News / Calgary

Calgary considering goats, sheep and other animals to manage parks' invasive plant species

Animals, not pesticides, could be used to keep city weeds in check

The City of Calgary is considering many initiatives – including employing goats or other grazers – to change how they manage land.

Metro file photo

The City of Calgary is considering many initiatives – including employing goats or other grazers – to change how they manage land.

The City of Calgary is chewing on an idea to add a different kind of gardener to its grasses.

Goats, sheep and other grazers could become part of the city's fleet in an effort to update Calgary's land management practices – some councillors don't think it's such a baaaad idea.

Coun. Sean Chu joked that the city could make money off of rogue goat milk.

"I think it's great and it will really help the environment," said Chu. "I just want to see the details on it as well."

A discussion around dandelions has opened the paddock "flood gates" on what the City of Calgary can do to be more creative in the ways they manage land. The laundry list of alternatives and potential pilots includes herbicide alternatives, soil management and – one the city might have to chew on for a while – using grazing animals like goats or sheep to maintain certain city lands.

"We're a long ways from figuring that out…but we would like to explore that," said city urban conservation lead Chris Manderson. "Grazing would be the use of livestock – essentially living lawnmowers – goats for example can be very effective to control weeds."

There are a lot of kinks to work out before animals become part of the city's fleet. Manderson said his group plans to come back to council in 2016 with updates on what will and won't work for Calgary.

But having animals graze on public land isn't part of the city's "land use" bylaw. Agriculture and animal groups covered in the bylaw include "extensive agriculture" which is a land use where crops are grown and animals may be used for grazing, but parks and most urban areas wouldn't fall into that designation as only two districts - Special Future Urban Development Districts (S-FUD) or Special Transportation Corridor Districts (S-TUC) - apply.

Manderson said the goats wouldn't be used instead of lawnmowers, or even to concentrate on dandelions, but as a tool in the city's toolbox. He said they are especially useful in areas where herbicides can't be used – like near bodies of water.

On Monday councillors passed a one-time funding injection of $1.7 million to go into dandelion control, a short term solution and one Coun. Druh Farrell called "a waste."

Manderson said the money will be used to strategically mow down the weeds in areas where they tend to get more complaints, cutting the yellow headed flowers off at the neck, but not getting to the root of the problem.

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