project is partnering with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Center. Students from the Agricultural and Environmental Science Program buy the goats at auction, train with the goats and conduct a wellness check before bringing them to the park to work. This partnership gives the students hands-on training while cutting cost for the parks system.

Residents are welcome to visit the parks to watch the goats at work, but are advised not to touch the goats and should stay clear of the electric fence in which they are enclosed. Oils from plants like poison ivy do not harm the goats, but can be transferred to humans.

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