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Goats are Back at Houston Arboretum

On June 4th, goats, courtesy of Rent A Ruminant Texas, arrived at the Houston Arboretum. They will remain there for about a week, or however long they take to “mow” the grass between the South Meadow Trail and the Muscadine Trail along the Outer Loop.

 

In an interview with Houston Family Magazine, Christine Mansfield, senior manager of marketing and development at the Arboretum, discussed why the goats were needed and what it took to get them to Houston. 

 

“This is something we have been doing since 2020,” Mansfield said. They have a partnership with the company that brings the goats to the Arboretum. “They take the herd all around Texas doing grassland and forest management. They come and they normally work in the prairie area of the property.”

 

The goats serve as a way to remove invasive species, and excess plant material to manage the landscape.

 

“They get rid of Chinese privet, an invasive species, and Yopan, which is a native but aggressive species,” Mansfield explained. She described how this area of Texas would have had natural grazers like deer or bison. This is an opportunity to bring back this kind of landscape management technique.”

 

“Goats like eating things that staff cannot manage,” she said, such as poison ivy, blackberry, and dewberry. “It’s helpful to have them go through first and the staff come after them. It opens the spaces up, and makes it much easier to move through those areas.”

 

The Arboretum anticipated them being there at least. through Monday, June 9. They have a three-acre plot to cover, which usually takes between 6-8 days. The owners Kyle and Carolyn Carr are with the goats to ensure their safety. 

 

“We knew we wanted to use more natural land management techniques, and Herman Park had used the goats in their gardens before,” Mansfield continued. “We first did two different park areas in the Woodway Park Loop.”

 

They found how well goats get to places that tractors or people can’t. “It allows us not to have to use herbicide,” or other artificial management techniques.

 

“They seemed to be there at the right place at the right time. We wanted to try something new,” Mansfield said. 

 

People can come and watch! “They’re split into half or one-acre subplots. They won’t be in the same place the whole time,” Mansfield said.

 

“People need to look for signs with arrows that say goats,” she said. “There’s an electrified fence with signs that say ‘don’t touch the fence, goats at work’, to keep goats there and predators out.”

 

The goats stay out all day and night. It was not uncommon to see them resting in between eating at the grass and plants.

 

“If you walk the perimeter of the fence you will stumble upon them,” she assured. “Just stay on the trails and don’t touch the fence or feed the goats. Keep kids and dogs away from the fence.”

 

“We’ve noticed that the goats make people excited,” Mansfield observed. “When we started it was the first year that we got more press for our conservation efforts.

She stated that pairing the unique attraction of the goats with overall information and press about the arboretum gets people talking about their ecosystem efforts

 

“People are starting to talk about nature and native plants. Most people know now that Houston used to be gulf coast prairie, and it is really cool to see Houston starting to care more about its natural history.”

 

Mansfield gave a few tips about how to contribute to conservation efforts on your own. “Putting native plants in your garden is a good way on a small level to help the environment. Even planting a wildflower in your yard helps!”

 

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