It’s been another leisurely summer for Fort Saskatchewan’s flock of 50 lawn-mowing sheep.
 
The friendly sheep are enjoying weekends in the sun and plenty of attention from visitors as they keep the grass trimmed in the city’s parks.
 
Not that far way in Edmonton, some other livestock have been hard at work on a more serious task.
 
The City of Edmonton in its second year of a three-year pilot project aimed at using goats to keep noxious weeds under control in 10 hectares of natural area in Rundle Park. The 375 grazing goats have been trained to zero in on Canadian thistle, leafy spurge, common tansy and other species of unwelcome plants.
 
"Before the goats went in, it would have looked like tall grasses,” said the city’s goat coordinator, Joy Lakhan, of the targeted site north of the park’s tennis courts. “This area is basically designated as a natural space where we don't have mower maintenance or any type of manicured maintenance occurring.”
 
The City of Edmonton, which uses herbicides on only a small percentage of its parkland, says goats are a great choice for keeping invasive weeds down in ecologically sensitive areas.
 
The goats were in the park with professional shepherd Jeannette Hall and her herding dogs for about a week at a time in June and July, chewing down the flowering parts of weeds before they could go to seed.

It’s up to Hall, founder of organic weed control company Baah’d Plant Management and Reclamation -- on hire with Edmonton to tackle the noxious plants  -- to decide when to move the goats on to weedier pastures as they move through the park.
 
Fort Saskatchewan’s sheep may enjoy being a tourist attraction, but when Edmonton's weed-eating goats are on the job they don’t have much time to spend with visitors. Members of the public can catch a glimpse of the herd from some of Rundle Park’s multi-use trails, but feeding and touching the animals are off-limits.
 
“We’re trying to allow them to focus on the work of controlling the weeds,” Lakhan said, adding that about 1200 people dropped by to see the goats at a scheduled meet and bleat event in July.

"I think people were really excited to come out and see what this pilot was about and also spend some time in our park spaces."
 
The herd will be back sometime in September depending on how the weeds flower and regrow.
 

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