Grazing goats manage overgrown vegetation in northwest Washington
A northwest Washington retail store was experiencing excessive overgrowth of Himalayan blackberries, about 40,000 square feet, along the slopes of an existing vegetative storm water detention/infiltration asset. Himalayan blackberries are identified by the Washington Weed Control Board as a nuisance weed that has cost millions of dollars worldwide to try and manage.
When unmanaged, they can cause dense thickets of vegetation that become hard to control, make storm water assets difficult to access and dominate over native vegetation that provides natural ecosystem benefits. Himalayan blackberries encroaching on the storm water asset will leave the asset vulnerable to flooding from excess debris and sediment build-up near the base and would not allow the native vegetation to absorb and filter runoff. Overgrown vegetation along a slope can also cause soil erosion.
The solution to use grazing goats was chosen to manage the issue of excessive Himalayan blackberry growth along the slopes of this storm water asset. Goats are a useful approach to managing Himalayan blackberries because they can counteract the characteristics of the bush. Goats assist in blackberry removal by grazing and ultimately removing the entirety of the plant year-round, including the thorns. This alternative is less costly than using herbicides or mechanical controls and avoids possible injury of workers from the sharp thorns. Some manual vegetation removal was required for taller growth.
Aqualis began by organizing all the equipment and labor to the site. The goats were then directed to the site where they began to remove the blackberry leaves and stalks from the slopes. A shepherd was kept onsite, including overnight, to look after and care for the goats. A fence was installed before releasing the goats to focus their grazing patterns. Along with the functioning work of the goats, they were also a joy for the community. The goats were all rescues that worked part of the year and resided in a safe shelter on Vashon Island the other part of the year. The goats were able to remove the Himalayan blackberries effectively and efficiently from around the storm water asset allowing it to function at full capacity once more.