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Goats provide chemical-free weed mitigation at Pastorius Reservoir

Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. explores using livestock to alleviate impacts of unwanted vegetation
Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. is using 200 goats to remove weeds at Pastorius Reservoir on Florida Mesa. The animals are an alternative to using chemicals or heavy machinery. (Ryan Summerlin/Glenwood Springs Post Independent via AP file)

About 200 goats are chewing their way through weeds at Pastorius Reservoir in an attempt to avoid having to spray chemicals or use heavy machinery near the water.

Operations Manager for Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. Darren Rowley said it is an experiment to see if using goats is economically advantageous over using machines. Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. works with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help manage Pastorius Reservoir southeast of Durango on Florida Mesa. Mitigation is taking place near the base of the reservoir’s dam.

Rowley said goats are an asset for weed mitigation because they can access parts of the land that large machinery can’t.

“Some of our ditches run on pretty steep slopes and instead of worrying about machinery, which could have potential issues going down slopes, it’s just easier to let the goats go and graze,” he said.

The company is trying to mitigate different types of weeds, such as thistle, to prevent them from creeping into the water and being carried into farmers’ fields.

“They can get into the ditches and plug the ditches up, and then we’ve got to pull those weeds out as they get bigger,” he said.

Goats feed on weeds Monday at Pastorius Reservoir to prevent unwanted vegetation getting in the water and harming farms downstream. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Rowley said the company was inspired to try goat mitigation for Pastorius Reservoir after seeing the benefit it had on Lemon Reservoir. Cross A Ranch LLC was hired to do the mitigation work. Cross A Ranch goat herder Jayson Archuletta said using goats to do weed mitigation can create positive impacts for the soil.

He said they can aerate and fertilize the soil all in one process.

“If you’re going to hire a landscaping company to cut your grass, then compost your grass, put it all back down, and then water it and so forth, that’s several different steps and stages,” Archuletta said. “But with goats, they basically do it all in one for you.”

The goats create manure as they graze on the weeds providing fertilizer for the soil surrounding Pastorius. Archuletta said a common misconception is that weeds will regrow because of seeds found in the goat waste, but he said most seeds are not viable after going through a goat’s digestive system.

Goats also do not create soil disturbance like machinery would.

“We’re also laying down some seed underneath there and the hooves of the animals help plant the seeds,” Rowley said.

He said the goats are quiet and create less disturbance to recreational users at the reservoir.

The more goats, the faster the mitigation work goes.

“If you have one goat, it’s probably not going to be as efficient,” Archuletta said. “But if you have a couple hundred, it might be more efficient than one person going out there with a weed whacker.”

Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. is using 200 goats to remove weeds at Pastorius Reservoir on Florida Mesa. The animals are an alternative to using chemicals or heavy machinery. (Courtesy of Jayson Archuletta)

Archuletta said goats have the ability to graze in rocky areas that would be tricky with machinery.

“If you’re on rocky terrain on the side of a hill or something like that, you definitely don’t want to be out there with some sort of a weed whacker or something like that, in case you may slip and fall,” he said.

Rowley is still considering a variety of options for weed mitigation projects and weighing the different cost options. He said using the goats is just a comparison to see whether Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. can use more natural resources and whether it will be more cost-effective.


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