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The use of goats to control noxious weeds is increasingly being embraced as an effective, non-toxic method of weed control in Idaho and elsewhere. Ray Holes, a former Whitebird cattle rancher, has been a leader in the targeted grazing industry, building up his goat herds so he can meet the growing demand.
Nine years ago, Washington County was one of the first places to try goat-weed control in Idaho to control Leafy Spurge, a ubiquitous noxious weed that had spread into the Weiser River canyon in the early 1970s. That year, the goats worked 1,200 acres. This year, they’ll graze 10,500 acres of state, county and private land, including areas along the Weiser River.
"Leafy Spurge is one of the worst noxious weeds in Washington County," says Bonnie Davis, Washington County Weed Superintendent. "It has a substantial root system that can run as deep or deeper than 30 feet. That makes it extremely difficult to control."
Prior to goat grazing, big meadows along the Weiser River were smothered by yellow Leafy Spurge. Herbicide sprays and biological controls couldn’t stop the spread. The noxious weed not only out-competes native plants, forbs and grasses, it also contains a milky sap that can blind people.
Looking for solutions, Davis invited Ray Holes to give a presentation about using goats to control noxious weeds. Holes had experimented with goats on his own ranch to control yellow star thistle, a prolific noxious weed that produces long, nasty thorns.Read More