It was a prickly situation. The weeds had to be removed, but using herbicides too near a water supply can be a dicey proposition due to federal regulations. Mowing weeds reduces them vertically, but they are still there, lying horizontally on the ground until collected.
And perhaps most important in a hot and dry state like Idaho, the weeds were a convenient and plentiful food source for wildfires.
The answer was a four-letter word: G-O-A-T.
The sometimes bad-tempered, beard-wearing goats could get to places the department’s maintenance workers could not, were agile and chewed up everything in their path. In other words, they were perfect for the job.
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) used the goats on a 3-acre retention pond on Eagle Road, just north of Chinden Boulevard. In mid-May, 100 goats were placed in a fenced area to eat noxious weeds for two days. The technique had been used in other parts of the state, and some counties had been doing it for some time, according to ITD Southwest Idaho Maintenance Coordinator Dan Bryant.
Along with the goats from CT Biological Weed & Brush Control, a watchdog was used for overnight protection and to keep them in line.
Bryant said the goats easily negotiate terrain that ITD mowers cannot, are more sure-footed than people with weed trimmers, and don’t drop weeds and seeds all over. “This is the first year trying this,” he said, “but the results are promising.”
Connie Marshall, ITD southwest Idaho roadside vegetation coordinator, added that the goats’ performance was visually much different than applying herbicide or using mowers.
“It just looks better. With either of the other two methods, there's still dead material out there.” She said the goats ate White Top, Scotch thistle and Poison Hemlock, among other weeds. "By the time the goats were done, the eyesore was gone.”
Work on the second goat-grazing project began Tuesday, May 28, off I-84 and the Robinson Road overpass. Fifty goats are being used in the southwest corner of the property to clean up around a pond. The goats will then be moved to the northeast corner of Black Cat Road and I-84, and lastly to Garritty Boulevard across from the Idaho Center Auto Mall.
“We are now on ‘goat’ time, so how much and how fast they eat will determine how long they stay,” Marshall quipped.