Bev Ness, who co-owns Goats on the Hoof, spends a playful moment with Alex, one of the 11 goats that were hired by the Regional District of Nanaimo to clear vegetation at the Blue Water Community Park in French Creek. — Michael Briones photo

Goat troopers reclaim overgrown Vancouver Island park

No kidding, goats weed out invasive plants north of Parksville

Who needs chemicals when you’ve got goats?

Beverly Ness and co-owner Alla Iwanyshyn operate a vegetation management business, based in Errington, called Goats on the Hoof.

Instead of using high-powered equipment and chemicals to get rid of weeds and a variety of invasive plant species, they’ve opted for a unique method – goats.

Goats on the Hoof was recently used by the Regional District of Nanaimo to clear approximately 2,000 square feet of vegetation at the Blue Water Community Park in French Creek. RDN parks planner, Renee Lussier said this is the first time they’ve ever used goats to do this kind of job in the regional district.

“We decided to use goats because we are looking at smaller footprint to how we provide vegetation management and looking at a sustainable option,” said Lussier. “We’re trying this out.”

When residents near the park heard about the goats, it sparked curiousity and also some concerns. But after watching the goats in action, they felt more at ease.

“We were totally skeptical about it,” said Kerry Mulhall, who lives two house away from the park. “It’s totally benign. I never heard them. They’re so quiet. I positively support this type of clearing.”

Mulhall said he was surprised at how the goats just gobbled up blackberry bushes, ferns and other unwanted plants in the park.

“I never imagined it would work,” said Mulhall.

The business partners have been providing this service on Vancouver Island for five years. They own 11 goats that have quite a penchant for chomping blackberries, which Ness said, is what they’re primarily called to deal with.

“What we like to call ourselves is an environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional ways of clearing weeds, brush, blackberries, particularly invasive plants,” said Ness. “That’s what our goats like to eat. They’re not much for mowing lawns as they don’t eat grass very much but they really like to eat weeds. People are surprised that they enjoy eating blackberries. Most people think that they’re painful but they really like to eat them and they do a very good job.”

The idea of using goats to clear areas of invasive plants Ness said they learned from Tammy Dunakin from Seattle, who owns and operates Rent-A-Ruminant franchise.

“We wanted to try something unique for a job out here and we contacted her,” Ness. “She was actually our mentor. She trained us and we call us an affiliate of hers but we’re completely local and Canadian. We just thought it was a great idea. My background is in environment science so I really like the idea of a different way of doing things in a green fashion rather than using chemicals.”

Ness said the goats are so used to being loaded and unloaded to go anywhere they are needed, which makes travelling easier. And they also have a voracious appetite.

“We always put before and after pictures on our website and on our Facebook page,” said Ness. “They say a goat would eat about 10 pounds of plant material a day. That’s just a rough estimate. So much depends on what it is that they’re eating.”

Ness pointed out the nice thing about goats is when they consume the plants, they don’t spread the seeds around.

“They’re broken down in the goats’ digestive system,” said Ness.

Goats on the Hoof offer their services from Campbell River to Duncan and Ness said they are busy.

“It’s really catching on,” said Ness.

Ness, also a wrangler, is like a shepherd who watches over her flock while they feed, or in this case, while they are working. She stays in an RV 24/7 when they are at a site until the job is done.

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Flu season could last until May — Greater Victoria clinics offer flu shots

Vaccines are available through public health clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices

Remembering Nirvana in Victoria on Cobain’s 52 birthday

Nirvana played one show in Victoria on March 8, 1991 at the Forge

Watershed concerns prompt opposition to alternate Malahat routes

Motion submitted to Regional Water Supply Commission opposing highway in watershed

UPDATED: Langford homes evacuated after water main break

Break at the corner of Goldstream Avenue and Strathmore Road, several homes without water

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

Most Read