The goats are coming; the goats are coming!

Houston Arboretum welcomes goats in October to do “mowing” around two ponds for natural conservation management

HOUSTON, September 15, 2020 – In an innovative twist for urban conservation management, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will welcome more than 120 goats in October to assist with “mowing” slopes with overgrown vegetation around the two Woodway ponds. Goats, which graze on many varieties of grasses and plants, are an effective “eco-friendly solution” to vegetation management that negates the need for commercial mowing and/or herbicides.

A first for the Arboretum, this pilot project with goats from Rent-A-Ruminant® Texas will focus on 1.5 acres of land around the North and South Woodway ponds. The goats will be onsite to do what comes naturally – grazing – working on one pond area at a time. The public is welcome to view the goats “at work” on any day from Oct. 4 – 10.

The goats will be contained in designated areas via electric fencing and managed by a goat wrangler. Guests are asked not to touch or engage with the animals or to feed them, for the safety of the animals and people.

Goats are natural climbers and adept at scaling hills and mountains with ease, making them an ideal choice for clearing the slopes around the Arboretum’s ponds. They can go places where it is unsafe or unsuitable for humans and heavy machinery.

“We are thrilled to partner with Rent-A-Ruminant to test this concept in the Arboretum as a natural method to control vegetation, including invasive plant species on the slopes,” says Debbie Markey, Executive Director. “Eco-friendly solutions to managing our nature center are always the optimal choice in preserving and conserving our flora and fauna. If this project is a success, we will invite the goats back next spring to do some work in our Meadow and savanna ecosystems.”

The goats mimic the large grazers of the past, like the iconic American Bison. According to Emily Manderson, Conservation Director with the Houston Arboretum, grasslands are traditionally a disturbance-dependent ecosystem.

“Fire and grazing were the main disturbances in the past that kept grasslands healthy and in check,” she says. “Goats are replacing the buffalo – their eating and loosening and fertilizing of the soil make for a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem.”

Rent-A-Ruminant Texas provides a workable alternative to traditional land clearing, chemicals or commercial mowing. A large portion of the herd comes from animal rescue or private adoptions and includes several breeds of goats, including Nubian, Boer, Kiko, Savanna and Nigerian Dwarf.

These breeds are all effective at reducing brush overgrowth, green briars, poison ivy, ragweed and other unwanted or undesirable plant species. Owners Kyle Carr and Carolyn Carr note that all 220 of their goats have names.

The 155-acre Houston Arboretum welcomes visitors from 7 a.m. to dusk every day. People are encouraged to check out the plentiful amenities, including a five-mile trail system, self-guided habitat hikes and five educational field stations, along with nature and wildlife photography opportunities. Educational programming for adults, families and children is still taking place, but some of it is being done virtually.

To learn more about the Arboretum, please visit https://houstonarboretum.org/. You can also get more information by calling the Houston Arboretum at 713-681-8433.

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center welcomes 120 goats in October to assist with “mowing” slopes with overgrown vegetation around the two Woodway ponds. The public is welcome to view the goats at work any day from Oct. 4 – 10. Photo credit: Rent-A-Ruminant Texas