filed under: maintenance best practices

Goats Graze Along the Frisco Highline Trail

The Frisco Highline Trail, a National Recreation Trail, is using a team of goats to tame vegetation around the trail.

The Frisco Highline Trail in Missouri has been using a team of goats to keep vegetation under control. Recently American Trails conducted an email interview with John Montgomery of Ozark Greenways to find out more.

This is the first time you all have used goats, so what did you learn in the process?

John: One thing that I have learned is that from a management point of view, approaching this project is not a whole lot different than approaching any other maintenance project. It involved almost all of the same elements but with many more positive returns. We identified the problem area, explored solutions, decided on the best, negotiated with a contractor, involved our partners, communicated to the public, and set the date. All that said, we have been hoping to try this out for a few years!

Were there challenges with transporting/containing the goats?

John: Paige and Jacob Berger, who are local hobby homesteaders, own the goats. Containing the goats was/is a simple matter of creating a paddock with solar powered-electric fencing within the area, which was provided by the Bergers. They also handled the transport of the 5-7 goat crew for this project. In this case, they utilized a pick-up truck with a camper shell to drop the goats off in the morning and pick them up in the evening. Kind of like Goat Camp. For this first project, we chose a site in Willard, one of our premiere trail towns.

How difficult was it to find the goats? I know you all were able to work with someone local, but how long did the search take to locate some available goats?

John: If one is interested in hiring a local tree trimming crew, equipment operator, or general contractor, a simple google search is great way to get started. Not so much with goats. They like to keep a low profile and there are not many goat networking opportunities that come across my desk. But with a little research and asking around, I was able to determine that there are a handful of goat ranchers in the region that do projects like this, but when comparing one to the other, it is not like comparing apples and oranges. Some returned my calls and some didn’t. One rancher we spoke to thought our project was too small for their herd of 100 goats. This particular project involves precision. We herd (see what I did there) that the Bergers were interested in trail projects with their goats so we started having discussions with them. We are so happy to have partnered with them on this!

Did the goats have to be a certain breed? Is this the ideal goat grazing time of year? And if not, what made you all choose this time?

John: I think that’s an excellent question. The herd we have working for us includes Nubian and Lamancha, which are breeds better known for their milk. Trail work is more a side-gallop for them, which falls within their natural habits. We started this in early October while there was still a lot of vegetation on the trees and shrubs. The more vegetation, the longer it takes for the goats to eat but I don’t think that slowed the process down. Offering more of a variety at the buffet made for happier goats. A happy goat is a productive goat.

Anything else you want to add?

John: This land management project has improved our relationship with our neighbors and furthered our engagement with the community. We have discovered a new-to-us process which we will most definitely utilize in the future. Additionally, it has created an attraction along our trail for the trail users to enjoy. I can’t decide if the best part is working with such cute and friendly animals, or being able to incorporate goat puns into my daily activities.

Published January 2022

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