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Herds for Hire munch war on weeds from Merimbula to Lake Burley Griffin

Ian Campbell 23 April 2019 20
With repeated visits from her 'Herd for Hire' Elizabeth says the war on weed can be won. Photo: Ian Campbell

With repeated visits from her ‘Herd for Hire’ Elisabeth says the war on weed can be won. Photos: Ian Campbell.

Two Northern Hemisphere natives are doing battle in Southern NSW and the ACT and the good guys are winning.

Goats are currently munching their way through tangles of blackberry bushes along Merimbula Creek at the back of Club Sapphire, having beaten similar infestations around Lake Burley Griffin and the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

“With goats, the use of harmful herbicides can be entirely avoided,” says Elisabeth Larson from Bega Valley-based Herds for Hire.

“Goats will work in step rocky terrain that is inaccessible to man and machines or just not safe, and their soft hooves don’t cause soil compaction.”

With goats, the use of harmful herbicides can be entirely avoided," - Elizabeth Larson

“With goats, the use of harmful herbicides can be entirely avoided,” – Elizabeth Larson.

Both goats and blackberries come with a reputation in an Australian setting, putting them together in an environmental war seems to make sense.

“Blackberries are a Northern Hemisphere thorny, woody weed – full of sugar and nutrients, very attractive to herbivores. And goats are a Northern Hemisphere, woody weed herbivore. There is some co-evolution that we take advantage of,” Elisabeth says.

With repeated visits from her Herds for Hire, Elisabeth says the war on weed can be won.

“Weed seeds are destroyed in the goat’s gut and not spread, and their grazing and the ‘fertilisation’ improves the soil.”

The Herd for Hire at work behind Club Sapphire and Merimbula Woolworths. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The Herd for Hire at work behind Club Sapphire and Merimbula Woolworths.

Blackberries aren’t the only plant the goats will eat; black wattle, pittosporum, fireweed, kikuyu, native and introduced species that keep land managers awake.

“They love fireweed, they run for it, they just blitz it, the job is done in a couple of hours,” Elisabeth says.

The day I met Elisbeth, her 25 goats were lounging in the sun with full bellies, working their magic over three to five weeks on an unloved strip of land behind the new Woolworths in Merimbula owned by Club Sapphire.

“It was overgrown and we could have put slashers and tractors is there but that would not have been very effective and being so close to Merimbula Creek not very environmentally sensitive,” says Damien Foley, Club Sapphire CEO.

“That land has some hidden beauty and tied up I think it will be an asset to the town.”

Plans for the future of the site are still being discussed but once the goats are done relocating, the ‘From Little Things‘ urban farm and community garden is a possibility.

Elizabeth only needs to holla to her herd and they respond in unison. Photo: Ian Campbell

Elisabeth only needs to holla to her herd and they respond in unison.

Elisabeth has long been convinced of the positive role goats can play in the Australian landscape, bit by bit she is making ground with private, community-based, and government landholders near and far.

Inspired by ‘Rent a Ruminant‘ in the USA, Norwegian-born Elisabeth and her Aussie husband Jim Shields, brought the idea to the Bega Valley in 2011.

The specially designed, flexible, moveable electric fence is the key and concentrates the goat’s effort in a specific location.

“And these are not just any goats, I choose the good ones, those that lend themselves to this work,” Elisabeth says.

“There are a couple of goat breeders in the valley, and they know what I am doing, so they will always have animals ready to go.”

All desexed male goats, the herd is happy and content in each other’s company.

“They are a social animal, if you take a goat away by itself they get distressed, they seek out each other and they form bonds, they are very charming animals.”

Elizabeth only needs to holla to her herd and they respond in unison.

Recent work in the nation’s capital marks a particularly proud moment for these ferals.

“The National Capital Authority manages most of the crown land in the ACT and they have a problem with blackberry on the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin,” she says.

“They also wanted to control alligator weed growing in the water.

“We had two aims – remove the blackberry without herbicides and allow access to the water.

“It was an astounding success,” Elisabeth beams.

 

From the waters of Canberra, this herd for hire was moved to the Australian National Botanic Gardens and “two hopeless gullies” no one had been able to access.

“It was embarrassing for them, to have a blackberry problem, in two weeks we impressed them all, the goats did the job.”

If you do happen to come across Elisabeth and her herd, take an interest, but please keep your dog on a lead.

“This has overwhelming public support, people just love it because it makes so much sense.”

Goats will work in step rocky terrain that is inaccessible to man and machines or just not safe. Photo: Ian Campbell

Goats will work in step rocky terrain that is inaccessible to man and machines or just not safe.

Original Article published by Ian Campbell on About Regional.


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23 Responses to Herds for Hire munch war on weeds from Merimbula to Lake Burley Griffin
Ave Be Ave Be 4:21 am 27 Apr 19

Cam Bam Sue Hughes for Michelle Barnett backyard

Sarah Emmerson Sarah Emmerson 12:10 pm 25 Apr 19

They are expensive though given you are paying the owner to feed their goats.

Cindy Daley Cindy Daley 6:54 pm 24 Apr 19

Nomes Ark Siân Rinaldi important information....and a way for me to get a goat....

    Siân Rinaldi Siân Rinaldi 7:03 pm 24 Apr 19

    Cindy Daley yesssss! Raise money off the goats to buy more clothes for greyhounds. Perfect plan.

    Nomes Ark Nomes Ark 7:12 pm 24 Apr 19

    I read this!!! I really want a goat!!

Scott Walker Scott Walker 3:39 pm 24 Apr 19

Jackson Reilly Put em to work in the backyard

Pippa Campbell Pippa Campbell 9:42 pm 23 Apr 19

Eliza Maddever just for hire???

    Pippa Campbell Pippa Campbell 9:43 pm 23 Apr 19

    How much would you tell on me if I rang up and ordered them to your place?

    Eliza Maddever Eliza Maddever 10:01 am 24 Apr 19

    Would not be mad

Lisa Sampson Lisa Sampson 9:00 pm 23 Apr 19

Kess Mackay get a goat

Rosy Molnar Rosy Molnar 8:06 pm 23 Apr 19

Mads Jane, what we saw last week on the way back from Tura.

Ben Steltenpool Ben Steltenpool 7:55 pm 23 Apr 19

Nek minnute, 'jims goats'

Linda Gillespie Linda Gillespie 12:35 pm 23 Apr 19

Mike Emu you need goats

Aaron West Aaron West 12:30 pm 23 Apr 19

Also a good way to spread weeds

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 5:48 pm 23 Apr 19

    This could be read in the article. "Weed seeds are destroyed in the goat’s gut and not spread."

Kym Hart Kym Hart 12:15 pm 23 Apr 19

Liam let’s hire them for our yard. The doggies could do herding practice.

    Liam Hart Liam Hart 12:23 pm 23 Apr 19

    i thought the same thing 30min ago

    Mark Turner Mark Turner 9:08 am 24 Apr 19

    Kym Hart, mayo would ignore them or just run away and pickles would bark at them until she got headbutted 😆

Brett Olzen Brett Olzen 12:10 pm 23 Apr 19

What a great idea

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