Stand by, Texas—the goats are coming!
In an innovative twist for urban conservation management, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will welcome more than 120 four-legged new helpers in October to assist with “mowing” slopes with overgrown vegetation.
Goats, which graze on many varieties of grasses and plants, are an effective eco-friendly solution to vegetation management that negates the need for commercial mowing and/or herbicides.
A first for the 155-acre Arboretum, this pilot project with goats from Rent-A-Ruminant Texas will focus on 1.5 acres of land around the North and South Woodway ponds. The goats will be onsite to do what comes naturally – grazing – working on one pond area at a time. The public is welcome to view the goats “at work” on any day from Oct. 4 – 10.
The goats will be contained in designated areas via electric fencing and managed by a goat wrangler. Guests are asked not to touch or engage with the animals or to feed them, for the safety of the animals and people.
Goats are natural climbers and adept at scaling hills and mountains with ease, making them an ideal choice for clearing the slopes around the Arboretum’s ponds. They can go places where it is unsafe or unsuitable for humans and heavy machinery.
“We are thrilled to partner with Rent-A-Ruminant to test this concept in the Arboretum as a natural method to control vegetation on the slopes,” says Debbie Markey, the Arboretum’s Executive Director. “Eco-friendly solutions to managing our nature center are always the optimal choice in preserving and conserving our flora and fauna.” If the project is a success, the goats will get a rematch next spring to work in the meadow and savanna ecosystems.
At Rent-A-Ruminant Texas, owned by Kyle and Carolyn Carr, a large portion of the herd comes from animal rescue or private adoptions and includes several breeds of goats, including Nubian, Boer, Kiko, Savanna and Nigerian Dwarf. These breeds are all effective at reducing brush overgrowth, green briars, poison ivy, ragweed and other unwanted or undesirable plant species. The Carrs note that all 220 of their goats have names.
With their five-mail trail system now open 7 am to dusk every day, the Arboretum offers plenty of outdoor opportunities for families, including self-guided habitat hikes and five educational field stations, along with nature and wildlife photography opportunities. Educational programming for adults, families and children is still taking place, but some of it is being done virtually.
Cover photo courtesy Rent-A-Ruminant Texas