Goats return to Malmstrom for weed management project

Goats are back at Malmstrom Air Force Base for the last year of their three-year contract for weed management.

The herd of 600 Spanish Boer Cross goats arrived last week and will be on base for about eight weeks chowing down on invasive weeds.

This year’s herd has 300 nannies and 300 kids, according to Ryan Joslin, the herder on site for Prescriptive Livestock Services, which owns the goats.

Goats return to Malmstrom for weed management project

Donald DeLorme, the base’s natural resource manager, said the goats are following a similar grazing pattern around the base so that next summer, base officials will be able to survey the weed population in those areas and determine the effectiveness of the goats.

DeLorme said that depending on the effectiveness, the base could consider another goat based weed management project in the future, but it’s too soon to tell.

The goats are focusing on eight invasive weed species that are prevalent on the base, DeLorme said.

The goats prefer those weeds to native grasses and over the three-year project have eaten the leaves, weakening the plants so that all their energy goes into regenerating versus producing seeds, DeLorme said.

Using goats as a bio control lowers the base’s need for costly chemical weed treatments and promotes pollinators, base officials have said during the summers that the goats are here.

Goats enlisted for weed control at Malmstrom

Last summer, officials said the program is estimated to save $10,000 to $20,000 annually in personnel and herbicide costs.

The program is contracted through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with funds from the AF Civil Engineering Center.

DeLorme said an added benefit is goat droppings that encourage soil health and native plant growth.

Joslin said the goats have been moving to new pastures every day since they make quick work of the fields. They bed down every two to three hours or so to chew their cud.

Joslin uses a Border Collie named Oso to move the goats from field to field. The dog belongs to Prescriptive’s owner Ray Holes and the dog previously belonged to a Peruvian herder so it responds to commands in English and Spanish.