No kidding: Goats to work at Clemson
CLEMSON — Clemson researchers and campus facilities managers have teamed up to rid a section of Hunnicutt Creek of invaders. Goats will be fenced in along a section of the creek to feed on the invasive weeds along the creek bank and upland area, clearing the way for native plants.
The goats will be confined by an electric fence near the pedestrian bridge to Lightsey Bridge apartments.
The project is part of a study to compare prescribed grazing to herbicides, removal with machines and no treatment. Using animals to chew down unwanted vegetation has been an option for thousands of years. It can prove to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than applying manpower, machines or chemicals.
Environmental restoration experts and students working to restore Hunnicutt Creek, which runs through campus, surveyed the plants creekside in advance of the goats’ arrival. The goats will be set out on heavily invaded plots on a schedule.
While doing their part for science, the goats will consume a diverse diet of foliage which – according to Ron Searcy of Wells Farm in Horse Shoe, North Carolina, the goats’ home – will be healthier for them compared to traditional grass-only grazing. A follow-up survey will be conducted to examine changes to vegetation composition and evaluate what types of plants the goats preferred and those species they left alone. The goats will be on site for the next month.
Researchers Cal Sawyer, Don Hagan and Jeremy Pike oversee the study and restoration work. Restoration work began on Clemson University’s lower reaches of Hunnicutt Creek in May of 2013. The effort was part of a mitigation process for the commercial development of lands that impacted a stream and wetland system in the Clemson area.
Clemson University Facilities is playing an important role in this applied research effort, along with faculty members, undergraduate intern Lisa Watkins and several Creative Inquiry students. University Facilities is funding the cost of the goats.
The research could help Facilities leaders consider options for dealing with invasive plants, such as kudzu, Chinese privet and silverthorn, in areas unsafe for workers and machines and unsuitable for using large amounts of herbicides. By consuming dense thickets of unwanted vegetation, the goats will improve access to the site, thereby facilitating the manual and/or chemical treatment of the remaining invasive plants.