Goats at work: Trail Conservancy releases herd to clear invasive plants

The Trail Conservancy partnered with Rent-a-Ruminant to clear the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike trail of unwanted brush in an eco-friendly way.

Goats behind a sign reading "Goats Working."

The goats will have people tidying up after them, so the Trail will stay clean.

Photo by ATXtoday

You herd it here first — these goats are the GOAT.

The Trail Conservancy released 150 goats on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail this week in partnership with Rent-a-Ruminant — a goat-based vegetation management company — to address poison ivy and invasive plant overgrowth on the trail.

A sign reading "Poison ivy alert. Avoid contact."

When in doubt, remember the saying “leaves of three, let it be.”

Photo by ATXtoday

The goats will work to clear the trail 24/7 for three weeks during the trial program. Don’t worry, they’ll be monitored at all times for safety. Trail Conservancy CEO Heidi Anderson said poison ivy is one of the biggest complaints the nonprofit gets from trail users.

Since goats don’t get poison ivy rashes (and eat just about “everything”), they provide an eco-friendly and safe solution to clearing the area. Once the goats finish mowing, the Trail Conservancy will mulch the area to control regrowth.

“We hope trail users enjoy getting to enjoy their morning walk with the goats,” Heidi said. “It’s a really innovative and creative alternative to some of the other tactics we could use to eradicate poison ivy, like controlled burns, which affects air quality, or chemicals, which affect water quality in the lake.”

The goats — who have also made appearances in Houston and San Antonio — will work from MoPac and move eastward. Depending on funding, the Trail Conservancy may bring the goats back for more.

A map of The Hike and Bike Trail and indicators of where the goats will likely be

Trail Conservancy CEO Heidi Anderson said they are considering a third location for the goats.

Map via Google Maps, graphic via ATXtoday

These Rent-a-Ruminant goats hail from a farm in Brownwood and graduated a training program to do vegetation management. They’re contained by a portable electric fence, so they won’t wander onto the trail.

Carolyn Carr, co-owner of Rent-a-Ruminant Texas, said each one has a name, which can be seen on their tag “earrings.”

“My unofficial title is chief naming officer,” Carolyn said. “I do take name requests, but they do have to match the goat’s personality.”