Bev Ness, who co-owns Goats on the Hoof, spends a playful moment with Alex, one of the 11 goats that were hired by the Regional District of Nanaimo to clear vegetation at the Blue Water Community Park in French Creek. — Michael Briones photo

Goat troopers reclaim overgrown Vancouver Island park

No kidding, goats weed out invasive plants north of Parksville

Who needs chemicals when you’ve got goats?

Beverly Ness and co-owner Alla Iwanyshyn operate a vegetation management business, based in Errington, called Goats on the Hoof.

Instead of using high-powered equipment and chemicals to get rid of weeds and a variety of invasive plant species, they’ve opted for a unique method – goats.

Goats on the Hoof was recently used by the Regional District of Nanaimo to clear approximately 2,000 square feet of vegetation at the Blue Water Community Park in French Creek. RDN parks planner, Renee Lussier said this is the first time they’ve ever used goats to do this kind of job in the regional district.

“We decided to use goats because we are looking at smaller footprint to how we provide vegetation management and looking at a sustainable option,” said Lussier. “We’re trying this out.”

When residents near the park heard about the goats, it sparked curiousity and also some concerns. But after watching the goats in action, they felt more at ease.

“We were totally skeptical about it,” said Kerry Mulhall, who lives two house away from the park. “It’s totally benign. I never heard them. They’re so quiet. I positively support this type of clearing.”

Mulhall said he was surprised at how the goats just gobbled up blackberry bushes, ferns and other unwanted plants in the park.

“I never imagined it would work,” said Mulhall.

The business partners have been providing this service on Vancouver Island for five years. They own 11 goats that have quite a penchant for chomping blackberries, which Ness said, is what they’re primarily called to deal with.

“What we like to call ourselves is an environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional ways of clearing weeds, brush, blackberries, particularly invasive plants,” said Ness. “That’s what our goats like to eat. They’re not much for mowing lawns as they don’t eat grass very much but they really like to eat weeds. People are surprised that they enjoy eating blackberries. Most people think that they’re painful but they really like to eat them and they do a very good job.”

The idea of using goats to clear areas of invasive plants Ness said they learned from Tammy Dunakin from Seattle, who owns and operates Rent-A-Ruminant franchise.

“We wanted to try something unique for a job out here and we contacted her,” Ness. “She was actually our mentor. She trained us and we call us an affiliate of hers but we’re completely local and Canadian. We just thought it was a great idea. My background is in environment science so I really like the idea of a different way of doing things in a green fashion rather than using chemicals.”

Ness said the goats are so used to being loaded and unloaded to go anywhere they are needed, which makes travelling easier. And they also have a voracious appetite.

“We always put before and after pictures on our website and on our Facebook page,” said Ness. “They say a goat would eat about 10 pounds of plant material a day. That’s just a rough estimate. So much depends on what it is that they’re eating.”

Ness pointed out the nice thing about goats is when they consume the plants, they don’t spread the seeds around.

“They’re broken down in the goats’ digestive system,” said Ness.

Goats on the Hoof offer their services from Campbell River to Duncan and Ness said they are busy.

“It’s really catching on,” said Ness.

Ness, also a wrangler, is like a shepherd who watches over her flock while they feed, or in this case, while they are working. She stays in an RV 24/7 when they are at a site until the job is done.

Just Posted

Rotating Canada Post strikes begin in Victoria

Monday’s mail will be delayed one day due to strike

West Shore RCMP seizes Camp Namegans’ U-Haul truck

Lock and gate damaged at Thetis Lake Campground in View Royal

Multiple earthquakes off Vancouver Island recorded around the world

Five earthquakes overnight on Oct. 21 were measured as ‘strong’

See your great fog images from across Greater Victoria

It was a foggy day today and your cameras captured some beautiful images

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

More court before Dutch man charged in Amanda Todd case is extradited here

Appeals must be dealt with in Europe, before charges faced in B.C.

Crown says man guilty of B.C. girl’s 1978 murder based on alleged confession

Jury hears details of girl’s 1978 murder while Crown says man should be convicted of girl’s murder based on alleged confession.

BCHL alumni has NHL jersey retired by Anaheim Ducks

Paul Kariya played with the Penticton Vees from 1990-1992

Most Read