Sustainable and profitable control of invasive species by browsing goats on small farms
This planning grant proposed to put meat goat producers, landowners with brush invasion, extension personnel, and researchers together to determine:
1. Is there an interest in controlling brush by natural means, especially using goat browsing?
2. Which invasive species are problematic?
3. Are there questions, both in terms of the farming systems as well as of a plant/animal interface nature, that need to be researched before these enterprises can flourish?
The plan was to facilitate farmer, extension and researcher exchange of information at three locations, namely south-central Georgia, St. Croix and north-central Texas. At these exchanges, it would be determined whether further research was needed and what issues needed to be addressed by this research.
1. Evaluate farmer perception of intensive, short duration goat browsing (ISDGB): this was accomplished, with the perception being positive.
2. Review whether ISDGB methodology already exists: yes, it does although not at a for-hire basis using goats in the 5 regions represented in the study.
3. Design on-farm experiments to test ISDGB: this has been accomplished only in general terms, and the teams (goat-owners, landowners, researchers) are in place to look at greater detail at five states/territories in the southern SARE region.
4. Increase awareness of ISDGB: this was accomplished and will expand when the web site and extension fact sheets are complete.
5. Develop a full research proposal on ISDGB: this is in the process of being accomplished, with the intention of submitting a pre-proposal this cycle.
Four farmer meetings were held during this past year, one more than planned:
Fort Valley, GA, June 18-19, 2003
St. Croix, USVI, January 12-13, 2004
Mayaguez, PR, January 14-16, 2004
Stephenville, TX, April 14-15, 2004
Additional members were recruited to the effort. These included:
1. Two additional research sites within the Southern SARE region beyond Georgia, St. Croix and Texas, namely southern Florida and Puerto Rico.
2. At all sites visited, goat-owner and landowner interest was so high that new team members were added
3. Dr. Mary Williams, forage agronomist with the USDA-ARS Florida, has joined the research team and will be included as an additional site in the pre-proposal for a full research grant.
Invasive species that landowners identified as needing control and that goat-owners thought they could possibly tackle via intensive commercial meat goat browsing at each location included, in order of importance:
1. Georgia: Kudzu (Pueraria lobata), hardwood saplings (Quercus spp.) & greenbrier (Smilax spp.)
2. St. Croix: tantan (Leucaena leucocephala), corral vine, cassia (Acacia spp.)
3. Puerto Rico: tantan, cassia & corral vine
4. Florida: kudzu, greenbrier
5. Texas: greenbrier, mesquite (Prosopis spp.), sumac (Rhus spp.), shinnery oak (Quercus spp.)
Questions that both goat-owners and landowners had regarding brush control via goat browsing was:
1. Definition of brush control vs. brush suppression
2. Toxicity to goats
3. Effects of over-stocking on animal performance
4. Stocking rates needed to control (exterminate vs. suppress) browse
5. Rotations (and duration) needed to control vegetation
6. Timing (season) ideal for long-term, effective suppression
There were additional concerns that involved topics outside the plant/animal interface, including marketing, fencing, predation, and security. These concerns will be brought to the attention of researchers and extension personnel more directly connected to these aspects of ISDGB.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Although difficult to quantify, the net effect of these encounters was to raise awareness of the commercial potential involved in using goats to control invasive browse on both self-owned and contracted land. Besides the individual interests, general interest will be heightened through the website presently being constructed by the grant participants.
Fort Valley State University
University of Puerto Rico
University of the Virgin Islands