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Calgary could face goat shortage as other municipalities catch on to grazing craze

City's grand plans for goat grazing in the works as pilot graduates to full-fledged tool

Goats have proven to be an effective way to deal with weeds in city parks.

Helen Pike / Metro

Goats have proven to be an effective way to deal with weeds in city parks.

The goat graze is spreading, and now that both Edmonton and Red Deer are sending the munchers out for weeds, Calgary might have some competition as the program expands.

The City of Calgary has put out a expression to interest to see what kind of shepherds are ready to herd the city's invasive herb problem this summer as they continue to look into the weed suppression workers efficiency at Confluence Park and Ralph Klein Park.

Entering its third grazing season, urban conservation lead for Calgary Parks Chris Manderson said the city's in the process of looking into where else goats to lend a graze and help the city cut down on its herbicide use by munching the thistle and weed away.

In its first iteration, the then-pilot saw more than 100 goats, a few horses and sheep herding dogs lead by a shepherd through Confluence Park in the summer of 2016, trolling the land for Canadian Thistle to munch on while throngs of interested bystanders stood in awe.

The following year, 200 goats took to Calgary's weed problem – double their first feeding season.

Fast forward to 2018, the city's now changed land use bylaws to actually allow the munchers at any city park the department sees fit, which means goats could take over more green as the program progresses.

"The goal would be to have a list of people we could call upon when we have a grazing opportunity," Manderson said.

The city needs to plan grazing before weeds go to flower, and they need to know that goats are actually available.

"If we lift the practice in general, that's for the long-term benefit for everyone – if we have more municipalities interested in this I think that's a good thing," said Manderson. "But there could be some short-term resource demands."

His team are mostly looking at bigger parks where giving the herds access to water, and a viable shelter similar to the setup at Confluence is possible. But that doesn't mean smaller spaces are out of the question – there are just more factors to consider.

"It's a little more challenging for say a small park in the inner city," said Manderson. "You don't want to camp there, for obvious reasons, so then you're moving the animals more and you have to think about things like water, traffic, stress on the animals and that sort of thing."

But the initial success of the program doesn't mean the city's ready to ditch all of their mowers. Manderson underlined the goats are still just a tool in the city's toolbelt.

"We're going to take the approach, like with the pilot, start small and see how it goes," said Manderson. "That's still going to be our approach to this."

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