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Toronto to deploy herd of goats to manage invasive plants at east-end meadow

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The City of Toronto is looking to the power of the goat to address woody and invasive plant species at one east-end green space. 

On June 25 and 26, a specialized “eco-herd” will be deployed to Don Valley Brick Works Park (DVBP) for a pilot project where they'll undertake some intensive grazing on about half of its meadow.

Called prescribed grazing, this is the first time that the city is employing this livestock-powered integrative management tool to maintain the urban meadow ecosystem at DVBP.

Prescribed grazing is a practice that can help control invasive, non-native, or non-compatible plant species like garlic mustard, poison ivy, and wild parsnip to name a few. It is also used to reduce or eliminate woody vegetation encroachment in meadows, improve species diversity over time, and improve soil characteristics and nutrients.

Some of its benefits are the reduction of carbon emissions, noise pollution, and reliance on mechanical equipment as well as less impacts on nesting, burrowing, and slow moving animal species. It can also help with the re-growth of native species and improve species diversity. Among other things, prescribed grazing may also lead to a possible reduction in the amount of chemical herbicide needed to control invasive and woody plants over time and reduced labour with specialized control methods.

Other kinds of meadow management tools including prescribed burning, herbicide application, and mechanical treatments like mowing, digging, and pulling.

The goats for this initiative are being provided from Goats in the City Inc., a targeted grazing company based in King City. The type of goat that will take part in the pilot is a large breed called Kiko, which is originally from New Zealand. Each goat weighs roughly 160 pounds and can consume approximately seven pounds of vegetation daily, which is three to four per cent of its body weight. It would take 60 goats about three days to consume an acre of vegetation.

A total of 40 goats will grazing at Don Valley Brick Works Park. They will be provided with a shelter as well as water throughout the project, the city said. The goats will also be kept in a specific fenced-in grazing area and will be constantly supervised and monitored.

A map of the prescribed grazing area at Don Valley Brick Works Park. (City of Toronto graphic)

Volunteers from Toronto Field Naturalists are working with the city to develop this pilot project and will be reporting back on the outcome of it.

Members of the public are welcome to watch the goats busy at work from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days. Public talks about the project will be available at 10 a.m., noon, and at 2, 4, and 6 p.m. daily. Individuals and small groups under 10 people who are interested in taking part should check in at the on-site information tent and sign up.

Don Valley Brick Works Park is located at 550 Bayview Ave., just behind the Evergreen Brick Works site.

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