Prescribed Grazing by the Goatloads
Prescribed grazing—sustainable land management at Willowsford.
by Mark Ahlijanian (Conservancy Ranger, Willowsford Conservancy)
Goats are a great tool in the toolbox of land management. At Willowsford Farm, and increasingly throughout the Willowsford Conservancy, Community, and around Loudoun County, our herd of goats manages unwanted vegetation naturally – by eating it. This is called prescribed grazing.
If left alone, invasive plants can take over our woodlands, strangling valuable trees and threatening important biodiversity. Open grasslands and neighborhood backyards can become overrun, creating a loss of habitat for birds and other wildlife, interfering with agricultural activities, and limiting the enjoyment of outdoor space.
The Willowsford goats are currently occupying 4 acres in The Grange. For about two weeks they’ll biologically remove (that means eat…and we mean eat a lot) the invasive tree species called Autumn Olive. Autumn Olive is an invasive species shrub or small tree that grows very rapidly and out competes native plant species. The result is dense thickets of these thorny shrubs that interfere with soil nutrient cycles and natural plant succession.
‘Why Goats?’, you ask? Farmer Deb, our resident goat expert, puts it best. “Goats are agile, light on their feet, gentler than machinery and chemical free! Their ability to climb allows them to reach vines and stems in otherwise hard-to-reach places. They will graze all day, going through very dense material at about a quarter acre per several days per 10-20 goats, fertilizing in the process. Their narrow, triangular mouth allows them to crush what they eat, so seeds that might otherwise get passed through to fertilization are not viable. This is a true advantage, since machine cutting only encourages further growth in the next growth cycle and does little to eliminate next year’s seed bank.”
One of the many responsibilities we have as a Conservancy is to control and mitigate the invasive plants throughout the Villages. If left alone, invasive plants can take over our woodlands, our fields, and our yards. This will eventually lead to a diminished ecosystem, a lack of proper habitat for birds and other wildlife and limits the enjoyment of outdoor space.
Willowsford Ramblings is a blog by Willowsford, a community of new single-family homes in Loudoun County, Northern Virginia.55 and older communities, active adult communities, adult communities, ashburn va new homes, conservation, eco goats, Goats, home communities, homes aldie va, homes for seniors, land management, main-level living, nbc4washington, new build homes for sale, new home builders, new home communities, new home developments, over 55 communities, prescribed grazing, retirement communities, retirement living, senior independent living, senior living, sustainable land management, Willowsford, willowsford conservancy, Willowsford Farm, willowsford va, Willowsford Virginia