'Goat dispatch' uses goats to fight invasive plant species in Minnesota

Got invasive species to get rid of? Call up the goats!

Like a lot of places, Minnesota is battling invasive plant species, but the city of Faribault has found a unique way to fight nature with nature by using goats as nature's lawn mower -- "Goat Dispatch" puts their goats in charge of eliminating buckthorn and white sweet clover, which is killing the native prairie grass.

Visitors come to River Bend Nature Center for the chance to take a walk on the wild side. But the 10 miles of trails is also the site of buckthorn and invasive plant species like wild parsnip and Canada thistle – which can crowd out native plants and even be hazardous to your health. 

So, the city recruited an army of very hungry soldiers. Jake and Amanda Langelag started "Goat Dispatch" last year as an environmentally friendly way to battle the invasive species.

“Goats eat everything, they aren't picky," they said. "Wide pallet for things. Can digest poisonous things.”

They rent out their goats to cities, golf courses, and even private home owners as natural alternatives to chainsaws and chemicals.

"Prescribed grazing has been around for thousands of years,” Langelag said.  “It’s been mostly in rural areas but it’s a good way to control invasive species."

Each of the 73 goats has their own name, including Gerbil, Abby, Speckles, and Muffy.  And when it comes to invasive species, this army knows how to get their goat.

"It’s a win win for everyone,” Langelag said. “Goats are happy. People are happy. Getting some work done and it’s a great concept to keep moving.”

The goats will be at the nature center for the next week or so, and they'll work at other locations through the fall until they get a break when winter comes.