Community Stories

Red Deer welcomes goats to Piper Creek Gardens

The bleats, laughter, and squeals of delight filled the air when over 400 goats came to visit Piper Creek Gardens.

The bleats, laughter, and squeals of delight filled the air on Thursday, July 19, 2018 when over 400 goats came to visit Piper Creek Gardens.

Mayor Tara Veer officially welcomed the goats at the community celebration held at the one-acre site, which is a former farmstead turned community garden south of the city. The celebration kicked off with Mayor Veer leading the crowd in a countdown to open the gates to release the herd of goats out onto the parkland near Piper Creek.

The City-owned site is being rehabilitated back to natural aspen parkland after decades of farming which caused disturbances in the soil PH levels that allowed invasive plant species like the Canada thistle and yellow toadflax to take root. Using goats at Piper Creek Gardens is ideal due to the ecologically sensitive and challenging terrain of the area. There are places that people and machines can’t safely reach; however, the goats can climb the steep slopes and cross unstable ground swiftly and safely.

“The goats are weed eating machines,” said Ken Lehman, Ecological Services Operations Coordinator for The City. “They are trained to eat the target weed species and leave other native vegetation alone.”

The goats also help The City achieve its goal set out in the Environmental Master Plan to reduce the amount of chemical herbicides and pesticides used to manage our landscapes. This challenges City staff to think outside the box for ecologically sensitive sites like Piper Creek Gardens where The City cannot use chemical controls. The goats are an effective and fun way to reduce the weeds.

“The timing of the goats’ visit is carefully planned,” said Lehman. “Their visit coincides with the lifecycle of the plants. Nipping the plant at the bud stage, when it is most vulnerable, helps minimize further spread of the weed.”

Last year, The City employed 200 goats to work in the same area. This year, with twice as many goats we hope they will be able to cover the field quickly, eating the weeds down to allow room for healthy growth of other native grasses and plants. It’s important to understand that working with the goats is a multi-year process. They will continue to browse in the same area, year after year, wearing away at the plants' root system to reduce and eventually eradicate the weeds. This is good news for Red Deerians who missed visiting our furry friends this year; they will be ba-a-a-a-a-ck!