Controlling noxious plant communities in forest and silvopasture landscapes

this post will jump around a bit, but I wanted to tie together several thoughts generated by two news stories that come across my inbox this yesterday...

At the 2011 Northeast Silvopasture Conference, keynote speaker Jerry Brunetti (rest in peace) stated: “The only practical way to control invasive plants on the landscape is to eat them.”  He wasn’t referring to those in the audience, but rather to their livestock.  Every time I witness the time, energy and resources thrown at "battling invasives", Jerry's quote comes to mind - especially when I read stories like this: 

... there must be a better way. 

In my opinion, silvopasturing and the use of livestock in non-traditional ag landscapes has tremendous potential and opportunities for not only boosting the bottom line (if well-planned and executed), but also to address in a sensible, effective and cost-effective manner the growing problem of what foresters and ecologists have coined "interfering vegetation" - too much of the wrong plants in the wrong places.  That's to say, ecology gone awry.

OK, so back to reality.  Using cute and cuddly goats, pretty little piggies or whatever type of livestock to seek and destroy all the bad plants out there isn't as easy as some journalists might lead us to believe: ("Goats Fighting America's Plant Invasion)

Most of you reading this forum raise livestock, and therefore realize that our animals are no different than we are.  Given a choice, they're going for the spare ribs and crab legs in the buffet.  Enticing them to eat iceburg lettuce and rice requires some special motivation.  This requires above-average skill and management - same as for silvopasturing.  there's no one right way of getting livestock to target the plants that we want them to eat, and it's going to work different on most every farm in every season. Nor will livestock alone necessarily be the silver bullet.  As managers we have multiple tools in the tool chest - so use them. 

Yesterday I posted some upcoming conferences at the VT Sustainable Ag Conference, The Winter Green-up Conference in Albany, and PASA (if you've never been to PASA before - it's well-worth the money! Being in the midst of thousands of positive-minded eco-farmers is refreshing).  If you're looking for some help and ideas to turn your animals into landscapers, each of these conferences would be a good place to start.

... and best of all, they'll work for food!


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a new story related to this topic:

RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Twelve goats from New York are hard at work helping Fanwood with one of its biggest nuisances: invasive plants.

Plants including poison ivy and Japanese knotwood have become a problem at the Fanwood Nature Center, and the goats are “a natural way of controlling the base of plants,” said borough Environmental Commission Chairman Gary Szelc. The borough council approved the plan to use the goats at its July 13 meeting, and the goats arrived in Fanwood on Aug. 10.

The herd is from Green Goats farm near Rhinebeck, New York, which is owned by Ann and Larry Cihanek. They have been ridding sites in New York and New Jersey of unwanted vegetation for nine years.

— George Tatoris

Daily Record

Although "vegetation control" isn't normally thought of as main objective of silvopasturing, "controlling vegetation" is certainly a key part of successful silvopasture management.  As problematic plants continue to spread across the landscape, I believe that silvopasturing and the use of livestock to manage plant communities will continue to become closely integrated and inseparable endeavors.

Last week I posted information on the Grasstravaganza 2016" conference on August 4th-6th in Alfred, NY.  If you're not familiar with the keynote speaker, Fred Provenza, this may well be your best chance to learn from one of the true experts in this field.  Dr. Provenza's bio:

A recent news story on this topic:

Goats helping control weeds in the Big Apple:

Question recently came up from a friend dealing with Japanese Stilt Grass in SW PA.  Anyone care to share their successes and failures with converting JSG to something better?

An often overlooked benefit of silvopasturing: vegetation management

Goats: The surprising solution to saving a country from wildfires

Herds of goats meandering across the mountainsides may make for great photo opportunities, but they're serving a very important role in Portugal. The animals consume a great deal of dry vegetation, which reduces potential fuel for wildfires. Portuguese goatherd Daniel Fernandes even credits his anim...

Our goat (singular), Bunny, enjoying some multiflora rose

A lone goat may not eat a lot of brush, but she's entertaining.  Best of all, she's bonded with the cows and stays with the herd.  

A recent article on consulting forester Brian Knox's use of goats to manage vegetation in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Brian was formerly an industrial forester in this area (upstate NY) and credits the Cornell "Goats in the Woods" project for the concept.   It was Brian's and others' continued interest in the goat-scaping applications of using livestock in the woods that led us to dive in to an Extension program on silvopasturing almost ten years ago.

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