20 Oct 2017 Green Grazing Goats on the Rio Grande Trail
Rio Grande Trail ; enlightened Rail-Trail Corridor Management
The Roaring Fork Valley’s Rio Grande Trail is getting some natural maintenance. A crew of 220 goats has returned to the trail corridor to help chomp down pesky weeds the old-fashioned way. No herbicides or chemicals here, just a herd of ruminants and their teeth.
The goats have been munching on a 4-mile section of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority right of way south of Glenwood Springs. After they finish there, the goats will be moved to another 4-mile section near Carbondale, working for about 34 days total.
2017 marked the third year the Colorado-based Goat Green LLC has been contracted by RFTA for a weed management alternative. that co-owner Donny Benz says is focused on soil health rather than simply destroying an undesirable type of plant.
Trail manager, Brett Meredith, has been the champion of utilizing goats
Goats are corralled into a plot surrounded by an electric fence for controlled grazing. These hungry hooved bovids offer natural weed management and more. A goat will eat about 25 percent of its body weight in a day, according to Goat Green. And goats aren’t just going after the grass – they eat about 70 percent non-grassy plants, whereas horses and cattle will eat the grassy stuff and leave the rougher weeds behind.
Land grazed by goats also has healthier soil – goats’ manure provides organic fertilizer. (Seeds from the weeds they eat won’t germinate after having gone through their digestive systems.) Since goats are so light, their hooves till and aerate the soil without packing it down. And the goats can graze on uneven surfaces, getting into nooks and crannies that machinery can’t reach.
The goat herd is also good at engaging communities and educating people about the practice, drawing curious runners, cyclists and families passing by.
For more information, visit the Rio Grande Trail.
The Rio Grande Trail is a centerpiece of our 6 day, Colorful Colorado bike tour. This tour has been designed for riders coming from low elevation and the amount of “downhill” riding has been maximized.