The groups of people strolled past all day to see the goats in action — the new phenomenon of Goat Tourism, if you will. But the goats were just there to work. And butt heads with each other from time to time.
The goats of Vahana Nature Rehabilitation were on hand at Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, Thursday, May 20, to deal with a patch of Canada Thistle.
Based out of Kimberley, Vahana provides vegetation control throughout southeast BC, using a herd of specialized goats, and a unique method of target grazing. Target grazing is a growing industry in Canada, in the ongoing battle against invasive plants. It also aids in soil restoration.
“The City of Cranbrook is trying out goats, here at Idlewild Park and at Joseph Creek,” said Cailey Chase, who operates Vahana Nature Rehabilitation.
“The Columbia Outdoor School got the City and Vahana together.”
Chase’s goats were busy in the background as she talked, milling about, grazing, occasionally jostling with each other — time is money, and tempers are short. The herd was positioned along the trail on the northeast side of the lake.
“This area is usually a huge patch of thistles,” Chase said. “The goats will eat everything down, and we’ll bring them back in, and they’ll eat everything down again. What we’re working on is controlling the Canada thistle.”
Chase calls target grazing a “new, ancient technology, like solar power. Goats have been used for thousands of years to clear land — feeding themselves at the same time.
A lot of the invasive plants in North America come from Eurasia, Chase said. Goats, as well, have their origins in Eurasia.
“So they’re the perfect predator for knapweed, and blueweed, the thistles, dalmation toadflax and sulphur cinquefoil. What they do is replace all the nutrients and minerals that are in the plants back into the soil.
“Soil building is really important nowadays, because of the desertification that’s taking place — not so much right here, but in other places. Herbicides are like high-powered salts, and dry out the soil. And we need to hand off to the next generation something that will be building soil, instead of just creating dust.”
Vahana is booked for jobs all throughout the summer, with the Ktunaxa Nation, with the City of Calgary, and with a job up at TaTa Creek near Kimberley.
For more information, see vahana.ca.