Goats chow down on Oregon city’s riverside brush

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PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - The city of Pendleton is setting hundreds of goats to work on municipal munching projects that include clearing brush from the parkway along the Umatilla River.

The city likes goats because they chow down on invasive blackberry bushes and weeds - leaving grass alone, the East Oregonian reports (http://bit.ly/1ftwGwO) reports.

“They have pretty large livers,” said Ray Holes of Prescriptive Livestock Services, the goat owner. “They can process tannins and toxins that most other animals can’t.”

This is the third year the city has hired the company to bring in goats. To the north, the town of Milton-Freewater has also used goats to maintain a flood levee.

About 150 arrived on the weekend to get started on the parkway, a three-mile stretch through Pendleton created by a flood levee. About 70 more went to work near the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. In all, the goats will trim about 70 acres in a variety of locations.

Last year, 700 goats worked on similar tasks that took from May to July.

In sensitive areas, some sheep will be added this year to the grazers, Public Works Director Bob Patterson said.

Last year the goats stripped bark from trees, killing a dozen.

One resident and a City Council member last year criticized the brush clearing, saying it denied habit for birds and wildlife and disturbed salmon in the river.

Patterson said the city has to clear brush to protect against fire, and federal agencies require the city to maintain the riverbank and its levee and provide easy access.

The goats are tended by herders from Peru, who use border collies to push the goats to brushier areas and several varieties of shepherd dogs to discourage predators. The herders keep the animals within a portable electric fence, with signs warning people away.

Patterson said he encourages Pendleton residents to observe the grazing, with two caveats: stay well away and keep dogs leashed.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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