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Chewing out unwelcome plants

Goats brought in to work on decreasing invasive vegetation

Friday, Oct. 2, 2009


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Staff photos by DARWIN WEIGEL
A goat from Eco-Goats dines on plant leaves Wednesday at American Chestnut Land Trust in Port Republic. The organization brought in 30 goats to see how effective they are in eating invasive plants.


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Goats from Eco-Goats dine on plant leaves Wednesday at American Chestnut Land Trust in Port Republic. The organization brought in 30 goats to see how effective they are in eating invasive plants. The goats are kept in a small area with an electric fence.


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Brian Knox of Eco-Goats gets the goats out of the trailer so they can begin dining on plant leaves.


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The fair is not the only place where farm animals can currently be found in Calvert County; 30 goats are now roaming the grounds of the South Side Trailhead of the American Chestnut Land Trust in Port Republic.

These goats, however, serve a purpose greater than entertainment.

In a first-time partnership with "Eco-Goats," a subsidiary of the company Sustainable Resource Management Inc., the land trust brought the goats in to eat non-native invasive plants and vines, such as bittersweet vines, which cover trees.

The goats were brought in via horse trailer on Wednesday and will be enclosed by an electric fence on an acre of the land trust for three to four days, American Chestnut Land Trust Land Manager Liz Stoffel said.

She said that American Chestnut Land Trust was able to work with Eco-Goats thanks to a grant from the Land Owner Incentive Program, which is run through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

"It's an experiment so we'll see how effective it is," Stoffel said, continuing that she contacted several other companies that had used Eco-Goats in the past and all organizations were pleased.

"[The goats] are doing that pre-work for us," said Stoffel, explaining that she hoped volunteers would have an easier job caring for trees after the goats de-vined them.

She said that the only initial concern regarding the goats was, "people feeding them things they couldn't eat, such as chocolate."

Brian Knox, the president of Sustainable Resource Management Inc. and Eco-Goats, said that all the goats brought in were female, mostly because they outnumber male goats.

"It's usually a good idea to keep your stud at home," said Knox, who added that male goats sometimes had a tendency to be more aggressive.

He said, however, that even though the goats were female, they sometimes can be a little energetic, as well.

"It's like having four teenage boys around one plate of food," Knox joked about the goats, which were brought in from Garden Farm in Davidsonville.

Someone from Eco-Goats will go to the land trust every day to check on the goats and bring them water, Stoffel said.

American Chestnut Land Trust Executive Director Karen Edgecombe said she was confident that the first-time experience would prove to be successful.

"They know what they're supposed to do," Edgecombe said of the goats.

lbuck@somdnews.com

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