Title: Goats proposed as weed munchers [Queensland Country Life, 31 Jan 2012 by Troy Rowling] -- DO you use goats to prevent or control the spread of weeds of national significance (WONS)? The Goat Industry Council of Australia (GICA) and Monash University are searching for producers who employ goat-based weed management practices for a new research project which aims to develop best practice guidelines to tackle the $4 billion national annual impact of invasive weed species in control programs and lost agricultural production. The project aims to tackle the shortage of scientific research on goat-based weed management of WONS species. It is hoped this information will enable a series of guidelines to be developed which will be shared with producers through workshops and field days at research sites. Monash University environmental scientist and The Weeds Network founder Dr David Low, who will spearhead the project, said the research aimed to use existing or new demonstration sites across a range of settings (eg- linkage corridor, conservation buffer zone, grazing area, forest and horticulture) and a range of weed species. The areas would be incrementally monitored, evaluated and reported to the wider industry. [Photo credit - T. Dunakin via Rent-A-Ruminant Australia]
He said the results from the one-year study would be made freely available online through training modules, best management guides, a goat weeding business directory as well as a printed guide. He said that any increase in goat weeding knowledge could encourage more producers to utilise the animals for weed control. GICA chairman Glenn Telford, Telco, Roma, said while the role of goats to control weeds was well known to many producers and has grown in prevalence in recent years, the industry to-date had relied on anecdotal evidence to prove the success rate.
He said it was encouraging a university was addressing the research shortages, especially around weed species and environment, and called on goat producers to get involved in the project. "It will run from July 2012 until June 2013 and the producer would need to provide the goats and the weeds," he said.
"There will be funding available for people to fence off areas of weed infestation to keep the goats working away in that area and the producer will need to allow access to the university guys to do their monitoring, including a photographic records of the infestation at different stages."
Mr Telford said he sold more than 1,000 goats to AA Co in 2008, which the company used to control weeds across its properties at Julia Creek. He said goats could successfully co-exist with cattle in the same area. "I have sold more goats in Australia to people who are using them for timber regrowth and weed control, than anything else," he said.
"The most important outcome for farmers from having goats in the paddocks is they can control woody weeds without the use of expensive and toxic chemicals. But for the people who do use goats, they soon discover goats are a valuable commodity these days and a nice sideline income."