Friday, September 2, 2011

Natural lawn mowers catching on

Goats used as weapon in war against weeds


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Goats nibble on noxious weeds near Guyer Hot Springs northwest of Ketchum. More and more landowners are using goats as an alternative to chemical spraying. Photo by David N. Seelig

Goats could soon be munching knapweed far beyond the reaches of the Wood River Trail bike path. In fact, they've already started mowing the weeds on private property in Warm Springs canyon, said Sun Valley Garden Center owner Mike Turzian.

Landowner Jim Cimino has been spraying his five-acre tract near Guyer Hot Springs for knapweed for years, but with limited success. So he turned to Turzian for an alternative solution.

"With spraying, you get some and miss some," said Turzian, who works with the Pesticide Action Network.

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But goats strip the plants of their seed heads and flowers, and 90 percent of the seeds are killed when passing through the goats' digestive tracts.

One hundred and thirty-five goats took four days to clear Cimino's five-acre parcel. Turzian said this method is most practical for large parcels of land rather than ordinary residential yards, but he hopes it will become more common.

"If we had our own herd for the summer months, we'd be able to go to all these properties people don't want to spray on," he said, adding that goats can also be used as a supplement to spraying weeds in an effort to keep knapweed under control.

For more information on alternatives to chemical weed control, contact Kathryn Goldman, Pesticide Action Network of Blaine County, at 721-3108 or visit www.pesticideactionnetwork.net.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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