Goat Project

Who We Are and What We Do?
The goat project is run by Hardin County Conservation and the county strives to provide safe and healthful recreational opportunities, to protect and enhance county natural resources and to offer opportunities for our residents to participate in conservation education.

Goats grazing in a field.Purpose of the Goat Project
Goal: Effectively manage and control invasive or noxious brush species that are densely over grown on steep and in-accessible sites, to re-store prairie and Oak/Hickory dominate timbers.

Flash Grazing: Flash grazing is briefly grazing areas of land with high concentrations of livestock to capitalize on an unusual foraging resource.

Conservation using flash grazing: Goats particularly enjoy honeysuckle and will completely graze vegetation off the brush effectively killing the plant. This will allow sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor allowing Native plants to out-compete the more aggressive plants like honeysuckle. Once the plot is more accessible, thanks to the goats, we can come back through and manage re-sprouts without the cost and labor intensive means that may have otherwise been used. Fire will then be put back on the landscape as soon as possible. Opening the sites lower canopy allows for humidity to decrease and wind to dry out available fuels allowing for native species to sprout.

Dense vegetation on June 26, 2014. Goats grazing on vegetation on June 30, 2014. Cleared vegetation on July 3, 2014.
June 26, 2014 June 30, 2014 July 3, 2014

Why Goats?
Heavy equipment clearing brush.The “Green” Way: Current removal methods entail using mechanical or labor intensive means to remove honeysuckle. Using a heavy equipment method entails a lot of disruption to the area around the site. There are also minimal chemicals and fuels used to finish treatment of the site

One acre can be completed within a week with goat grazing while old methods, like Hack-and-Spray, on that same acre could take two to three days.

The Use of Goats: Goats were chosen because; they are browsers not grazers and they have incredible climbing potential.

It is a myth that goats will eat anything. They can actually be quite picky, but for us, this is a good thing. Our goats particularly like honeysuckle and will eat that before any other plant. Browsers feed on leaves, shoots, and fruits of high growing woody plants or shrubs, and tend to not eat grasses like our grazing livestock.

As many know, goats are renowned climbers and are able to hold their balance in the most peculiar of places. They are able to do this because of; speed and agility, cloven hooves (hooves that spread), and ankle joints that allow for bend in the ankle that other livestock don’t have.

Tall fence netting used to keep in goats.Goats Outside the Fence: Because of the goats amazing climbing ability we must manage our fences very mindfully. If for any reason you see a goat outside the fence Please call Hardin County Conservation Headquarters at 641-648-4361.

Other Successful Goat Grazing Operations: Story County Conservation
Amy Yoakum, Resource Manager of Story County Conservation, is seasoned with her a goat herd. The herd of 10 goats grazes a one-acre site in roughly 3-4 weeks and they keep them rotated from May to October. The goats are provided from a county resident under contract which requires the owner to trailer them to and from the site. The county employees are responsible for providing water, moving the fence and the herd when a site is cleared, and do weekly checks. In return, the owner receives $1.00 per goat/per month.

McFarland Park of Story County (Before) McFarland Park of Story County (After)
McFarland Park of Story County (Before) McFarland Park of Story County (After)

Yoakum said that the department has had a great response from the public on the parks that the goats have been in. People are impressed with the transformation and like that it is a “green” method of treating invasive species based on the fact that there are no chemicals or fuel used to finish the treatment and little disruption to the site that large machines would create. When asked what she would do differently, she replied she would still keep the herds to 10 goats, but would like to see many more herds in her parks.

Moving forward
Our management practices our shifting towards incorporating the goats as an essential tool where slope and vegetation density are overwhelming and time consuming.

We hope to continue this project for years to come. Conservation property that would benefit from goats: Anders Wildlife Area, Boddy-Hunt Wildlife Area, Eagle City Park and Addition, Headquarters Segment, Leverton Timber, Logsdon Park, Nichols Timber, Parlina Pierce Wildlife Area, Pine Ridge Park and Pine Ridge Addition, Reece Memorial Park, Ruby Wildlife Area, Sac & Fox Overlook, Sand Springs Wildlife Area, Setchell Area, and Rainsbarger Wetlands.

The Public
Thanks to those of you reading this we have decided to continue with our goat project. We have had a great public response with many articles in the local newspapers, radio show interviews, and presentations that help to inform on what we do here.

We have had great success building a relationship with a local goat farmer who provides us with the goats that clear the plants. With a mutual desire to see the project succeed and a lot of patients we have made the project into what you see now!

Our management practices our shifting towards incorporating the goats as an essential tool where slope and vegetation density are overwhelming and time consuming.

We would love your continued support. You can follow us on Facebook and catch the latest goat locations so you can visit them all summer long.