The power of goats

The Great Lakes Basin is battling a constant influx of invasive species that threaten the well-being of its native flora and fauna. These disruptions can cause tremendous environmental, financial and even direct physical harm. Now, Biologists in Ottawa County in Western Michigan have found that the digestive power of goats may be the key to fighting these invasive species.

TRANSCRIPT

The Great Lakes Basin is battling a constant influx of invasive species that threaten the well-being of its native flora and fauna.

These disruptions can cause tremendous environmental, financial, and even direct physical harm.

Now, biologists in Ottawa County in Western Michigan have found that the digestive power of goats may be the key to fighting these invasive species.

'Great Lakes Now' brings us the story.

It's a pretty quiet morning.

Usually, we have a ton of birds out here.

I'm kind of surprised how quiet it is. [ Laughs ]

Feel the storm coming.

Maybe.

They're hunkering down.

Hey, guys!

Oh, here they come.

Good morning, come on.

Want some treats?

They love woody species -- shrubs, trees, but mostly things that are vines.

And I'm like, oh, my gosh, that's exactly what I need help with.

The whole reason why we started the program is this plant right here.

This is called Oriental bittersweet.

It out-competes the native plants by basically, just covering them up.

You can see, it just twines around itself, and smothers all the plants around it.

Goats have always been around, they eat everything, so why can't we figure out new ways to help control things?

Working with Melanie, we started getting our kids out here, showing them what the invasive are.

And then my expertise is more in animal science, so helping that park system with my expertise in animals, we got to partner, and allow my kids to manage the goats.

And, you know, we always are trying to find new, unique ways of getting kids involved, and actually showing 'em truly what's out there, instead of just a textbook.

What are some hands-on labs that they can do?

And so, we have to teach about invasive species.

We have to talk about integrative pest management.

And we have to talk about animals.

And so, this was just a perfect partnership.

So, the other benefits of the goats is that they can reach up very high.

So, they eat anything that they can reach.

We're the lead goat, aren't we?

All right, now you got to get to the plants.

This is an example of what the ecosystem looks like after we have the goats here.

This is kind of our end product of, you know, the invasive is still here, but the natives are finally getting a competitive advantage, and able to kind of grow and adapt.

One of the things that is really just now being studied is the mental health.

And what they find is, because they're in these natural environments, they're able to climb over logs, and they play out here.

You'll see them do all kind of things that they couldn't do in like, an agricultural setting.

Not only is it something that this animal, this livestock is healthy and happy, it's enjoying its life while it's here, but it's more cost-effective, and it's dealing with a major environmental issue at the same time.

I mean, this is the epitome of sustainable agriculture.