How do you control weeds and especially weedy shrubs, without chemicals? The answer – goats! Caragana is not native to the prairies, and was originally planted within Wascana Centre before we knew caragana might be a problem. Its purpose was to catch snow for a market garden and to fix nitrogen in the soil. Over the last 40 years the caragana had spread from the single row lines originally planted, to a solid block of shrubs 1 hectare in area. The clump was continuing to spread out and would eventually fill the entire naturalized area reducing the biodiversity of the area. Friends of Wascana Marsh would like the area to include more prairie vegetation native to the Moist Mixed Grassland ecoregion. From 2012-2015 FOWM used a combination of goat grazing and followed up by mechanical removal (machine) to control the caragana. Being browsers, the goats specifically targeted the caragana and weeds over the grass. Each grazing session the goats stripped the leaves off of the shrubs forcing them to regrow their leaves, using valuable energy reserves. After two treatments the shrubs would be cut down with a hand held brush saw. At this point, the goats have performed their desired goal. Into the future, this area will be mowed annually in the fall to help cut back any seedling or re-growing caragana. The Habitat Conservation Area is being controlled without chemical means to reduce the impact on other non-target species.
More information can be found on the Wascana centre web site.
The goat grazing project is now completed. The goats may return to the Habitat Conservation Area if needed for other projects in the future.