Goat weeds?

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Goats eating weeds

Weeds are no joke, especially when they have invaded a recharge basin. The overgrown vegetation creates operational difficulties, slowing the water percolation speed to a mere trickle.

Bryant Dickens, water resources field engineer, said that weeds have always been a challenge in recharge basins, but the decrease in the amount of water we are recharging has exacerbated the problem.

“When we are recharging a lot of water, it drowns out the weed growth,” said Dickens. “Now that we aren’t recharging as much water, the vegetation has gone crazy.”

At Superstition Mountains Recharge Project there are two basins, each about 20 acres, that are full of unwanted vegetation. Using herbicides near a recharge project isn’t wise and mechanical removal costs have skyrocketed to more than $100,000 for the project. 

 So, how do you eliminate the weeds? Goats!

“Goats are an effective reducer of vegetative material over uneven or rough terrain, they can get into places machines cannot and are more efficient than manual removal,” said Dickens.

As you can imagine, goat herders are not exactly a dime a dozen. After considerable research that spread throughout the west, Dickens said he found a goat herder that was local that uses Kiko goats. It’s an Australian breed that is larger than others and thrives in our desert climate – and they eat nearly every type of vegetation. Not to mention that the cost is less than 1/3 the cost of mechanical removal.

So, in early October, the hungry crew arrived at Superstition Mountains Recharge Project to do their thing. They quickly spread out over the basin and started munching away. The setup is simple – an electric fence netting to keep their wandering contained and predators away, and metal trough for fresh water.

The curious herbivores will continue their work through Dec. 17, enjoying an 11-week all-you-can-eat situation. In the end, their work will expose the underlying soil, increasing absorption rates and allowing for faster drainage. At that point, Dickens said he will be evaluating their use on other projects, saying that the goats may stay pretty busy among the five recharge projects CAP owns and operates.

“If someone would have told me I’d be working with goats, I wouldn’t have believed them,” said Dickens. “This has definitely proven to be an interesting project.”

Check out this video that shows the goats in action, including “goatpro” footage from Calla.