Goats, sheep, cows to be let loose against invasive plants in Metro Vancouver

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      Lower Mainland residents will likely have more opportunities to go out and stare at goats.

      Inviting people to see goats grazing is part of a plan by the Metro Vancouver to control invasive plants through targeted grazing by livestock.

      In addition to goats, the plan will also employ sheep and cows.

      Using goats, sheep and cows will be a herbicide-free option to manage invasive plants.

      The board of Metro Vancouver, which meets Friday (February 21), is being asked to approve $150,000 for the three-year program starting 2020.

      This will be a first in the region, according to Roger Quan, a director in the parks and environment department of the municipal federation.

      “Invasive plants are non-native flora that can damage infrastructure, threaten property and recreational values, reduce crop yields, increase public health and safety risk, or degrade sensitive ecosystems,” Quan wrote in a report.

      According to Quan, many invasive species are “difficult to control so vegetation management professionals often turn to herbicides”.

      However, Quan continued, “several municipalities have pesticide use bylaws and staff are keen to find effective herbicide-free control methods”.

      Invasive species do not naturally occur in an area.

      Because they did not evolve as part of the local ecosystem, it’s difficult to keep these plants in check.

      The garlic mustard, giant hogweed, Himalayan blackberry, knotweeds, and Scotch broom are some examples of invasive plants.

      According to a 2019 presentation by Laurie Bates-Frymel, a senior environment planner with the regional district, invasive plants cost B.C. farmers $50 million annually by reducing crop yields and the quality of forage.

      Bates-Frymel also noted that local governments in Metro Vancouver spend over $2 million annually managing 11 invasive species.

      According to a summary of the program for targeted invasive plant grazing, the project will assess the “feasibility, cost effectiveness, and potential unintended consequences of employing livestock (e.g., goats, sheep, cows) to control invasive plants in this region”.

      “Trained herds are currently limited, so this project may also create opportunities for local farmers with small herds,” the summary noted.