For the past three years, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has employed a herd of goats to eat the weeds along the Rio Grande Trail.
About 450 goats are now working to manage the weeds that grow along the stretch of the Rio Grande from Glenwood Springs to Emma. Brett Meredith, trails coordinator for RFTA, said there are three main goals in bringing the goats to the Roaring Fork Valley.
First, they are meant to control invasive weeds. Goats eat just about anything, including all of the species on Colorado’s noxious weed list. Second, is to improve soil health. And finally, RFTA wants to educate the public about invasive weeds.
“The goats are much more approachable than someone walking around spraying chemicals,” Meredith said.
Meredith works ahead of the goats, spreading the seeds of native species. Then when goats come through and eat the weeds, they also till the soil with their hooves and fertilize as they go. He’s collecting soil samples, but those haven’t yet been analyzed. Still, Meredith said the project has been a success.
“They definitely are eating the noxious weeds," he said. "We’re definitely getting out the native seed ahead of them, and they’re fertilizing and aerating.”
This year, there are two herds working in separate spots along the trail for a little more than a month, and they eat about an acre daily.
This is the third year that RFTA has used goats rather than herbicides along the Rio Grande, and Meredith said he’s hoping to continue the contract with Goat Green, LLC.