With two high quality prairie remnants on either side, a herd of goats steadily made their way up a steep hill overgrown with invasive species including wild parsnip, honeysuckle and multi-flora rose at Razor Prairie in Jasper County.
“Our goal is to reconnect the two remnants to allow for a more contiguous prairie and increase the prairie diversity,” said INHF Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt.
Prairies require some sort of disturbance, such as fire or browsing, to thrive. Big herd wildlife, such as goats and bison, chew, stomp and disperse seeds wherever their herd goes.
These Kiko goats browse happily, defoliating the harsh invasive plants while fertilizing the natives.
By eating the invasive species, Kiko goats allow easier access for the land stewardship crew follow-up with targeted cutting and stump treatments. The newly cleared areas also allow more sunlight in, encouraging new prairie seedlings to rise and establish, which increases prairie diversity.
“This area has been a struggle to reclaim as prairie,” said Schmidt. “It’s too steep for a mower and full of undesirable plants, so the goats became the go-to that compliments the work we’ve previously done.”
Goats are effective land stewards because the grinding motion of their mouths pulverizes many of the invasive plants’ seeds. Even if seeds survive, they are destroyed inside their four-chambered digestive system. This rumen digestive system makes goats more effective than the other grazers that potentially replant the seeds after consumption. Protected by fur, the carefree Kikos dive into species that can have harmful effects on humans, like chemical burns left by wild parsnip.
“My favorite part about using the goats for conservation is seeing the difference they can make on a landscape without chemicals and machinery,” said herdsman and owner of Iowa Kiko Goats and Blue Collar Goatscaping, Adam Ledvina. “They make what could be a labor intensive and exhausting job fun for everyone involved.