GOATS OFFER AN EFFECTIVE TOOL IN BLACKBERRY CONTROL
Grazing goats can provide landholders with an effective alternative tool in controlling blackberry and other woody weeds. Using goats to control blackberry can be a stand-alone measure or an important step in an integrated control program.
Goat grazing offers landholders a chemical free option and can be successfully used in locations that are difficult to access where more traditional chemical or mechanical control techniques are not suitable. The use of goats is a proven method of managing blackberry infestations, because they preferentially graze blackberry over improved pasture species. Follow-up monitoring and treatment once the goats are removed is necessary.
The Orange City Council in NSW have successfully integrated goat grazing and chemical control on a heavily infested 12 hectare reserve. Council staff were amazed by the results with large infestations reduced to virtually nothing. The case study showed that goat grazing was a cost-effective control method compared to chemical treatment. For further information refer to the Weeds of National Significance Blackberry Control Manual case study.
There are several important considerations before using goats as a control technique including the need for good fencing to keep goats contained, access to water, impact of grazing on non-target native plants, grazing period and careful monitoring to ensure adequate feed is available.
Colin Arnold from GrazeAway, keynote speaker at a Blackberry Control Information event co-hosted by the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce and the Silvan Blackberry Action Group on the 22nd February, has been advocating and demonstrating the use of goats for weed control for over 15 years.
Colin takes a holistic approach to weed control and believes that looking after the environment and soil health, should be considered when controlling weeds. “This is where goats come in, according to Colin. “Goats can give you a big hit by opening up the site, by selectively grazing blackberry and other weed species. If you keep goats on long enough, you will eventually kill the blackberry”.
All types of goats can be effective in controlling blackberry, although the Angora breed has issues with blackberry getting caught in the fleece.
Goats need to be managed well, which includes adequate fencing. Colin uses a standard ring lock fence – 8 15/30, which allows goats to put their heads through and keep the fence line clean of weeds. It is also important to remove goats at the right time before they overgraze a site. /Revegetating areas controlled by goats is important with native species such as Lomandra, Poa or Sedges being suitable. Goats will selectively graze around these species, preferring exotic grasses and woody weeds.
Further information of a typical program that uses goats to manage blackberry in grazing land are provided in weed control using goats: A guide to using goats for weed control in pastures (MLA, 2007) is an online resource on the VBT website.